Cricket chairman in hot water for citing Black, Asian stereotypes to explain sport’s lack of diversity

Middlesex Mike O'Farrell
  • Mike O’Farrell, the appointed chairman of the Middlesex County Cricket Club since 2017, apologized for his comment about Black and South Asian cricket players at a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee investigation on Tuesday.
  • He responded to a question about the club’s lack of diversity by claiming the Afro-Caribbean community was more attracted to football and rugby than cricket, and the South Asian community would rather study than commit the “same time that is necessary to go to the next step” in the sport.
  • Lord Kamlesh Patel of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Gareth Williams of Glamorgan and Hampshire CCC’s Rod Bransgrove were also present at Tuesday’s inquiry.

Mike O’Farrell, chairman of the Middlesex County Cricket Club, has recently apologized for his “outdated” comments stereotyping Black and South Asian players during an inquiry into the club’s alleged racism early this week.

O’Farrell was asked about the Middlesex CCC’s record on diversity and inclusion during the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee inquiry on Tuesday, according to The Cricketer. He went on to explain how it was difficult for the club to retain its 57% “culturally diverse” youth players under the age of 17 after a certain point.

The other thing in the diversity bit is that the football and rugby world becomes much more attractive to the Afro-Caribbean community,” O’Farrell told the select committee. “And in terms of the South Asian community, we’re finding that they do not want necessarily to commit the same time that is necessary to go to the next step because they sometimes prefer to go into other educational fields, and then cricket becomes secondary. Part of that is because it’s a rather more time-consuming sport than some others. So we’re finding that’s difficult.”

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O’Farrell’s comment drew backlash, including one reaction from British Asian cricketer Azeem Rafiq, who provided damning accounts to the same committee of the game’s institutional racism  in November, The Guardian reported.

Painful listen & just shows how far removed from reality these people are,” Rafiq wrote on Twitter. “This has just confirmed what an endemic problem the game has. I actually can’t believe what I am listening to.”

Listening to some of his narratives, I’ve got a message for him: we all love cricket,” Rafiq told Sky News. “This narrative that we’ve been hearing for a long time about the Asian people wanting to go study – that’s because we’ve not been made to feel welcome in our workspaces.”

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The Tuesday inquiry was attended by O’Farrell and three other county chairman, notably Lord Kamlesh Patel of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Gareth Williams of Glamorgan and Hampshire CCC’s Rod Bransgrove.

It came after the England and Wales Cricket Board released its 12-point plan to address racism and discrimination within the sport. These actions included a full review of “dressing-room culture” headed by Managing Director of Men’s and Women’s Cricket Clare Connor and Ashley Giles an “upgraded education to ensure everyone in the game understands inclusion and diversity in cricket,” Mail Online reported.

According to The Daily Mail, O’Farrell apologized in a statement through Middlesex CCC for the comment he made during the inquiry, explaining he wanted 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.”

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I wholly accept that 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,” he said.

He also echoed the same apology while speaking to Sky News on Jan. 25.

Featured Image via Sky News

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