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Essex players found guilty of historic racism to face no punishment

General view of the ground prior to the County Championship match between Essex and Nottinghamshire at the County Ground on May 14, 2019 in Chelmsford
General view of the ground prior to the County Championship match between Essex and Nottinghamshire at the County Ground on May 14, 2019 in Chelmsford

A number of former Essex players and staff will not face disciplinary action from the ECB’s Cricket Regulator despite being found guilty of historic racist behaviour by an independent report.

Several individuals’ alleged racist behaviour at Essex, including using the nickname “curry muncher” for players of South Asian heritage and the taunting of a black team-mate with a banana, was found to be proven in an independent report by Katharine Newton KC.

But those individuals involved have been informed by the Cricket Regulator they will not be charged.

Essex announced they had sanctioned several former staff for historic racism offences in February following the completion of Newton’s independent inquiry, but did not provide any further details. The individuals involved were not named either, although some of them are understood to still work at the club.

The decision comes just over a year since the ECB’s Cricket Discipline Commission issued sanctions against six former Yorkshire players and coaches as part of the Azeem Rafiq racism scandal, which saw former England internationals Gary Ballance, Matthew Hoggard and Tim Bresnan, as well as Andrew Gale, Richard Pyrah and John Blain given large fines and cricket bans.

Newton was commissioned to carry out the report in 2021 after allegations of discrimination were made by former Essex players Jahid Ahmed, Maurice Chambers and Zoheb Sharif covering a period from the mid-1990s to 2013. Following a three-year investigation and numerous legal delays Newton’s report was published last December and exposed a shocking culture of dressing room culture at Chelmsford, where racist slurs were normalised as “banter”. Minority ethnic players were “too scared to speak up” for fear of damaging their careers, according to Newton.

Allegations of ‘bomber’ and ‘terrorist’ slurs

The report also upheld an allegation that John Faragher, the former Essex chair, used a racially offensive phrase during a board meeting in 2017 which the club failed to investigate. The latter incident led to Essex being fined £50,000 by the ECB, who instructed the Cricket Regulator to investigate the allegations made against the club’s players and staff further.

That investigation is now understood to have concluded with no disciplinary action being taken against many of the individuals. Essex could still face further punishment however, for presiding over a culture of discrimination described by Newton.

The Cricket Regulator was set up by the ECB in December 2023 as a new body responsible for enforcing all the sport’s regulations and compliance following the criticism they received for their handling of the Rafiq scandal and concerns over governance. The independent body, whose interim director is former senior police officer Dave Lewis, is ring-fenced from the ECB, who are not involved in any areas of its work. The Cricket Regulator has been contacted for comment.

In a club statement, Essex said: “Essex County Cricket Club has been charged by the Cricket Regulator for breaching ECB Directive 3.3 between 2001 and 2010. The charges relate to the use of racist and/or discriminatory language and conduct during this period.

“The club has fully cooperated with the Cricket Regulator and will continue to do so throughout the process, and intends to participate willingly with the Cricket Discipline Commission. There will be no further comment from the club at this time.”

While not named in the report the experiences outlined by Newton’s investigation appeared to endorse interviews given by the three former Essex players. In the case of Sharif this included being given the nickname “bomber” by “certain senior players” after the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York. Jahid, the first British-born county cricketer of Bangladeshi heritage, was also found to have been referred to by team-mates as “terrorist” and, like Sharif, “curry muncher”.

Chambers, a Jamaican-born fast bowler who grew up in east London and was at Essex from 2004 to 2013, was repeatedly subjected to racist taunts by a player who would offer him bananas.

Essex chair Anu Mohindru issued unreserved apologies in person to all three players last year and stated that “fundamental errors” took place which did not reflect “the Essex of today”. The club has begun work on 15 recommendations issued by Newton relating to equality, diversity and inclusion measures.

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