Tom Harrison pledges to ‘lead change’ as English game addresses racism scandal


Embattled chief executive ‘receives backing of game’ after tumultuous week for the sport

Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive, says he has “received the backing of the game” to carry English cricket through its ongoing racism scandal, following an all-day meeting of the sport’s stakeholders at the Kia Oval.

Harrison, who had been braced for calls to resign in the wake of his torrid appearance before a parliamentary select committee this week, told reporters outside the ground that he was “determined to lead this change through cricket”, amid reports that he is likely to step away from his role next year once the groundwork for reform has been laid.

“I feel passionately about this issue,” Harrison said. “It’s something I feel to my core. I’ve been trying to drive an inclusive and diverse sport from the moment I arrived as chief executive in 2015. I feel very motivated and very supported to make sure that change happens in the game. I received the backing of the game today, absolutely.”

In addition to Harrison’s comments, the ECB also issued a joint statement on behalf of its 41 members, promising “swift, positive changes to the culture of the game” in the wake of Azeem Rafiq’s emotional testimony at the select committee hearing.

The statement, which followed a day-long meeting of the sport’s stakeholders at the Kia Oval, “committed to taking wide-ranging action to tackle discrimination and promote inclusion and diversity at all levels,” but was met with widespread condemnation on social media due to the lack of specific action outlined.

However, there was a commitment to a further update next week, following individual consultations within the relevant bodies – namely the first-class counties, MCC, the Professional Cricketers’ Association, the National Counties Cricket Association, and the First Class and Recreational County Cricket network.

“[The game’s stakeholders] have committed to tangible action and discussed several areas of focus including stamping out discrimination, making cricket more open and inclusive and ensuring effective governance and leadership,” read the statement.

“Azeem Rafiq has shone a light on our game that has shocked, shamed and saddened us all.

“Racism and discrimination is a blight on our game. To Azeem and all those who have experienced any form of discrimination, we are truly sorry. Our sport did not welcome you, our game did not accept you as we should have done. We apologise unreservedly for your suffering.

“We stand together against discrimination in all its forms, and are united as a sport to act. We will continue to listen, and make swift, positive changes to the culture of the game. We will embrace and celebrate differences everywhere, knowing that with diversity, we are stronger.

“Today, as a game, we discussed a series of tangible commitments to make cricket a sport where everyone feels safe, and everyone feels included. We will now finalise the detail and publish these actions next week.

“Our game must win back your trust.”

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket