Sajid Javid has said he was racially abused almost every day at school when he was growing up, as he urged the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to “take a long, hard look at themselves” over racism in the sport.
The health secretary was asked about the crisis at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, after the stark testimony last week of the former cricketer Azeem Rafiq about his treatment at the hands of fellow players.
Javid said he had been horrified by the leaked report that emerged from Yorkshire County Cricket Club this month, which suggested the behaviour Rafiq had been subjected to was “banter”.
At the time, Javid said “heads should roll” over the handling of the issue.
“It really just shocked me that in this day and age, the people doing this report would have these views, that somehow being called ‘P***’ was banter. It’s not, it never has been,” he told Sky News.
Javid said that “when I was growing up, I was called P*** nearly every day at school. I didn’t like it then, I don’t like it now.” He added: “I think the good news is our country has come a long long way since then, but clearly not every institution in this country has taken that journey.”
Rafiq told MPs on the culture and sport select committee that the P-word was used against him “constantly” and that players of Asian backgrounds were told to sit near the toilets and called “elephant washers”.
Javid, whose parents migrated to the UK from Pakistan, accused Yorkshire County Cricket Club of being “stuck in the dark ages” in its approach.
The club’s chair, Roger Hutton, as well as two members of the board, resigned after the backlash over a decision not to take any disciplinary action against those involved, which resulted in sponsors withdrawing their support.
Javid acknowledged a process of change at the club had begun, with a new chair, Lord Patel, installed, but said “the ECB should be doing its job to ensure that this is taken seriously throughout cricket in the UK”.
Asked whether the government should intervene in some way, Javid said he remembered meeting the ECB when he was culture secretary and being told what they planned to do about racism but “many years later, look at what’s happening, look at what’s been made public”.
“I don’t think the ECB has taken this issue very seriously: I think they need to take a long, hard look at themselves and now it’s the real test for them, and let’s see if they can pass it,” he said, underlining the fact that culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, took the issue very seriously.
Rafiq received an unreserved apology from the cricket authorities, in a statement that acknowledged “racism and discrimination is a blight on our game”.
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