LONDON: The England and Wales Cricket Board has been accused of “lacking moral backbone” for not criticizing the “untruths” of former player Ian Botham, who described a report into discrimination in the sport as “nonsense.”
The report was commissioned when English cricket was hit by a racism scandal in 2020 after former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq said he had been a victim of racial harassment and bullying during two spells at Yorkshire County Cricket Club from 2008-18.
Former England all-rounder Botham, who is considered one of the game’s icons, said he had not been asked to contribute to the 300-page Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket, which was published last June. The report concluded that cricket in England had major problems with racism, sexism and elitism.
“No one’s interviewed me, no one asked me for my thoughts on it,” Durham CCC Chairman Botham said last year. “I don’t know of anyone that was asked and interviewed before this report was put together.”
Botham also said that upon reading the report he disagreed so strongly that he threw his copy on the floor.
At a UK Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on Tuesday, the ICEC Chairwoman Cindi Butts said she was disappointed with the ECB for not distancing itself from Botham’s remarks, and refuted his claims that he had not been invited to contribute to its findings.
“I was disappointed the ECB didn’t call out Lord Botham,” Butts said. “As chair of a first-class county, his words carry weight. The ECB didn’t see fit to come out and actually say ‘This is wrong.’
“I think that not only did they stay quiet, they resisted calls from stakeholders and people who were concerned about Lord Botham’s comments and they chose to stay silent. They should have had a moral backbone on this issue.
“We did invite Lord Botham to give evidence to us. He didn’t respond. The county which he chairs, Durham, contributed to our call for written evidence and we thank them for that.
“He said he didn’t know anybody who had contributed to our report when, in fact, a number of well-known named cricketers such as Heather Knight, the England women’s captain, responded and gave evidence to us. So, there are a number of untruths that he spoke about the report.”
Butts also said Botham’s comments were particularly disappointing considering his friendship with Black sporting icon and West Indies legend Viv Richards.
She added: “I was personally disappointed, not least because (Botham is) a sporting hero of mine. In fact, I would say the impact that Lord Botham had on me as a young working-class woman growing up in Shepherd’s Bush was really quite profound, to see his blossoming relationship with his arch-rival Vivian Richards.
“Richards (was) fiercely Black and consciously Black; (Botham) was the archetypal working-class white man and able to bridge those divides. To me, that spoke to the power of sport and the power of cricket, so I was personally disappointed at (Botham’s comments).”
Also on Tuesday, Yorkshire CCC Chairman Colin Graves, whose previous tenure from 2012 to 2015 covered the period when Rafiq was racially abused, admitted he had not apologized to the former player for his ordeal at the club.
Graves, who “personally and unreservedly” apologized to victims of the scandal in a statement issued last month, said he “didn’t think it was appropriate” to apologize personally to Rafiq and that he “just had plenty of things going on.”