LONDON – Barbados-born John Holder is one of two former English umpires that have accused the England & Wales Cricket Board of “institutionalised racism”.
Holder, who had a 30-year career as a professional umpire before retiring 11 years ago, and Ismail Dawood, a former player in the English county gave, have asked for an independent investigation into England cricket’s governing body from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
Holder said his “suspicion is that there has been a definite policy of only employing whites” to be a mentor for emerging umpires and Dawood said he gave up on his attempts to be an umpire after failing to win promotion to the ECB’s first-class panel.
Holder said he raised the issue, after he failed to get a response to his email.
“I have no reason to doubt that there is,” he said. “The fact that several non-white umpires have made enquiries about going on the first-class umpires’ panel, or becoming a mentor or liaison officer, and none have progressed.”
Dawood, who stood on the ECB reserve list and umpired first-class matches, said he had heard racist language used in front of senior cricket board staff, which went unchallenged.
“If that sort of language was used elsewhere, people would lose their jobs,“ he said. “I have absolutely no trust or confidence in the ECB. All the way down to the grassroots it is a complete mess and that is why we need it to be investigated. Do I want to be part of an organisation who is a complete mess? No.
“In one performance review, I was told ‘fine judgements must be made about who best fits in’. The complaints we have made shows the institutionalised, structured racism as well as discrimination, cronyism, bullying and dishonesty that has been part of our lives being involved in the ECB.”
The last non-white umpire to be added to the ECB’s first-class panel was former Barbados and West Indies all-rounder Vanburn Holder 28 years ago. There have been none since his retirement in 2010.
The ECB said on Tuesday it recognised that the group of professional umpires does not “reflect the diverse ECB we are determined to be”.
“We want to see more BAME representation among our officials, and recognise we still have a long way to go as a game to achieve this,” an ECB statement said.
“The ECB has now commissioned a review, with board oversight, to look at how we can reform our approach to managing match officials.
“This will set out actions as to how we can improve our systems and processes to increase the diversity of umpiring, inspire the next generation of umpires and match referees, have a world-class umpiring programme and ensure a culture of inclusivity and fairness throughout the umpiring system.”
The allegations from Holder and Dawood come following claims of “institutional racism” by former Yorkshire player, Azeem Rafiq, and former England batsman Michael Carberry said he does not “expect anything” from the ECB in fighting racism, which he says is “rife” in the sport in England.