'Damning indictment' of Cricket Scotland expected in report

Report into racism in Scottish cricket will be ‘damning indictment’ of the country’s governing body, says the lawyer of whistleblowers Majid Haq and Qasim Sheikh… following the resignations of the entire Cricket Scotland board within 24 hours

  • Aamer Anwar is representing two whistleblowers within Scottish game
  • Majid Haq and Qasim Sheik have given evidence of racism within the system
  • The two players accused the country’s governing body of institutional racism  

The lawyer representing whistleblowers Majid Haq and Qasim Sheikh says the report into racism in Scottish cricket will be a ‘damning indictment’ of the governing body in this country.

The entire Cricket Scotland board on Sunday resigned 24 hours before investigators Plan4Sport publish an independent report that is expected to outline institutional racism within the sport and governing body.

Aamer Anwar, whose clients include former Scotland players Haq and Sheikh, says the resignation of the entire board of Cricket Scotland on Sunday is vindication for the years of ‘humiliation and abuse’ the duo have suffered, and insists the resignation of those at the top speaks volumes about what will be revealed in the independent review.

A lawyer representing the two whistleblowers, including Majid Haq (pictured) has said the report will be a ‘damning indictment’ of the governing body

Sportscotland commissioned the independent review in December 2021 after it was alerted to concerns from across Scottish cricket. Among the allegations, former Scotland cricketers Haq and Sheikh accused the governing body of institutional racism.

Speaking out on Sunday ahead of the review’s release, Anwar also slammed players within the current Scotland set-up for failing to speak out in solidarity of those who had suffered racist abuse.

‘Where is the support and the solidarity of the Scottish cricket team for those players of colour?’ Anwar asked. ‘Where is the support for those players who built the pathway, who actually stood up and fought, for individuals like Majid and Qasim who have complained, fought for change, done something for future generations? Why is there abject silence from them?

Qasim Sheikh is one of those accusing the governing body of institutional racism

‘That tells a great deal about the culture that exists within cricket in Scotland. They should hang their heads in shame.

‘One would have thought that every single member of the Scotland cricket team would have stood up shoulder to shoulder in solidarity without any prompting and tweeted and said: ‘Yes, it is tougher being in a minority and we support our fellow brothers and sisters who’ve had to suffer’.

‘However, there has been none of that to date. What are they waiting for? Some PR merchant to come along to tell them how to do it? It’s not good enough. It’s not good enough to be non-racist, you have to be anti-racist.

‘It’s not good enough to have soundbites dragged out of you.

‘You are part of the problem and it’s deeply shameful. We are talking about cricket here, a game people love. It’s about fairness and equality and yet you have a team that is frightened to speak out, that is paranoid, that doesn’t have a voice. What is wrong with speaking out about injustice? What is wrong with speaking out about discrimination? Or racism? This is not the 1960s — this is 2022.’

Anwar, who has worked with Haq, Scotland’s leading all-time wicket-taker, for several years following the former player’s expulsion from the World Cup squad in 2015 for a race-related tweet, says the resignation of the board yesterday is a move in the right direction — but insists it is ‘the barest minimum they could offer.’

All six members of the Cricket Scotland board have stepped down ahead of the report’s publication

All six members of the Cricket Scotland board have stepped down. In a statement, the Board said that while it ‘has not been given sight of the review report, it is now aware of the proposed timescales and of certain mandated actions proposed within the report that it believes make the delivery of these two programmes unachievable within the timetable proposed and the current governance framework.

‘Consequently, we believe we must now step aside to enable the required progress to be made in the coming months.’

Anwar believes the board have given themselves a ‘get-out’ clause in walking away, but concedes the move is vindication for the years of difficulty his clients have suffered.

‘We accept their resignations and feel vindicated, because for years my clients have been humiliated, branded as liars.

‘Cricket Scotland has lost complete and utter confidence, its funding was on the line, the board had to go. I can’t see that those individuals who have done little or nothing in the last seven years could carry on. They are part of the problem and had to go.

‘But what about the selectors or those on boards of leagues, the senior coaches, what’s happened to them? When you look at that, it’s practically all white.

Aamer Anwar claims the governing body have provided themselves with a get-out clause by all resigning

‘The bottom line is this, it’s not something that’s happened in the 1930s but in recent history and no-one should forget that Cricket Scotland was still trying to hold onto a gagging clause to prevent Majid Haq from speaking out about what happened to him.

‘We had to turn around a few months ago and say we will speak publicly and you can sue him if you like but he will not be tied to this. It just wasn’t acceptable and they had to give way and so that gagging clause was lifted. But that was the mindset, the attitude at Cricket Scotland.

‘If the board had had an ounce of decency and compassion they would have publicly apologised to Majid and Qasim before they stepped down but they couldn’t even bring themselves to do that. An anonymous spokesperson issues an apology to anyone who has experienced racism. That’s just not good enough. I can think of two individuals who should be on that board — Qasim Sheikh and Majid Haq should be welcomed with open arms.

‘They were catalysts for change and Cricket Scotland hasn’t been. They were dragged kicking and screaming into this inquiry — it was back in November Majid started asking about one, following in the footsteps from Azeem Rafiq.’

Anwar says that if the board had an ‘ounce of decency’ they would have apologised to the two whistleblowers before stepping down

Rafiq — who had played at Yorkshire Cricket Club — made allegations of institutional racism at Yorkshire, which led to several resignations on the county’s board and government intervention.

While the scandal rocked the professional side of the game in particular in England, the revelations from the review into racism in cricket in Scotland are expected to have a huge and widespread impact on the game as a whole.

Anwar insists the matter is one that merits attention at government level.

He added: ‘I think it’s impossible at this stage and before the report comes out, to acknowledge the number of incidents that have been laid out by those coming forward to the review. However, the proof is in the pudding with the resignation of the board. We’re talking about a huge number of incidents which they have no explanation for.

‘Everyone is too scared to talk about this. Cricket Scotland created a climate where people are scared to speak out and if people complain or dare to tweet, then they will be kicked out. They humiliate you, abuse you and shut you down and nobody gave a damn about their mental health. Where is the support for Qasim and Majid over the last couple of months? There has been nothing. No-one from Cricket Scotland reached out. They set up a What’s App group but there was nothing on it. They never met with Majid once.

Azeem Rafiq gave evidence to a DCMS committee last year on racism he experienced within the game at Yorkshire

‘This review should be a benchmark by which every other sport in Scotland should be considered —every other sport has similar problems. Black and ethnic minority players continue to be excluded because of the colour of their skin. Racism is deeply entrenched.

‘What has been discovered is shocking from top to bottom but this is just the door opening on the institutional racism that exists in Scotland. The real question will be around the political voices — where are they? The Scottish Government is responsible for Sportscotland, who provide funding. They should be speaking up. I would hope the First Minister speaks up and I hope every political party leader says ‘enough is enough’.

‘We need to examine what is wrong with these rotten institutions that have gotten away with it for so long. Why should it always be the victims of racism that stand up and fight?’

The review, lead by Plan4Sport, a team of experts in diversity, equality and inclusion, was commissioned by Sportscotland in December 2021. It will bring together the testimonies of hundreds of individuals who have come forward to tell their stories.

An interim report released in April 2022 showed that over 200 people had already given evidence to the inclusion experts.

That number is expected to be significantly higher when the review is published today.

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