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‘ECB should have called out Botham for dissing report on sexism, racism’

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ENGLAND cricket chiefs have been criticised for lacking a “morale backbone” for not questioning Lord Ian Botham over his claims that a report into racism, sexism and class-based discrimination in the game was “nonsense”.

Cindy Butts, the chair of the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket which produced the report, told MPs on the culture, media and sport committee last Tuesday (20) that Botham, who is now chair of Durham, had spoken “a number of untruths”.

The ex-England captain claimed the investigation that found racism was “entrenched” in the game was a “complete and utter waste of money”, while no one he knew had been asked to contribute to it.

“We did invite Lord Botham to give evidence to us,” Butts told MPs. “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 cricketers such as Heather Knight, the England women’s captain, gave evidence to us. So there are a number of untruths that he spoke about the report.

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“Lord Botham has a right to his opinion. But the most disappointing thing for me is he is a chair of a first-class county.” Butts added that when someone of Botham’s standing in the game belittled the report, it would have ramifications for people who suffer discrimination.

“What confidence can they have if they are subject to discrimination, to come forward and be able to talk about their experiences and have confidence that something could be done about it?”

Butts asked. “I was personally disappointed, not least because he’s a sporting hero of mine. In fact, I would say the impact Lord Botham had on me as a young working-class woman growing up in Shepherd’s Bush was really quite profound.

“To see his relationship with Vivian Richards and the way in which they were both rivals, but they had a deep respect for one another. And their friendship and their love was clearly displayed for all to see. That had a profound effect on me.”

Butts criticised the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) for not coming out and saying “this is wrong”. However, the chair of the ECB, Richard Thompson, told MPs he had privately called Botham to ask why he had made his comments.

“My feeling was that we’re trying to reconcile, we’re trying to move forward and heal,” he said. “Lord Botham’s entitled to his views. I didn’t agree with them. I made it very clear to him that I didn’t agree with them. But we live in a democracy and he’s allowed to say those things.”

MPs also heard a heated discussion between John Nicolson MP and Yorkshire chairman Colin Graves over the latter’s failure to apologise to Azeem Rafiq.

It was Rafiq’s revelations of the racist abuse he suffered at Yorkshire that was the catalyst to the investigation into discrimination in the game. Rafiq continues to be the target of hate, with his house being attacked last week.

Graves claimed he could not call and apologise to Rafiq as he had “plenty of things going on”.

“You didn’t need to be involve in cricket to phone him and to apologise for what had happened under your tenure,” Nicolson responded.

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