England captain ‘sorry’ after revelations in cricket report


England cricket captain Ben Stokes said on Tuesday he was “bitterly sorry” for the findings of a damning report that pointed to “large-scale racism, sexism and classism in the sport”.

The report was released by the Independent Commission for Equality in Cricket (ICEC), which was earlier set up by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to conduct the investigation.

In its report, the commission makes 44 recommendations, including that the council apologize unequivocally for its failings.

The council was set up in 2021 following a racism scandal over the treatment of Pakistan-born bowler Azeem Rafiq. The Guardian reports that Rafiq, a former player for Yorkshire, was the victim of racist comments and bullying. Rafiq filed the complaints in 2020.

AFP reports that in a separate development related to this case, the council requested that the Yorkshire country club be fined £500 000 (more than R11.8 million) and also lose points for its handling of the Rafiq case.

Of the more than 4,000 individuals the ICEC spoke to during its investigation, 50% indicated that they had experienced discrimination over the past five years. The figures were significantly higher among people from diverse ethnic communities.

According to the report, women are also “subordinated” to men at all levels of cricket. They also receive a much smaller salary compared to that of their male counterparts.

One of the recommendations in the report is that match fees for men’s and women’s teams be equalized immediately.

The report also found that not enough has been done to tackle class inequalities in the sport, with players from private schools mainly getting places in teams.

Findings ‘unequivocal’

“Our findings are unequivocal,” says Cindy Butts, chairman of the ICEC.

“Racism, class-based discrimination, elitism and sexism are widespread and deeply rooted.”

She says it is time for the sport to recognize this fact and for people to realize that it is much more than a “joke”. Nor are there just a few bad apples who are guilty of this behaviour.

According to Butts, discrimination is woven into cricket structures and processes.

Stokes and England women’s captain Heather Knight were among those who gave evidence alongside Rafiq.

Stokes commented on the report on the eve of the second Test in the Ashes series against Australia, which began at Lord’s on Wednesday.

“To the people who are involved in the sport and who have felt unwelcome or inferior in the past: I am very sorry for your experiences,” he said.

“Cricket is a game that should celebrate diversity on all fronts because without diversity this sport would not be where it is today.

“Everyone has a different story to tell. I am Ben Stokes, born in New Zealand, a state educated learner who left school at 16 and achieved one general certificate in secondary teaching.

“I need help with the spelling and grammar in this speech and I’m currently sitting here as the England men’s test captain.”