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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Leicestershire chair quits calling for ‘fresh leadership at national level’

One of only two non-white chairs of a first-class county quit on Thursday – on the eve of the unveiling of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s plan to avoid a repeat of the racism scandal to engulf the game.

In timing that could hardly have been worse for the ECB’s bid to prove it was serious about tackling the lack of diversity in the sport, Leicestershire’s Mehmooda Duke resigned with immediate effect, proclaiming: “Cricket has been torn apart by recent events.”

She also spoke of the need for “fresh leadership at national level”, raising questions over whether she was demanding the head of ECB chief executive Tom Harrison or simply referring to the governing body’s hunt for a new chair of its own.

Duke, also the only female chair of the country’s 18 biggest clubs, had announced in September that she would leave when her third term ended in March to take up the role of High Sheriff for Leicestershire.

She did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday night on why she had brought her departure forward or whether it was linked to Friday’s planned unveiling by the ECB of its five-point plan to make the game more diverse and inclusive.

Duke, who was appointed Leicestershire chair in 2019 and helped steer the club through the coronavirus crisis, said: “Cricket has been torn apart by recent events and I am deeply saddened by the hurt felt by individuals within our game.

“With fresh leadership at national level and with a determination to learn from the recent past and move forward, I hope that racism and discrimination will be expunged from the dressing rooms, the fields, and the game as a whole, allowing us to celebrate the diversity which makes cricket and sport in this country so great.”

Duke had been the only non-white chair of a first-class county prior to Lord Patel of Bradford’s appointment at Yorkshire following the racism scandal there that triggered the game’s current crisis.

As revealed by Telegraph Sport, the governing body’s five-point plan includes a requirement for 30 per cent of roles in all first-class county and national county boardrooms to be held by women or feature “representative ethnicity” of their local area by April.

It will also see all players, staff, umpires and coaches in the game undergo continuous training in diversity to make it “best in class” in the wake of Azeem Rafiq’s harrowing testimony at the Houses of Parliament about the racism he suffered at Yorkshire.

The plan will include “full review of dressing room culture in all international and domestic teams” that will be published when completed and used to “inform future training” according to the document seen by Telegraph Sport

The ECB hope it will help “create a culture to eliminate discrimination” and “make cricket the most open and inclusive sport in the country.”

The governing body will commit £25m to fund the plan over five years.

Meanwhile, Rafiq on Thursday met a Holocaust survivor at the Jewish Museum London, a week after apologising for using anti-Semitic slurs in an exchange of messages with another cricketer.

Rafiq sat down with Ruth Barnett, who arrived in Britain in 1939 after fleeing Nazi Germany, and also spoke to Steve Silverman from the Campaign Against Antisemitism, who explained to him the origins of the prejudice suffered by Jewish people, including about money.

Rafiq last week admitted sending messages more than a decade ago in which he joked about a Derbyshire player, Atif Sheikh, being reluctant to spend money on a meal out because “he is a jew”.

Rafiq wrote that Sheikh would “probs go after my 2nds [second helping of food] again ha”, adding: “Only Jews do tht [sic] sort of s—.”

Admitting writing the messages, Rafiq said: “I am incredibly angry at myself and I apologise to the Jewish community and everyone who is rightly offended by this.”

As revealed by Telegraph Sport, Rafiq is facing an investigation by the ECB over the messages.

The ECB is also investigating Rafiq’s accusations he was the victim of racist bullying at Yorkshire, including by former England bowler Tim Bresnan.

Bresnan’s current club, Warwickshire, confirmed on Thursday they would not take any action of their own against him after speaking both to him and Rafiq.

Bresnan has denied racially abusing Rafiq but apologised for any part he played in his former team-mate feeling bullied.

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