Yorkshire controversy the latest trend that signals a loss of romantic notions in cricket

Yorkshire controversy the latest trend that signals a loss of romantic notions in cricket
Over the past 20 years, it seems that racism in the English game has been tolerated or ignored. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 25 November 2021

Yorkshire controversy the latest trend that signals a loss of romantic notions in cricket

Yorkshire controversy the latest trend that signals a loss of romantic notions in cricket
  • Over the past 20 years, it seems that racism in the English game has been tolerated or ignored

Both during and after listening to the Parliamentary Select Committee hearing in London on Nov. 16, I felt a profound sense of loss.

The hearing was called to address concerns about the lack of action taken by Yorkshire County Cricket Club following the results of an internal investigation which found a former player, Azeem Rafiq, to have been the victim of racial harassment and bullying.

On one level, there was Rafiq’s loss of a cricketing career, of a son, of personal and family time given over to challenging the injustices to which he and others of a particular race and color had been subjected. The perpetrators were colleagues and employees of YCCC and beyond.

On another level, there is the further loss of romantic notions of cricket, of deterioration in the application of the spirit of cricket and a loss of respect for the game by those who do not engage with it.

Cricket has long been a vehicle for people who saw opportunities to either make money or social capital by embedding (British) imperialist ambitions within its structures.

Simmering inside these structures were racial undercurrents, which have burst forth on occasions. In 1968, the selection by England of a non-white South African cricketer to play against South Africa in that country caused a major political controversy. The use of intemperate language towards a dominant West Indies team in 1976 was inflammatory, but the idea that cricket might harbour systemic racism was considered fanciful. After all, cricketers of different colors played in the same teams, especially in England.

A well-respected former captain of England is of the view that we all have touches of racism within us, that much of it is unconscious and often used to protect privileged positions. In cricket, many privileged positions have been carved out during the last three centuries. Yorkshire’s privilege and the challenge to it reveals a third layer of loss — that of the ability to put in place appropriate, adequate governance systems to prevent abuse.

During the hearing, the committee’s chair, a man possessed of a coruscating tongue, turned his attention to the financial cleft that exists at YCCC. As previously reported, the club was rescued in 2002 from financial implosion by a wealthy Yorkshireman. He became its CEO and then executive chair before moving onto be chair of the English and Wales Cricket Board between 2015 and 2020. YCCC is indebted to the former chairman’s family trusts for almost £15 million ($19.98 million).

In his testimony, YCCC’s recently resigned chair, who had no executive powers, revealed that he had wished to remove two, possibly, three, executive directors. His wish was based on their failure to accept the gravity of the situation, to apologize and to implement the investigation’s recommendations. He was unable to do so because YCCC is beholden to the family trusts for approval and removal of YCCC directors.

Whilst it is understandable that the trusts seek to protect their interests, an arrangement whereby they influence the appointment of both executive and non-executive directors, who are supposed to be a safeguard against the executive acting in their own self-interest, is likely to curtail independence. Tensions in the arrangement were illustrated when an executive director reportedly asked the non-executive chairman to call off the investigation.

As has been shown by the evidence revealed during the committee’s hearing and subsequent fallout from it, YCCC would appear to have much to want to hide in terms of the use of racist language and behavior by some of its employees towards colleagues. Others are protective, arguing that such language and behavior was not intended to be hurtful, being part and parcel of dressing-room and team “banter.”

Some committee members widened the line of questioning beyond Yorkshire, to explore if the environment described at YCCC is typical of the English professional game. Rafiq seemed to think so. A newly established Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket has called for evidence of racism in the game. The ECB representatives at the hearing appeared to be surprised at suggestions that use of racist language and connotations might be found elsewhere on the circuit. It should not be a surprise.

In a 1999 survey, the ECB’s Racism Study Group found that 58 percent of all those questioned, and at least 70 percent of Black and Asian respondents, believed racism to exist in the game. In club cricket, I have heard racist terminology used. The ECB has had at least 20 years to put effective measures in place to address the issue. Yet, measures are not enough; an effective and committed program of cultural and social change must run alongside.

Analysis of the composition of ECB’s Board since its formation in 1997 would reveal it to be largely white and, until relatively recently, male. At the hearing, its CEO intimated at a struggle to get the first-class game to wake up on issues of race, equity and diversity. The ECB has a regulatory responsibility. It may be reasonably assumed that this should be applied not just to the recreational game but the professional one. Over 20 years, at least, it seems that racism in the English professional game has been tolerated and/or ignored.

Now that the floodgates are open, a welter of measures and promises have been made to address and eliminate racism in the sport, led by the ECB, under pressure from government. Rafiq has laid bare racism in Yorkshire, and raised the likelihood of more widespread racism in the English game. It has provided a worldwide opportunity for others to speak out if this is a uniquely English problem — which seems unlikely — and is providing an opportunity for authorities to re-examine privileged positions. The extent to which they achieve this will determine the future morality of the game and how much respect and spirit it will leak.

Countdown to big Saudi race has F1 fans awaiting serious action

Countdown to big Saudi race has F1 fans awaiting serious action
Updated 05 December 2021

Countdown to big Saudi race has F1 fans awaiting serious action

Countdown to big Saudi race has F1 fans awaiting serious action
  • Locals and international visitors applaud Kingdom’s success in inaugural Formula One Grand Prix

JEDDAH: With just hours left until the big race, the Jeddah Formula One weekend has stolen the hearts of locals and visitors as the open-sea circuit promises and delivers a spectacle for fans.

F1 fans from all over the world made their way to the Jeddah Corniche Circuit by the Red Sea for the Kingdom’s inaugural Grand Prix and the penultimate race of the season, taking place on Sunday as the fifth night race on the calendar.

“Well, honestly, coming here I wasn’t expecting to see what I saw today. This is something we’ve been waiting for, for a long time,” said Almogherah Al-Ghalib, a local F1 fan who works in the marine sector. “The organization, the views and the lighting is awesome — and just to see all these people here in this historical event is something that words cannot explain.”

Organizers at the venue welcomed people to scenes that personified the buzz that has been building up since construction on the track commenced in April. With many events, activities and concerts taking place, fans were dazzled both on and off the track.

“This is my first time in Saudi Arabia, so I didn’t really know what to expect but it’s been super positive ever since I arrived,” said Sam Fane, an automotive YouTuber from the UK. “I’ve been very well looked after through amazing hospitality, and I tried some nice Arabian coffee, which I very much enjoyed.”

Months of planning went into the eagerly anticipated race. However, many foreign media outlets released reports before the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix claiming that the track would not be finished on time. But the Kingdom responded through action, delivering on its promise to give the fans a show.

“I think this place is absolutely stunning, I have to say. You have a beautiful sunset like the one that’s going on behind me and the background of the F1 track is pretty amazing. Everywhere I look, it’s beautiful. It’s a great place to have an F1 race and I’m sure a great place to visit even when the F1 is not going on,” Fane said.

“I think we’re all excited for what’s hopefully going to be an epic race,” he added.

With doors to the venue having been open since Friday, the sun has been bright and shining, the Red Sea glistening and the fans flocking to catch the action of the nail-biting championship between seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and up-and-coming driver Max Verstappen, who will be pushing their cars to the limit during tonight’s potential title-decider.

“I'm British, so obviously I have to be a Lewis Hamilton fan. It’s been a very exciting season in F1 this year.” Fane told Arab News. “While I want to it to go down to the wire, I’m a Lewis fan all the way.”

At 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, it is lights out and away we go.

“Honestly, words cannot explain or express how I feel today. It’s a transitional period here in Saudi Arabia, and we’re glad to be here,” said Al-Ghalib.

Formula One is transforming Jeddah, says Saudi trailblazer Reema Juffali

The Kingdom’s first female racing driver, who is also a Race Ambassador for the grand prix, spoke to Arab News ahead of Sunday’s raceday. (Supplied)
The Kingdom’s first female racing driver, who is also a Race Ambassador for the grand prix, spoke to Arab News ahead of Sunday’s raceday. (Supplied)
Updated 05 December 2021

Formula One is transforming Jeddah, says Saudi trailblazer Reema Juffali

The Kingdom’s first female racing driver, who is also a Race Ambassador for the grand prix, spoke to Arab News ahead of Sunday’s raceday. (Supplied)
  • Saudi Arabian Grand Prix ambassador says event proves how passionate Saudi Arabia is about top-level motorsport

JEDDAH: Saudi trailblazer Reema Juffali is delighted with how hosting the Formula One Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah has brought an “energy” to the city and confirms how passionate Saudis are about the sport.

The Kingdom’s first female racing driver, who is also a race ambassador for the grand prix, told Arab News ahead of Sunday’s race that the event is having a “massive” impact on the city.

“I mean everyone, the city, my friends and family, everyone is so excited,” she said. “You can feel the energy having an international event like this, with everything it brings, from the concerts and the events, that ripple effect Formula One has is massive,” she said.

“And I understand that now firsthand, especially the fact that I know what my city is and, now, how it’s changed with the Formula One here.

“I guess just the buildup to this weekend, today the race day, we’ve seen quite a few different things over the weekend and every day it has been very, very busy. Usually, you find some days a little less busy, but from the Friday, as soon as the gates opened, getting around you’re weaving through people.

“And I’ve been to other events and it’s generally not that busy on the Friday, so it just shows you how excited the Saudis are and how much they’re looking forward to it.”

Juffali said she feels honored and blessed to be chosen as a race ambassador and to be representing her country on an international level. She told Arab News how important telling her story will be in inspiring Saudi children to get involved in motorsport.

“I think that is what kind of brought this on, and my experience in racing single seaters has been my career and life for the past three years, so it felt like a fitting role for me and something that I very much look forward to taking on,” she said.

“A lot of it has been sharing my story, connecting with Saudis and Arabs alike, giving them a chance to dream of getting into Formula One, making that a dream for them.

“And nice to see, as well, another side to this sport because it’s not just racing, there’s a whole other world, there’s media, engineering, hospitality — it brings so much with it.

“So, I see that as my role, spreading that awareness and allowing people to understand what the sport entails,” she added.

At the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, world championship leader Max Verstappen can potentially clinch the title, but Juffali is hoping the battle between him and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton can be extended for one more week beyond Jeddah, with the season concluding in Abu Dhabi next week.

“It’s going to be interesting. I think we saw that Max was quite eager in qualifying, but you also saw that he has the speed, so it is there,” she said. “It depends on overtaking, but I think that Lewis could potentially be at a disadvantage starting at the front.

“We don’t know that for sure, but it seems like it’s not going to be as simple in terms of overtaking, so I think if he has a good start and it’s a clean race, and we don’t get safety cars (he has a chance).

“But the more the race is interrupted, the more Max will have a chance, I think. In the end, it’s about getting the championship done in the next race, at least for myself, I want to see it go to the end,” she added.

Away from the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia and the glamor of F1, Juffali reflected on her season driving in the UK in the British F3 championship the past year — the first in which she felt she could say she was “an actual racing driver” — and told Arab News that, while she felt she did not reach her full potential on the track, she took away many other victories and lessons from the season.

“My driving was a lot more consistent, I was in the pack, always there or thereabouts and close to a good position,” she said. “Often, something would happen, whether it was a mistake from my side or I got unlucky. So, overall, I don’t think my performance reflected my ability.

“But in terms of confidence, in terms of how I’ve grown as a driver... I felt that connection with the car, what it felt like to be able to translate to my engineer and communicate these things.

“So, there were definitely merits and it was a very enjoyable year, and I will take those to the next stage, which I will hopefully announce soon. Stay tuned, you’ll hear more about it.”

LIVE: Saudi Arabian Grand Prix raceday in Jeddah

LIVE: Saudi Arabian Grand Prix raceday in Jeddah
Updated 8 min 11 sec ago

LIVE: Saudi Arabian Grand Prix raceday in Jeddah

LIVE: Saudi Arabian Grand Prix raceday in Jeddah
  • Stay tuned for the F1 action throughout the evening

JEDDAH: The eyes of the sporting world will turn to Jeddah on Sunday as the inagural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix revs into action under the lights along Jeddah's Corniche coast.

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton starts the race in pole position after Saturday's qualifying session, while his world championship title rival Max Verstappen starts in third.

The Dutchman holds an eight-point advantage over the British legend in the championship standings, and could potentially seal the title in Saudi Arabia if Hamilton has a calamitous race.

Follow all the action here throughout the evening. (All times AST)

21:15 - And due to the damage to the tyre wall, the red flag came out, which meant Verstappen who hadn't pitted took the lead of the race and will restart at 21:15 local time at the front of the pack...

20:50 - And we have a yellow flag on the course, Mick Schumacher has hit a wall. And tells the team over radio he is okay...

20:35 - GO! It's a great start for Lewis Hamitlon as Verstappen just didn't look like he was got the pace off the line, but he's coming back into it...and fast!

20:25 - Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman got a tour of the pitlane ahead of the national anthem ceremony and the start of the race.



20:10 - With concerns overnight about the gearbox of Max Verstappen, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, told Sky Sports: "It has passed all the tests we would normally do so we have to believe in our measurements and our tools. We have to go for it, Max has been driving beautifully, just a shame to not convert that (into a pole) but there is a lot of racing to be done."

19:50 - A nice moment on the track, as the drivers and teams take a moment of silence to honor the late Frank Williams, former principal of his namesake team and who had a long association with Saudi motorsport.

19:30 - With the race just an hour awayF1 fans from all over the world made their way to the Jeddah Corniche Circuit by the Red Sea for the Kingdom’s inaugural Grand Prix. Read more from the fans below...


The countdown to big Saudi race has F1 fans awaiting serious action. Click here for more.

18:45 - It was a dramatic F2 race, the event which is run before the Formula 1, as Enzo Fittipaldi and Theo Pourchaire have a huge collision on the starting grid. Both drivers were transferred to a local hospital concsious, and the race was run with half points being awarded.

17:30 - Fans are streaming in, and we still have three hours left until lights out. Teams are busy in the pitlane making last minute changes and fine tuning the cars before the big race.

15:45 - In case you missed it, Arab News spoke to Saudi trailblazing female racing driver Reema Juffali ahead of the race, see what she makes of Jeddah hosting Formula One and who she thinks will win below...


Formula One is transforming Jeddah, says Saudi trailblazer Reema Juffali. Click here for more.

15:00 - Saudi Arabia's sport minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal was impressed with what he saw on Friday, and is looking forward to the big race today...

African teams shine: 5 things we learned from second round of group matches at 2021 FIFA Arab Cup

African teams shine: 5 things we learned from second round of group matches at 2021 FIFA Arab Cup
Updated 05 December 2021

African teams shine: 5 things we learned from second round of group matches at 2021 FIFA Arab Cup

African teams shine: 5 things we learned from second round of group matches at 2021 FIFA Arab Cup
  • Egypt, Algeria and Morocco join hosts Qatar in the quarterfinals, while UAE in danger of exit despite recording two wins

With two rounds of matches of the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup group stages already over, the tournament is starting to take shape, with several teams, including hosts Qatar, Egypt and Algeria, confirming qualification to the quarterfinals. Here are five things we learned from the latest action:

1. Syria finally have some luck against careless Tunisia

It has been a tough few months for the Syrian national team, with just two points from the first six games in the final round of qualification for the 2022 World Cup, but on Friday they managed to shock Tunisia with a 2-0 win.

The Eagles of Carthage will be kicking themselves, especially as Fabrouk Ben Mustapha really should have saved a fairly tame shot from Oliver Kass Kawo in the fourth minute. Tunisia did everything they could to score, but just could not get the equalizer — a task that was made much harder at the end of the first half when Mohamed Ben Romdhane was sent off for an elbow.

Then, early in the second half, came a beautiful curling shot from Mohammed Anz that was good enough to win any game. Nevertheless, Tunisia had the possession and the chances to take at least a point, and will rue their missed opportunities. They must now beat UAE in the third game to be sure of a place in the knockout stage, while Syria are very much in the hunt.

2. Qatar not yet in top gear but progress

Qatar’s 2-1 win over Oman showed the benefits of competitive games. Oman have been active in the final round of qualification for the World Cup and are doing pretty well. They matched the Asian champions on their home turf and only a 97th-minute winner stopped them from taking a point. 

The hosts will not mind too much that the goal only just crossed the line since it guaranteed top spot in Group A and a place in the quarterfinals. It remains to be seen what kind of team coach Felix Sanchez puts out in the remaining group match against Iraq on Tuesday. With the last-eight clash taking place just three days later, the Spanish boss will be tempted to rest some of his stars, including Akram Afif, who caused problems and scored the opening goal. But Qatar look a little rusty and more games are what this team needs.

3. Morocco could press their way to the title

Jordan looked pretty good in their 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia in the opening game, but were then swept aside by Morocco, losing 4-0. Their hopes looked slim after 15 minutes, already a goal down and losing star forward Baha Faisal to injury, but things continued downhill from there.

It was just not much of a contest as the North Africans were a level above: Clinical in attack and working hard all over the pitch to deny Jordan time, possession and chances. At times, the pressing from the Atlas Lions was up to Liverpool’s standards.

Despite being without their European-based stars, this Morocco team were simply too good for a Jordan team that looked solid against the Saudis. It bodes well for the rest of the tournament. After two games, they have scored eight and conceded none. There is still a long way to go, but on this form they will take some stopping. Jordan’s goal difference has taken a battering and they will have to bounce back against Palestine.

4. Egypt and Algeria too good and rob tournament of crunch clash

It was always likely that Egypt, who defeated nine-man Sudan 5-0, and Algeria, who picked up a 2-0 victory over Lebanon, would end up taking the top two spots in Group D. It is a shame for the Arab Cup, however, that both these great rivals are already through to the quarterfinals ahead of their meeting on Tuesday — though the likelihood that top spot will mean that red-hot Morocco are avoided in the next round may add some spice.

As expected, Egypt were just too strong for Sudan and were three goals to the good by the half hour. The first, by Ahmed Refaat, was a real stunner and an early contender for goal of the tournament. The Pharaohs had no need to get out of second gear, with Hussein Faisal impressing on the right side of midfield on his international debut.

Algeria had a much more difficult second game against Lebanon, though they will not mind that. The Cedars are tough to beat and asked a lot of questions of the African champions. It means that the game with Egypt will lack tension, but on current form, these North African giants could end up meeting again.

5. Despite perfect record, UAE in danger of elimination

The UAE defeated Mauritania 1-0 to move onto six points. Usually, two wins from the first two games of the group means an early place in the knockout stage, or as good as, but not for UAE. The Whites may be three points clear of Tunisia and Syria, but need to be careful.

There was widespread relief at the 93rd-minute goal from Khalil Ibrahim that gave a 1-0 win over Mauritania. The African team withstood everything that the Asian team threw in their direction, with goalkeeper Mbacke Ndiaye deservedly winning man of the match.

But a goal difference of plus two after two wins is a danger. If the UAE lose to Tunisia, who thrashed Mauritania 5-1 and were unlucky to lose to Syria, and Syria win against Mauritania, then UAE will be going home.

Late goal salvages point for Saudi Arabia against Palestine and maintains hopes of FIFA Arab Cup progress

Late goal salvages point for Saudi Arabia against Palestine and maintains hopes of FIFA Arab Cup progress
Updated 05 December 2021

Late goal salvages point for Saudi Arabia against Palestine and maintains hopes of FIFA Arab Cup progress

Late goal salvages point for Saudi Arabia against Palestine and maintains hopes of FIFA Arab Cup progress
  • A 1-1 draw leaves Green Falcons needing a win in last match against Morocco to have chance of reaching the quarterfinals

Abdullah Al-Hamdan’s late goal earned Saudi Arabia a 1-1 draw with Palestine on Saturday and kept alive their hopes of progressing into the quarterfinals of the Arab Cup. 

A first-half stunner from Mohammed Rashid in Qatar’s Education City looked to have condemned the young Green Falcons to a second successive defeat, three days after losing 1-0 to Jordan, but an equalizer with eight minutes remaining from the Al-Hilal striker earned the men in white a vital point.

The draw leaves Saudi Arabia in third in Group C with one point from two games and above Palestine on goal difference. Jordan have three points, while Morocco, the next opponents for Laurent Bonadei’s men, are already assured of a place in the last eight after winning both games so far 4-0. Only the top two teams progress.

With Saudi Arabia, who made eight changes from the Jordan game, fielding an inexperienced U-23 team, it was always going to be a difficult test and so it proved.

The first half was cagey, though Palestine started a little livelier, with both teams lacking quality in delivering the final ball. The first sight of goal for Saudi Arabia came with a free-kick after 14 minutes. Mohammed Al-Qahtani, the Al-Hilal teenager making his first start for the national team, curled a shot over the Palestine bar.

Palestine came close in the 37th minute. Tamer Seyam, the best player on the pitch in the first half, beat two men and his cross from the byline was heading for Khaled Salam, but Saudi goalkeeper Zaid Al-Bawardi managed to palm the ball away from the forward’s foot.

Then, in added time before the break, Palestine took the lead in some style. Rashid received the ball in the middle of the Saudi Arabia half, took two touches and then let loose an unstoppable shot that flew into the roof of the net to give the Indonesia-based defender his first international goal.

Saudi Arabia began the second half with purpose, moving the ball around quickly. Soon after the restart, Abdullah Radif forced a save from Amr Kaddura, the Palestine goalkeeper’s first real stop of the game. Moments later, Al-Qahtani’s low shot went just wide of the left post.

With 18 minutes remaining, Ayman Yahya’s shot from the edge of the box was deflected wide. On more than one occasion, there was frustration from the Saudi players waiting in the area at the quality of the final ball.

There was always a danger from Palestine counterattacks, which became more frequent the more Saudi Arabia pushed forward. Seyam, perhaps, should have scored and almost certainly sealed the win with a quarter of an hour remaining, but instead blasted the ball over.

Palestine rued that miss after 82 minutes when Saudi Arabia scored their first goal of the tournament. A long ball out of defense found Haitham Asiri on the right and his low pass was coolly slotted home by Al-Hamdan.

It was no less than this rookie Saudi Arabia team deserved, and they could even have won had Waleed Al-Ahmad not headed wide in injury time.

Next comes Morocco — the form team of the tournament so far — on Wednesday. The Atlas Lions have won both games, against Palestine and Jordan 4-0, and were impressive. 

Morocco are already through to the last eight and may rest a few players, but regardless, for Saudi Arabia, a win is needed and then it depends on what happens during the showdown between Palestine and Jordan.