Scottish cricket has long had a race problem – time to build a better culture in the sport

Scottish cricket has been found to be institutionally racist following the Changing the Boundaries report published by Plan4Sport on July 25. The governing board of Cricket Scotland resigned ahead of the report’s publication and issued an apology to anyone who had experienced any kind of discrimination.

The independent report, commissioned by Sport Scotland, identified a lack of diversity at all levels of the organizational structure of Cricket Scotland, inadequate systems to report instances of racism and a lack of transparency in its talent selection processes. The report found that Cricket Scotland failed on 29 out of the 31 indicators of institutional racism.

A total of 448 examples of racism were analyzed in the review. And in a survey study conducted as part of the inquiry, a total of 62% of respondents had experienced, seen or reported incidents of racism or discrimination, with 34% having experienced racism personally.

Evidence also highlighted discrimination experienced on the grounds of gender and religion. Most worryingly, where racist discrimination was evident, 41% of respondents took no action because they had little or no confidence that it would be managed by Cricket Scotland, the regional association or their club.

Calling out institutional racism

The Met Police were famously found to be institutionally racist by the Stephen Lawrence inquiry in 1993. Sir William Macpherson described institutional racism as “the collective failure of an organization to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin .”

At the end of last year, Azeem Rafiq made headlines when he told MPs about racism he had experienced at Yorkshire County Cricket Club. In Scotland, players Majid Haq and Qasim Sheikh were inspired by Rafiq and also spoke out publicly about the racism they have faced in their long careers playing at an elite level. Haq was sent home from the 2015 World Cup after calling out the discrimination he had experienced.

In order to raise awareness of the prevalence of racism in Scottish cricket the Running Out Racism (ROR) campaign was set-up in 2021. I spoke to two of the founding members, Ammar Ashraf and Raza Sadiq, to ​​get their views on the report and the future of the game.

Ashraf previously worked for Cricket Scotland but told me he had left his job after feeling isolated and ignored by senior management after raising concerns about racism he witnessed within the organization. In particular, he was concerned by the selection bias he saw from coaches at performance training:

I’ve been at performance training and a lot of the coaches spend most of the time with the white children and not the Asian children. They are often just left hanging about themselves in these situations. When I’ve challenged that I’ve been fobbed off.

But he also said that he is hopeful for the future of the game, “now Cricket Scotland is out of the denial phase, and it’s out in the open”.

Raza Sadiq is CEO of the Active Life Club, a sports charity which uses sport as a tool for promoting anti-racism in the southside of Glasgow. Sadiq witnessed racism in his long experience of playing in the Western District Cricket Union. He told me that racism was rife at a club level:

People were swearing and spitting, calling names… they introduced a new system where you had to bring a printed page with each player’s photograph and name before you went on the field. They had a sample sheet with different pictures and names. For one guy, a Pakistani guy with a beard, they wrote underneath Osama Bin Laden. They said it was just banter.

Sadiq believes that the recent revelations will inspire others to speak out:

Now more and more people are coming out, which is a good thing. Before it was suppressed, there was a fear of “What are they going to do to me? What are they going to say to me?” Now the evidence is out … more and more people want to tell their story … This is how we change things.”

A group of men playing cricket on a lush grassy pitch.
Cricket is a popular sport in Scotland.
Iain Masterton/Alamy

Doing better in the future

Following the recommendations of the inquiry a new Cricket Scotland board must be in place by September 2022 and consist of a minimum gender balance of 40% male and 40% female, with 25% of board members coming from an ethnic minority.

Cricket Scotland must come up with a plan to implement the recommendations of the report, a process which could take years. Already, other sports in Scotland are taking inspiration from the findings to ensure more inclusive selection processes and introduce strict penalties for those found to have engaged in racist behavior.

The findings of the inquiry again confirm that the often repeated “no problem here” narrative regarding racism in Scotland is far from the truth. These findings can help ignite a long overdue national conversation about the prevalence of racism in Scotland and prompt proper measures to redress institutionally racist practices.

Sport does not exist in a vacuum and is just one arena where we can identify institutional racism. The courageous testimonies of these cricket players should encourage us all to do better.

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