Racism stains English cricket. Can soccer help with a cleanup?

English cricket has not always lived up to its self-image of genteel fair play. But rarely has it been moved as hard as by the current scandal over racism at its highest levels.

Azeem Rafiq, a former player for one of England’s top clubs, Yorkshire, gave sometimes tearful testimony to a parliamentary inquiry last month about the abuse he had suffered during his playing career. And although he had complained to the club management three years earlier, he said, they had done nothing about it.

Why We Wrote This

English cricket is experiencing an identity crisis, its genteel values undermined by revelations of racism. Can soccer provide ideas on how to tackle it?

His revelations prompted similar recollections from other English cricketers of Asian heritage, and the national cricket authorities appear to have a new sense of urgency. One direction in which they are looking for remedies?

To the other English national game, soccer, which has mounted an assault on racism toward its many Black players. “Soccer understands that it works as part of society,” says Simon Windsor, a soccer radio commentator. Cricket now appears ready to follow suit.

London

Weekend after summer weekend, men in pristine white trousers are greeted by polite ripples of applause as they stride onto village greens the length and breadth of England, poised not so much to play a game as to reenact a centuries-old cultural rite.

Nurtured on county lawns – then exported during Britain’s imperial age to the Caribbean, Australia, and the Indian subcontinent – English cricket has long grown a genteel image, rooted above all in the idea of fair play.

But that image is suddenly taking a battering following a string of accusations of racism aimed at players of South Asian heritage – made already worse by revelations of how the complaints were initially ignored, and then played down, in the apparent hope that they would simply go away.

Why We Wrote This

English cricket is experiencing an identity crisis, its genteel values undermined by revelations of racism. Can soccer provide ideas on how to tackle it?

Now, far from going away, the controversy has escalated into a front-page scandal, drawing in not only top cricket players but also leading politicians, including chief Minister Boris Johnson.

And that has prompted the cricketing authorities to take a series of high-profile steps to signal they’re intent on beginning to put things right.

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