Former England batsman Michael Carberry has said that “cricket is rife with racism” and called out the lack of Black people in positions of power in English cricket as a significant factor contributing to that.
Carberry made 13,868 first-class runs at an average of 41 and played six Tests for England, five of which came in the 2013/14 Ashes. Although he was England’s second-highest run-scorer that series, he never played again after its conclusion. He played for Surrey, Hampshire, Kent, and Leicestershire during his time in county cricket, before his professional career ended in acrimonious fashion after a captaincy dispute with the last of those clubs.
“To be honest, I think cricket is rife with racism,” he said on the Cricket Badger podcast. “The issue you have in cricket is that the people running the game don’t care about the Black people in it, it’s as simple as that. Black people are not important to the structure of English cricket. If you look around English cricket at the moment, in the important areas of the game, where the important decisions are made, name one Black man that is in that important position. We’re talking about the Andrew Strauss role, or the Ashley Giles role. Which Black man has ever had the opportunity to make the big decisions on England cricket? Not one.”
The ECB website lists that fewer than one per cent of their employees are Black. There are no Black people on the ECB board. Only one county head coach, Australia’s Jason Gillespie, is non-white. A report by Sport England entitled Sport for All, published earlier this year, found that the number of Black adults involved in cricket is so small as to be statistically irrelevant. The study also highlights that while Black adult involvement in cricket is low, as much as 36.2 per cent of overall adult involvement in cricket is non-white. The ECB’s own website states than only 11 per cent of their employees are non-white.
In 2018, the ECB introduced the Rooney Rule for all national coaching positions, guaranteeing that at least one Black, Asian, or minority ethnicity (BAME) candidate is interviewed during the recruitment stage.
“You scale down a touch, you’re now looking at England head coaches. When has there ever been a Black England head coach? Never,” said Carberry. “If you look around county cricket, how many Black coaches are there in county cricket? Not one. And I know guys who have gone and done their level three and level four, so they are more than equipped to do the job and have played a long time. You know why? The system will never give them the job.”
Carberry called for a radical overhaul of the leadership at the ECB to combat the issue. “There are no Black people within the game in poignant decisions that are able to not only make decisions but also inspire the next generation,” he said. “If I was a young Black boy looking to get into cricket, who am I looking at who can inspire me?
“This is what gets me with cricket. They love their slogans, they love their little slogans. Is that dealing with the real problems? Has anyone stripped back the layers and asked the question: First of all, where does racism start? Because you’ve got to know where you’ve been to know where you’re going.
“Racism doesn’t just appear, it comes from an origin. Cricket was based on colonial leadership, and that colonial way of thinking has never ever changed. You know why? Because the people running it are descendants of who? Colonial leadership. As I’ve always maintained, the only way change is going to happen is at the top. You have to change, and weed out, the current lot at the top. All this has happened under their watch. All the racism across the board in the game has happened under their watch.”
The ECB issued the following comment: “We truly believe that cricket is a game for everyone but understand that sadly barriers to enjoying our sport exist for many communities. We have made big strides over the past few years. Our 2018 Inclusion and Diversity Plan drove investments in diversifying cricket, breaking down barriers and reforming our structures. It supported reform in our approach to participation and growth with the launch of our South Asian Action Plan which showed how much we needed to do across the recreational game, elite pathway, coaching, attendance, media, communications, administration and culture.
“This is already having positive results for all BAME groups including the installation of non-traditional playing facilities in urban areas, the recruitment of BAME female community mentors and the delivery of cricket at schools with a higher than national average representation of BAME pupils. This is a lengthy process but we are committed to making it a success.
“We recognise that need to have a whole game approach to increase diversity in governance and management structures across cricket. At the ECB we have adopted the ‘Rooney Rule’ for coaching jobs across the England teams as part of our plan to support the progression of BAME coaches. We are also working with the first-class counties to support the introduction of this rule at a county level. We are currently expanding our Diversity Action Plan to improve the diversity and inclusion of the ECB workforce – critically, the learnings from the Black Lives Matter movement will help inform this.
“We know we have a long way to go until we are fully representative as a sport, particularly in relation to black communities. That’s why voices like Michael’s are so important and we will continue to listen, educate ourselves and face uncomfortable truths in order to create action and long-term change.”