David Lloyd has ended his 22-year role as a commentator at Sky Sports just a month after he was accused by Azeem Rafiq of being a “closet racist”.
Rafiq is said to have immediately contacted the former England head coach to offer his sympathy, with friends insisting “he had not intended for this to happen” when he made the claims. Sky said four weeks ago that it was investigating messages – which allegedly included Lloyd attempting to “smear” Rafiq – but he made no reference to the furore in his announcement.
Instead, Lloyd, nicknamed “Bumble”, said “the time is now right” to move on as “the commentary box feels a little emptier” following departures of long-term colleagues in recent years
Sky also refused to detail what action had been taken against Lloyd when contacted by Telegraph Sport, saying instead in a statement that he was “much loved and respected”.
The 74-year-old has been a popular fixture in the commentary box for England Test and one-day matches since 1999 and played a key role in the launch of Twenty20 cricket. He is already being linked with a move to radio broadcaster talkSport.
“With the passing of Bob Willis and after the decision to move on by my good friends David Gower, Ian Botham and more recently, Michael Holding, the commentary box feels a little emptier,” he said. “And so I feel it is time for me to do the same and move on to the next chapter. I leave the Sky box now in immensely capable hands led by my pals Michael Atherton, Nasser Hussain, Ian Ward and Rob Key.”
Earning a close affinity with fans, Lloyd often led the Edgbaston crowd in singing Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline at T20 Finals Day. “To those that follow, cherish that mic. Inform and entertain, so the next generation can fall in love with this wonderful game. I’m done now with Sweet Caroline but in the words of Elton John, ‘I’m still standing!’”
Apology to Rafiq
Last month Lloyd issued an apology to Rafiq and the wider Asian community, as well as stating his commitment to “a more inclusive sport”. Rafiq had told MPs during his testimony about his abuse at Yorkshire that Bumble was among those who had tried to smear him.
“High-profile media people messaging other members of the media who supported me saying stuff like, ‘The clubhouses are the lifeblood of a club and Asian players don’t go in there’, ‘Getting subs out of Asian players is like getting blood out of stone’,” said Rafiq.
“This guy doesn’t even know me, has never spent any time with me, is talking about my personal drinking, going out and socialising. That was David Lloyd, massive, been an England coach, commentator. I found it disturbing because Sky are supposedly doing this amazing work on bringing racism to the front and within a week of me speaking out, that’s what I got sent to me. And I thought, ‘Gosh, there’s some closet racists and we need to do something about it’.”
However, on Tuesday night, friends of Rafiq corroborated a report in the Daily Mail which claimed the bowler had “not intended for anything like this to happen”. Lloyd, 74, had previously told Telegraph Sport he had called Rafiq to apologise following the hearing, adding in a statement: “I deeply regret my actions, and I apologise most sincerely to Azeem and to the Asian cricket community for doing this, and for any offence caused. I am strongly committed to making cricket a more inclusive sport.”
‘One of the all-time greats’
Sky Sports had previously said it “is committed to actively championing inclusion in cricket – and in all sports – and opposing all forms of discrimination”. However, in a statement on Tuesday, the broadcaster said: “David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd has been a star of the Sky Cricket commentary box for over two decades, with an extraordinary ability to inform and entertain in equal measure. Perhaps his finest hour came during the Ashes Test match at Trent Bridge in 2015 – calling Stuart Broad’s amazing performance with perfection.
“A year later he was on lead commentary during an incredible T20 World Cup finale but handed the microphone over to Ian Bishop when it became obvious West Indies were going to win. He is much loved and respected by his fellow commentators and production team who cherish the time spent working with him. Thank you Bumble for your service.”