Perhaps the select committee of MPs thought the sharp-suited, highly remunerated boss of English cricket had already damaged himself enough, with his half-baked attempt to explain why his organisation lacked the inclination to investigate Yorkshire cricket.
It is certainly hard to find another reason why Tom Harrison has escaped scot-free in today’s report into racism and cricket.
Harrison, we should remember, is the one who led the ECB delegation which tried to sell the committee an absurdly convoluted explanation as to why his organisation had not investigated — nor even enquired about — Azeem Rafiq’s allegations of racism. The ECB feared their independence would be damaged if Yorkshire’s own inquiry proved so abysmal that they had to launch their own. You really could not make it up.
The glaring institutional failings at Yorkshire were there in black and white all along, for any sports administrator with a modicum of intellectual curiosity to see.
Rafiq told my colleague Paul Newman in an interview last April that he had heard nothing from the county cricket club, six months on from the conclusion of the so-called ‘independent inquiry’ into racism. The ensuing piece alone was a tough and vivid read, loaded with the air of desperation that could and should have told Harrison that he and his people had to deal with this. He didn’t.
ECB chief executive Tom Harrison escaped scot-free from a report into racism in cricket
Other journalistic pieces of a similar nature didn’t see the light of day. Reporters who picked around the edges of Rafiq’s story last year and took their findings to Headingley recall veiled threats of legal action if they dared to publish.
By failing to see and tackle Yorkshire’s obfuscation and bullying, the ECB and Harrison (right) revealed themselves unfit for the task of tackling issues of diversity. What should have been a humbling, perhaps humiliating, reckoning for Yorkshire, dealt with internally, exploded into a controversy in which everyone, including the innocent, got burned.
Why Sky and the BBC saw fit to cancel David Lloyd and Michael Vaughan has still not been made clear. We’re a long way from any categorical proof that either displayed prejudice of any kind. Knee-jerk reactions flow when there is mess and no one capable of getting a grip.
The select committee also allowed Yorkshire to get away with their execrable conduct in this sorry affair. The county’s former chairman Roger Hutton presided over the appointment of law firm Squire Patton Boggs — conveniently, his former employer — to lead the inquiry. He was at the helm when the county decided there should be no investigation into whether there was a culture of ‘institutional racism’ at the club, despite having initially agreed to do so.
Azeem Rafiq lifted the lid on institutional racism in the sport in a select committee last year
The ECB’s failure to act on claims made against Yorkshire has seen questions asked of Harrison
Hutton then dodged the bullets by resigning before testifying at the select committee. His performance was sanctimony personified. None of this, of course, had anything to do with him.
We haven’t seen Martyn Moxon, Yorkshire’s director of cricket, signed off for health reasons and conveniently unavailable when the select committee asked to see him. Nor the full Squire Patton Boggs ‘independent’ report due to ‘issues of privacy and defamation’. As if the names could not have been redacted.
A mere three pages in length, the select committee’s report is surprisingly brief, given the ineptitude it exposed at the top of the game. Its erroneous allusion to Moxon as Yorkshire’s ‘chief executive’ and reference at one stage to ‘Yorkshire Country Cricket Club’ do not enhance its credibility. The report does put Harrison on notice from MPs that there is ‘a long and difficult road ahead’ for cricket, though you wouldn’t even back him for a walk to the corner shop.
As Leicestershire CCC’s Mehmooda Duke — the only female chair and one of two people of colour in such a role — declared when she resigned from the post in November, it will take ‘fresh leadership at national level’ to expunge discrimination from our national sport. Only then we can look forward to cricket being the diverse representation of 21st century Britain that it really should be.
The affair shows that the ECB are not fit to tackle issues of diversity and racism in the sport