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ECB appoints Muslim inclusion adviser after racism scandal

Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid
Muslim players Moeen Ali (left) and Adil Rashid are mainstays in the England team

The England and Wales Cricket Board has appointed a Muslim inclusion body as an adviser as it attempts to ensure the sport learns from its racism scandal.

Nujum Sports – which devised the Muslim athlete charter – will work with the men’s and women’s England teams, the 18 counties and the recreational game.

Former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq told MPs last October that English cricket was “institutionally racist”.

The ECB said it wanted to “listen to the insights of Nujum”.

Nujum Sports, founded in August 2020 by former Football Association officer Ebadur Rahman, was set up with the aim of ensuring Muslim athletes have every opportunity to fulfil their potential.

In 2021, it devised the Muslim athletes charter, a 10-point framework through which clubs can assess whether their facilities and practices cater adequately to Muslims.

Kate Miller, the ECB’s chief diversity and communications officer, said: “Over the last year, Nujum Sports has assisted the ECB, particularly in preparing for Ramadan, helping us to support many clubs and players with practical advice and guidance.

“Ensuring that cricket is open, inclusive and accessible for people of all faiths is critical to us.

“Working with organisations like Nujum will allow us to learn more, connect better and challenge ourselves to continually improve our work in equity, diversity and inclusion.”

  • Yorkshire cricket racism scandal timeline

Former Yorkshire player Rafiq first spoke publicly about his experiences of racism within cricket in September 2020, and others then revealed the discrimination they faced.

Rafiq told ESPN Cricinfo in an interview that “institutional racism” encountered while at the club left him close to taking his own life.

More than a year later, former Yorkshire academy players also came forward, with Irfan Amjad saying he was racially abused by a member of staff, while Tabassum Bhatti said players urinated on his head, desecrated another Muslim player’s prayer mat and used racist language aimed at his Pakistani heritage.

In his testimony to a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee last October, Rafiq said that the issues he faced at Yorkshire were “without a shadow of a doubt” widespread in domestic cricket.

Elsewhere, former Essex player Zoheb Sharif made allegations of racist abuse relating to his time at the club between 2001 and 2004.

In response, Essex said they were encouraging any former players, staff or those associated with the club to come forward, either in person or anonymously, if they had experienced discrimination.

Bowler Ollie Robinson was given an eight-game ban after historical racist and sexist tweets, which included a disparaging remark against Muslims, came to light as he made his England debut in June.

Robinson said that he was “embarrassed and ashamed about the tweets I posted many years ago and [I] apologise unreservedly for their contents”.

Following Rafiq’s DCMS testimony, there were changes in Yorkshire’s leadership, Headingley was temporarily barred from hosting international matches and the ECB put together a 12-point plan to tackle racism in the game.

Nujum Sports will work with the ECB for an initial period of 12 months by providing training, education and practical guidance on Muslim inclusion matters.

Rahman, the organisation’s founder and chief executive, said: “Cricket deserves to be loved and played by everyone. Equality, diversity and inclusion aren’t checklists we need to tick off but rather tools to help us in today’s ever-demanding world.

“Cricket changes the lives of everyone associated with it, we are proud to be working with the ECB in making this game not only loved by our communities but a gateway for our communities to excel.

“Muslim athletes throughout the country need to see leadership and support; with the ECB, we aim to deliver this and more.”

England all-rounder and Nujum ambassador Moeen Ali added: “Throughout my time in this beautiful sport I have witnessed the highs and lows, without my faith it would have been a great struggle.

“It’s time we recognise the value of allowing Muslim cricketers to be who they are and allow them to come together in this family with a feeling of trust and confidence.”

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