Rafiq was a prominent whistle blower for the racism scandal in cricket
Speaking to a Digital, Culture, media and Sport committee, O’Farrell appeared to offer generalisations about the reasons why individuals from the Afro-Caribbean and South Asian communities drifted away from the sport, and suggested counties did not get enough credit for the work they do.
O’Farrell has since issued a separate apology for his remarks.
O’Farrell is one of many county cricket chairmen called before a DCMS committee set up following the racism scandal in cricket recently exposed by former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq.
Former spin bowler Rafiq gave harrowing evidence to the same DCMS committee in November about the racial abuse he suffered at Yorkshire County Cricket.
The England and Wales Cricket Board have since implemented a 12-point plan to tackle discrimination in the game and the majority of Yorkshire’s top management and coaching staff have been replaced.
Rafiq and former England batter Ebony Rainford-Brent were among those who criticised O’Farrell’s comments and Rafiq took the opportunity to show how the chairman’s comments have highlighted the ‘endemic’ problem’ that faces sport in Britain.
What did Mike O’Farrell say?
Mr O’Farrell had been summoned to the committee hearing to speak about how the counties were working to improve the diversity within cricket. He and his counterparts were also questioned on why Middlesex might be underachieving in this area given that they are based in one of the world’s most multicultural cities.
O’Farrell replied: “Fifty seven percent of the players we have at under-17 come from culturally diverse backgrounds.
“As we move up the chain, particularly as we get to the academy, we then find it becomes more difficult for several reasons.
“The football and rugby world becomes much more attractive to the Afro-Caribbean community, and in terms of the South Asian community there’s a moment where we’re finding that they do not want to commit necessarily the same time that is necessary to go to the next step because they prefer - not always saying they do it - they prefer to go into other educational fields where cricket becomes secondary.”
What has the response from Rafiq and Rainford-Brent been?
Rafiq, who previously accused players referring to him as a P***, took to Twitter to respond to O’Farrell’s comments.
“This has just confirmed what an endemic problem the game has. I actually can’t believe what I am listening to,” he said.
Rainford-Brent also used the social media platform to voice her opinion. The former batter for Surrey was the first black woman to play cricket for England and she now acts as a director at Surrey and chair of the ACE Programme charity which aims to support diverse talent.
“Honestly these outdated views in the game are exactly why we are in this position,” she said.
“Unfortunately the decision-makers hold onto these myths. ‘The Black community only likes football and Asian community only interested in education.’ Seriously the game deserves better.”
What has O’Farrell said following these comments?
Following the backlash, O’Farrell released a statement which read: “I wholly accept this misunderstanding is entirely down to my own lack of clarity and context in the answers I provided, and I am devastated that my comments have led to the conclusions some have made.
“For the purposes of clarification, I was aiming to make the point that as a game, cricket has failed a generation of young cricketers, in systematically failing to provide them with the same opportunities that other sports and sectors so successfully provide.
“I speak on behalf of the entire Club in saying that our desire is to see a first eleven walking out to play for the Club which is truly reflective of the broadly diverse county that Middlesex is today and that we will do all within our power to make that happen.”
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