English cricket looking into lack of diversity among umpires

The Associated Press

LONDON – English cricket’s governing body has commissioned a review into the lack of diversity among match officials amid allegations from two former umpires of institutionalized racism in the organization.

John Holder had a 30-year career as a professional umpire before retiring in 2009, since when no non-white umpire has been elevated to the England and Wales Cricket Board’s first class umpires panel. Holder said his “suspicion is that there has been a definite policy of only employing whites for this position.”

Ismail Dawood, a former player in English county cricket, gave up on his attempts to be an umpire after failing to win promotion to the panel. He said he “encountered racial discrimination, dishonesty and misinformation, cronyism, bullying” at the ECB, and said it was an “isolating place for a person from a BAME background” like him.

They have joined a campaign led by Stump Out Racism, a grassroots organization established to counter racism in cricket, that is calling for an investigation from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The ECB said on Tuesday in a statement it accepts the current group of professional umpires doesn’t “reflect the diverse ECB we are determined to be.”

“We want to see more BAME representation among our officials, and recognize we still have a long way to go as a game to achieve this,” the statement read.

“The ECB,” it added, “has now commissioned a review, with board oversight, to look at how we can reform our approach to managing match officials. This will set out actions as to how we can improve our systems and processes to increase the diversity of umpiring, inspire the next generation of umpires and match referees, have a world-class umpiring programme and ensure a culture of inclusivity and fairness throughout the umpiring system.”

Holder and namesake Vanburn Holder are the only two non-white umpires in the history of the ECB, according to Stump Out Racism.

Yorkshire is investigating accusations by one of its former players, Azeem Rafiq, of institutional racism at the club which he said left him close to taking his own life. Rafiq said he was made to feel, as a Muslim, like an “outsider” during his time at Yorkshire.