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IAN HERBERT: County bosses must come down hard on stumbling ECB chief  Tom Harrison

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Just another day and just more evidence of the men in suits watching each other’s backs.

You might have expected on Thursday the sports minister to have pointed out ECB chief executive Tom Harrison’s failure to grasp the racism crisis at the heart of the sport.

Instead, when Nigel Huddleston sat before MPs to give his thoughts, he would not desist from calling him ‘Tom’. More depressing proof of the chumminess of a sporting world incapable of taking a long hard look at itself. 

Tom Harrison is under pressure to quit from his role as ECB CEO amid cricket's racism scandal

Tom Harrison is under pressure to quit from his role as ECB CEO amid cricket’s racism scandal

Nigel Huddleston (above) calling Harrison 'Tom' in front of MPs shows the chumminess of the sporting world

Nigel Huddleston (above) calling Harrison ‘Tom’ in front of MPs shows the chumminess of the sporting world

‘Tom’ — who will meet the county chairmen at the Oval on Friday with his back against the wall — is the man whose own appearance before MPs a few days ago was almost as abysmal as the battery of racist conduct that Azeem Rafiq and others have spoken about in painful detail this week.

You flinched to hear about Matthew Hoggard calling Rafiq ‘Raffa the Kaffir’ and Rafiq thinking it was just a shortening of his name until he looked up the word ‘kaffir’ — an insulting term for a black African. Hoggard’s apology to Rafiq cannot begin to obscure what a disgrace he was. 

But this abuse came from intellectually challenged individuals seemingly incapable of anything better. ‘Tom’ is a man who is due a share of a £2.1million bonus paid out to ECB directors in the year he laid off 60 staff.

Yet when a sense of the discrimination Rafiq was up against came to light — and that player was courageous enough to call it out — ‘Tom’ was not impressive.

Just a little rigour would have told him that Yorkshire had previous, here. The 2014 Fletcher report into racism at Headingley told us all about it. There was also Bradford North’s former Labour MP Terry Rooney’s declaration back in 2006 that there was ‘deep-rooted racism’ at the club.

The club’s then chairman, Robin Smith, was so scandalised by Rooney that he demanded an apology and said that the claim would have been ‘actionable’ if said outside of parliament. 

Matthew Hoggard (above) apologised to Azeem Rafiq for calling him ‘Raffa the Kaffir’

Matthew Hoggard (above) apologised to Azeem Rafiq for calling him ‘Raffa the Kaffir’

But ‘Tom’ didn’t delve into any of that. He was happy to let Yorkshire mount their own investigation into Rafiq’s claims and didn’t have any curiosity about how that investigation might be set up. 

No problems for him when Yorkshire chummily appointed the law firm Squire Patton Boggs, a previous employer of Yorkshire’s then chairman Roger Hutton, to undertake the inquiry.

No problems when the county quietly decided to shelve the part of the investigation which would ask whether there was a culture of ‘institutional racism’ at Headingley, despite having initially agreed to do so in meetings with Rafiq’s lawyers.

Harrison’s contorted justification of these failings, when he appeared before MPs on Tuesday, was drowning in corporate speak.

Harrison (left) resorted to corporate speak and miscellaneous drivel when sat in front of MPs

Harrison (left) resorted to corporate speak and miscellaneous drivel when sat in front of MPs

‘I don’t believe the evidence is all bad in that space’, ‘We will transform this game very quickly’. And other miscellaneous drivel.

He arrived at the hearing in a sharp suit and attempted an equally slick diversionary strategy when asked a first question, suggesting that someone he was appearing with could ‘read a short statement’.

If Harrison had been smart enough to have watched a few of these hearings, he’d have known that this committee has a bull**** meter and does not go in for prepared speeches.

‘No,’ said the committee chairman. ‘We’ve limited time. Answer the question.’

It is claimed Harrison took no interest into Yorkshire's investigation into Rafiq's (above) claims

It is claimed Harrison took no interest into Yorkshire’s investigation into Rafiq’s (above) claims 

What ensued from Harrison was 45 minutes of such nauseating and transparent buck-passing that the same committee chairman, Julian Knight, intervened at one stage to tell him and his executives: ‘You’re not here to pass questions around to one another.’

Harrison popped off anything with much detail on it to his anxious-looking legal sidekick Meena Botros. A diversity question was rolled away to Kate Miller, his diversity officer.

When Miller tried to pass things across to yet another of the ECB contingent, Knight pointed out that it was for the MPs to decide who answered what.

Harrison probably thought his tactics would work because there are a lot of weasel words currently in circulation, where questions about who knew what are concerned.

Joe Root's (right) lack of knowledge into Rafiq's racism claims looks unconvincing due to his close relationship with known abuser Gary Ballance (left)

Joe Root’s (right) lack of knowledge into Rafiq’s racism claims looks unconvincing due to his close relationship with known abuser Gary Ballance (left)

Joe Root’s flat denial of any knowledge of this abuse, for example, is looking increasingly unconvincing by the day. Root was the housemate and inseparable friend of Gary Ballance — that charming individual who liked to call anyone of colour ‘Kevin’ in a deeply derogatory manner.

Root seems to think that his glowing reputation allows him a bunker mentality. But that’s beginning to look a lot like complicity, and not at all like the conduct of an individual who goes by the title of England captain. Root is going to be seriously damaged, if this is as good as his media strategy gets.

Harrison has given the impression that he thinks he can tough it out, too, and perhaps his friends at the top of Government have reinforced that confidence.

When he and his contingent got up to leave after Tuesday’s appearance in parliament, you sensed they didn’t actually appreciate what a gross indictment of their organisation it had all actually been.

Harrison has given the impression that he can tough out this period of pressure until next year

Harrison has given the impression that he can tough out this period of pressure until next year

Troy Townsend, the football anti-racism campaigner, observed that Rafiq had sat alone to tell his own story of victimisation, bullying and racial abuse, while the ECB had four people to reveal their own incompetence.

Huddlestone said of his chum Harrison yesterday: ‘He will do whatever it takes in order to correct the wrongs.’ And ‘what it takes’ is actually a signed resignation letter, which you imagined he might have got around to writing by now.

So now it’s down to the counties to force the issue, with the opportunity presenting itself today. It’s just to be hoped they waste no time tapping him on the shoulder, telling him that he is an embarrassment to the game and that it’s time to go.



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