Racism and racial stereotyping became a talking point in English domestic cricket again this week with former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq and former England women cricketer Ebony-Jewel Rainford-Brent taking exception to comments by Middlex chairman Mike O’Farrell on black and South Asian people in England.
O’Farrell said football and rugby become “much more attractive to the Afro-Caribbean community” and cricket was sometimes “secondary” to education for young South Asian players.
The backlash was severe and the Middlesex boss eventually had to apologise for his comments
O’Farrell, while participating in the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee’s hearing into how cricket plans to tackle racism in the sport, claimed that “football and rugby worlds become much more attractive to the Afro-Caribbean community”.
He added: “In terms of the South Asian community, there is a moment where we’re finding that they do not want necessarily to commit the same time that is necessary to go to the next step because they prefer — not always saying they do it — they sometimes prefer to go into other educational fields and then cricket becomes secondary.”
O’Farrell’s statements were termed as “outdated” and “painful” and drew sharp reactions from people from the two communities who dismissed his views as racial stereotyping.
Rafiq said the statement “confirmed what an endemic problem the game has”. In a tweet, Rafiq also said that he actually can’t believe what he was listening to, ending his tweet with #GiveMeStrength.
Ebony-Jewel Rainford-Brent, who has been part of England women’s cricket team, said “these outdated views in the game are exactly why we are in this position”.
“Honestly these outdated views in the game are exactly why we are in this position. Unfortunately, the decision-makers hold onto these myths. ‘The Black community only like football, and Asian community only interested in education’ Seriously the game deserves better,” she tweeted.
O’Farrell later offered his “wholehearted apologies” for the “misunderstanding” his comments at the hearing have caused.
“I wholly accept that this misunderstanding is entirely down to my own lack of clarity and context in the answers I provided, and I am devastated that my comments have led to the conclusions some have made,” he said.
“For the purposes of clarification, I was aiming to make the point that as a game, cricket has failed a generation of young cricketers, in systematically failing to provide them with the same opportunities that other sports and sectors so successfully provide,” he said.