The ECB's failure in Caribbean cricket in England is worse than Robinson's tweets | Lonsdale Skinner


I English cricketer Ollie Robinson should be punished for his racist tweets. Young man or not, he knew what he was doing. But the real problem is that it is a product of an environment created over the years by cricket authorities, among others.

In 1948 there were 30,000 to 50,000 black people in Britain. There were British-born black rugby league players, rugby union players, footballers and boxers of good standing, but not a single black British cricketer. Why? If blacks were here and they weren't playing cricket, something must have stopped them.

Historically, blacks in Britain lived near seaports. Yet none in Kent, Essex, Middlesex, Surrey, Gloucestershire or Lancashire could find a single British-born black cricketer between them.

Immigration in the late 1940s and later from the cricket-loving English-speaking Caribbean brought in some good players, but the counties largely shunned them. The cricket authorities didn't like the way they played the game in an aggressive way. Some said they played like children, rough and ready.

In club cricket, the newcomers were forced to form their own teams because the large, mostly white clubs did not allow them to join or use their facilities. Very few of these Caribbean clubs had their own grounds and usually played in parks. Then the Race Relations Act of 1968 opened the door to membership for Caribbean immigrants. It didn't mean the racism stopped, but it removed the unofficial color bar.

Some Caribbean club cricketers played for the big white local cricket clubs on Saturdays and for small black clubs on Sundays. The small Caribbean clubs were the ones that produced the top notch cricketers, but they started disappearing because they couldn't afford the rental fees. The ECB (and its predecessor, the TCCB) knew about the clubs' financial troubles, but did nothing other than join the widely acclaimed choir that blacks no longer like cricket. The question is, why didn't the body in charge of the game of cricket in England help?

Lonsdale Skinner (center), chairman of the African Caribbean Cricket Association, with other officials and members: Tim Gaspard, Franklin John, Lawrence Sinckler, Althea Smith, Roxanne Daniels, Percy Plunkett and Derek Gift-Simms (left to right). Photo: Tom Jenkins / The Guardian

The West Indies cricket team triumphed in the 1970s and 1980s. They filled the area as the Indians do now. Caribbean people watched and played for the counties, most importing them to revive the then-dying county game. But the success of these imported players, along with the success of the West Indies team, resulted in hostility. Some former English players, such as Fred Trueman, were among the critics who openly urged the counties to fire Caribbean-born players. Unfortunately, this exclusion also included many players of Caribbean origin who grew up in England. The exclusion trend is still played out today.

In 1999, the Clean Bowl report was released with a fanfare and then ECB chief Tim Lamb told the public that "complacency about racial equality is unacceptable" and "we need to open our doors to all". Twenty years later, the same organization that sanctioned Robinson did very little with the report. They made it worse than Robinson by knowingly squeezing Caribbean cricket in England by refusing to fund it, but no one is sanctioning them.

Starting in 1992, the ECB did not appoint a first-rate non-white match official for 28 years until this year John Holder and Ismail Dawood threatened them with labor court proceedings and appointed Devon Malcolm and Dean Headley. Why shouldn't the ECB hire any of these officials when they had this great big report on their desk?

In the past four years, they have spent nearly £ 2 million on South Asian cricket as India has grown into one big, powerful cricket body. I don't want to take money away from the South Asians, but where is the money for Caribbean cricket in England? The ECB provides Cindy Butts (Chair of the Independent Commission on Equity in Cricket) to take away all of her sins. You think she is Jesus Christ. She'll be reporting in June 2022, but if they sit down and think about the content, it's likely 2024. In the meantime, what will happen to the already ailing Caribbean cricket clubs? I think the ECB will be satisfied with its demise.

The County Cricket Academy System was developed by middle-class whites for middle-class whites. Visiting hours for young men and women at these academies are mostly unsuitable for poor professionals who are expected to accompany their children to the activity. In addition, state school cricketers are wrongly expected to compete with those in fee schools with year-round cricket facilities and coaching for limited cricket academy seats. Still, this is supposed to be a sport for everyone in the UK.

There are very few people of Caribbean heritage on the committees of county cricket clubs, smaller county cricket clubs, or county cricket foundations.

There are only a small number of level 3 or 4 coaches with Caribbean heritage. Black people go missing at all levels of cricket while at the same time paying taxes that contribute to agencies that provide funds for the ECB.

Much credit should be given to outgoing Surrey CEO Richard Gould. Representatives from the African Caribbean Cricket Association visited him in 2019 to discuss how young people with a Caribbean heritage should be more involved in cricket. Within a month he developed the now impressive ACE program, made up of young people who supposedly don't like cricket.

Why weren't the three CEOs – Lamb, David Collier, and Tom Harrison – who sat on this 1999 report asked questions? That is the real scandal. Why did Harrison wait until June 2020 when the youngsters ran the streets to talk about including people with Caribbean heritage in cricket? The ECB then decided not to spend a cent in its 2021 budget on Caribbean cricket. It's so sad because there are some fantastic, talented young cricketers in the various Caribbean communities in England.

Lonsdale Skinner has played for Surrey and Guyana and is chairman of the African Caribbean Cricket Association


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