John Holder has claimed the ECB are “extra fascinated by defending their fame than coping with the problems” after it emerged that they had employed an professional in reputational injury to counter allegations of institutional racism.
Holder, the previous worldwide umpire, has introduced that he and fellow former umpire Ismail Dawood try to sue to ECB for racial discrimination. They’ve additionally referred to as for an impartial inquiry into the shortage of non-white match officials in English cricket.
Now it has emerged that the ECB are utilising the abilities of Julian Pike, a high-profile lawyer from the London agency Farrer & Co, to advise them on the case. Pike is famend as an professional in fame administration who, in keeping with the Farrer & Co web site, advises organisations which “may very well be vulnerable to reputational hurt”. He beforehand defended Information Worldwide towards claims of telephone hacking.
However whereas Farrer & Co could have a lofty fame – members of the royal household, together with Queen Elizabeth II, are amongst their shoppers – their utilization has left Holder and Dawood underwhelmed. As an alternative they really feel it suggests the ECB are extra targeted on defending their picture slightly than demonstrating a dedication to larger equality and variety in future.
“I feel the ECB ought to face the problems and guarantee classes are realized,” Holder advised ESPNcricinfo. “As an alternative, it appears they’re extra fascinated by defending their fame than coping with these points.”
Dawood would seem to agree.
“Are the ECB targeted on guaranteeing there’s extra equality and variety within the recreation?” he requested ESPNcricinfo rhetorically. “Or are they targeted on brushing their points beneath the carpet within the hope of guaranteeing their broadcasters and sponsors do not realise the severity of the issue?
“We predict they need to be trying to make use of extra individuals from Black and Asian backgrounds. As an alternative, they’ve spent some huge cash using a lawyer who offers in reputational injury. That’s, I feel, telling.”
Pike additionally made the information when he was cleared of wrongdoing by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in a high-profile incident that was concluded in 2017.
Whereas he admitted to instructing a non-public investigator to hold out surveillance of two legal professionals performing towards Information Worldwide within the phone-hacking scandal, the tribunal discovered he had not acted with out justification or with out inserting limits on the scope of any investigations. He was, nevertheless, ordered to £20,000 in prices after the tribunal concluded it was “repugnant” that solicitors ought to perform surveillance on different legal professionals.
The ECB level out that Pike can also be an professional in sports activities governance, safeguarding and integrity, with a protracted historical past of working with nationwide governing our bodies.
Additionally they insist he has been utilised, on this context, in an try to rearrange mediation with Dawood and Holder in an try to completely perceive their grievances and discover options.
Makes an attempt to rearrange mediation have thus far proved unsuccessful. Holder and Dawood’s representatives rejected a suggestion that Raj Parker, the advice of the impartial organisation Sports activities Resolutions, lead the mediation on the idea that he had beforehand labored on the identical agency of solicitors because the ECB’s deputy chair, Barry O’Brien.
The ECB, in the meantime, have rejected Holder and Dawood’s suggestion that Lord Peter Hain lead the mediation course of, on the grounds that he was “not certified” as a mediator. Hain has beforehand held roles together with Secretary Of State for Work and Pensions, and Secretary Of State for Northern Eire. Within the latter position, he performed a key position in negotiating a historic power-sharing settlement.
Since ESPNcricinfo revealed details of the lack of inclusivity in umpiring in England and Wales, the ECB have introduced a number of measures geared toward bettering variety, together with a dedication to make sure that a minimal of 15 p.c of umpires on the nationwide panel (the panel working at county second XI and Nationwide County degree) are from a Black and minority ethnic (BAME) background by the tip of 2021. At current the determine is 8 p.c.
As well as, the ECB are to determine a mentoring programme to encourage umpires from a BAME background, and can guarantee BAME illustration on all umpire choice panels.
They’ve additionally fashioned a Fee for Equality, designed to evaluate proof of inequality and discrimination; a Discussion board for Race, designed to permit a confidential mechanism for individuals to report their experiences of exclusion within the recreation, and an Equality Code of Conduct, which is designed to focus minds on the problem, standardise expectations throughout the sport and allow the speedy sanctioning of discriminatory behaviour. It’s to be launched forward of the 2021 season.
Nevertheless, the board was beset with allegations of racial discrimination all through a lot of 2020. Impressed by the Black Lives Matter motion, a succession of former gamers detailed their experiences of exclusion inside the recreation, with Holder and Dawood becoming a member of Azeem Rafiq in launching authorized motion.
Holder, a minimum of, is unimpressed by the ECB’s speak of inclusivity. “I’ve heard all this earlier than,” he says. “The ECB have made grand statements like this for years. I keep in mind Tim Lamb [the former ECB chief executive] promising racial equality in cricket in 1999.
“But it surely’s confirmed to be nothing however speak. Nothing modified. If something, issues have gotten worse. To be blunt, I simply do not belief them anymore.”
An ECB spokesman advised ESPNcricinfo: “The actions we’ve outlined over latest months show our continued dedication to making sure cricket is an inclusive and numerous sport. We take very critically the allegations which were raised by John Holder and Ismail Dawood and over the previous months have been attempting to satisfy with them each so that we will take heed to their experiences, in order to raised inform our future strategy to recruiting and creating umpires and match officers. We are going to proceed in our makes an attempt to take action.”
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo