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Barca: just a club?

Barca self-referentially labels itself “mes que un club” or “more than a club”, justifiably in historical terms…

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Dawn Raid

The recent election of Joan Laporta returning as the President of Futbol Club Barcelona (Barca) could bring an understandably palpable murmur of relief from Catalonians. The ignominy of their club’s offices being raided by police and Laporta’s elected predecessor, Josep Bartomeu being arrested is still fresh in the club’s memory. This is despite having witnessed the modernisation of their beloved institution into the global sporting behemoth of a franchise it resembles today. Since Laporta’s initial resignation from his presidency role in 2010, the last 10 years have seen the club earning record revenues to propel them to the top table for revenue amongst football clubs. Fans have also witnessed the team win two Champions League (UCL) trophies, achieve six Spanish league titles and five Spanish cup wins with perhaps the greatest footballer of all-time, Lionel Messi, leading their line throughout the period. Yet, it would be unfair to dismiss Barca supporters as ungrateful without considering the cost of their club’s success. Reviewing the events of the last decade, the inevitability of Barca’s Icarian pursuit culminated in the final act of the Catalan police’s raid at dawn.

More Than a Club

Barca self-referentially labels itself “mes que un club” or “more than a club”, justifiably in historical terms as one of the few places that the Catalan language was permitted to be spoken during General Franco’s repressive Spanish military regime in the early 20th century. After the fall of Franco, Barca continued to personify the Catalan national identity by permitting their contracted players to line up for the Catalonia football team. Barca uniquely eschewed shirt sponsorship and the riches it brought to retain a cleaner shirt to reflect its nationalistic positioning, in line with FIFA’s prohibition of such sponsorship for national teams. What really enhanced the symbiotic relationship between club and supporter was the process by which club members are able to vote for the President to lead the club for a period of six years. It would not be remiss to assume supporters from rival English clubs would envy the influence of fans over the club, yet the last decade has been the rough side of this double-edged sword.

Democracy: the Least Worst Form of Government

Adopting the apparent failsafe to apportion all accumulated club debt on the shoulders of the President during their mandate, Barca unintentionally restricted candidature to a narrow band of wealthy individuals. Indeed both his successors, Sandro Rosell and Bartomeu served on Laporta’s Board of Directors. Since Laporta’s resignation in 2010, presidential self-destruction has been a running theme uniting both his elected successors. Rosell resigned in 2014, just four years into his term when an investigation implicated him in the misappropriation of club funds to sign the Brazilian superstar, Neymar. Rosell is perhaps no stranger to questionable financial ethics, having previously replaced Barca’s sponsorship of UNICEF, breaking with club tradition, and instead accepting shirt sponsorship from the Qatar Foundation in 2010. With the election of Bartomeu, a positive turnaround was naturally expected as it was envisaged rock-bottom had already been hit.

Football’s Only a Business

Bartomeu’s administration continued to plunge further depths. Take, for example, the ashen-faced transfer of Neymar, triggered by its Paris-based competitor, Paris Saint Germain (PSG), meeting the player’s transfer fee release clause in spite of Barca believing they were in pole position to entice one of PSG’s own stars, Marco Verratti. The wastage of that transfer fee on the arguably qualified success of Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho. The inexorable debt accumulation of €1.1 billion in the years of financial record revenues encouraged by the escalating global media interest. Ironically, in the age of football transitioning into a business, it is the raw emotional story of Barca’s adopted son, Messi, reaching the zenith of his patience with the club’s administrators that was to stoke the pressure of Bartomeu’s eventual resignation in late 2020. Messi became the eventual victim of the effects of presidential self-interest illustrated by two events. The first was the accusation that Barca had contracted a social media company to both protect the reputation of Bartomeu in the media whilst simultaneously besmirching the images of their star players, such as Messi. The secondly was the publishing of his four-year contract in the Spanish press, confirming his remuneration amounted to almost half of Barca’s total debt. 

Phoenix from the Ashes

Mockingly referring to Barca’s motto as “just a club” would not appear unfounded when Bartomeu could not resist sticking the knife into world football when announcing his resignation. He announced the club was in talks to create a ‘European Super League’, whereby the biggest clubs in the world would be guaranteed participants in contrast to the fundamentally meritocratic qualification exemplified by the UCL. Yet following Laporta’s re-election, there are shoots of hope. A career in Catalonian politics in addition to his Barca presidency, his reputation has surprisingly remained intact enough for Barca members to deposit their faith in him and relieve them of the myopic outlook of leadership resembled in the interim. This is not without merit, since it was Laporta who had the foresight to appoint Pep Guardiola, perhaps the greatest coaching mind since the turn of the century, to his first managerial role at Barcelona. He subsequently backed Guardiola’s desire to transfer out modern greats, such as Ronaldino, Eto and Ibrahimovic, to make room for home-grown talents, such as Messi, Xavi and Iniesta, ushering in the era of arguably the greatest club team of all time. Laporta’s more immediate concerns will be to retain Messi beyond this season, to manage the club’s financial debt in the face of dwindling revenues resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, whilst somehow continuing sporting success and laying the foundations for the club’s future. This may well be the greatest challenge in Laporta’s career and whichever way it turns, what is guaranteed is that Barca will never be far away from the headlines.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

I work in asset management in the City of London, am a qualified Chartered Accountant and hold an Economics and Accounting BSc from the University of Bristol. I dream of completing my first triathlon.

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Ralf Rangnick – the football professor: The new interim manager of Manchester United

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xtranews.de, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

For many people who are not die-hard football fans, the name came as a surprise. Many had not heard of him up until now. But in Germany, he was a key figure, especially during the 90s/2000s when German football was transformed and became the foundation of many of the top German managers we see today dominating world football. Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool), Thomas Tuchel (Chelsea) and Julian Nagelsmann (Bayern Munich) are the immediate benefactors of his in-depth knowledge.

Despite this strong influence, his accolades and status do not actually include winning trophies. In his whole managerial career, he has only won one trophy, that being a domestic German trophy. 

He is instead accredited with bringing clubs from the brink back to life, getting them challenging and showing that talent and money alone cannot lift a club. Stuttgart, Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig most recently are just a few of the clubs on his resume that he brought to the top of German football – challenging for top honours. 

He turned teams into machines. Relentless pressing which led to the oppositions making mistakes which can then be taken advantage of. Some of the worlds best players were crafted by Rangnick and perfected by other managers who are using ‘gegenpressing’ as the foundation of their tactics, e.g. Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.

Rangnick was the brains behind ‘gegenpressing’ football. Relentless pressing on and off the ball, which was unheard of in Germany prior to his arrival. He also introduced video analysis into German football which revolutionised the way the game is viewed by those on the pitch.

The closing down of the opposition as soon as you’ve lost the ball is a very difficult task and requires immense work off the ball for the team let alone on it, but if perfected, like Klopp has at Liverpool, you are a force that is difficult to be reckoned with. 

Whereas the era of Arsene Wenger in English Football brought about a revolutionised way of playing, of allowing players to follow rules but play freely at the same time, Rangnick is the opposite. “Experience has taught me players need clear rules”, Rangnick has said. And he is not wrong. The new era of English football has shown that clear guidance and pressing is the most tactile way of gaining the upper hand in games. Klopp, a protégé of Rangnick is the prime example of this.

If you look at the players Liverpool have now prior to coming to Liverpool, they were not the same players. You would not see Mane and Salah closing down defenders like they now do. You would not see Fabinho or Henderson pressing down on players like they now do. The ‘gegenpressing’ mindset that Klopp brought from Germany has shown it is the best way to play football in England now, and as Klopp put it, we, the English clubs, should be worried that a manager like Rangnick is coming and to Manchester United of all clubs.

The talent at Manchester United is plain to see. Manchester United arguably have world class players in every position right now other than Central Defensive Midfield. Unfortunately, what Ole could not do is to control these players and give them clear rules to play by. It seemed Ole would chuck players on and just hope for the best.

Now under Rangnick, you can expect some drastic changes, albeit not overnight. The coming months will most likely bare fruit of what direct guidance, rules and specific tactics can do for United. Especially from players like Sancho who have already played the way of Rangnick with Dortmund.

But will he succeed at United? Only time will tell – and United barely have any to spare. Unfortunately, Rangnick’s technique does require time. It takes rewiring how football is played particularly for those players who have never played in such a way before. 

Gegenpressing takes a massive toll on you physically and mentally. It leads to a lot of injuries. It leads to a lot of fatigue and requires great mental strength not to stop. Applying this mentality and attitude at United will be an arduous task. 

From the current United squad, only a small handful of players occasionally already try this during the game. Ronaldo pressing down defender’s time and time again will be a miracle to see. Not that he isn’t one of the best we have ever seen but he is no longer at that stage in his age or career to be doing this. Therefore, Rangnick will have some tough decisions to make on who is capable of what he requires and who isn’t.

United could be the team they once used to be come next season, but Rangnick is only managing till the end of the season. His position to go up the hierarchy after is probably a better decision than him managing. His influence on picking the next manager will be key to all of this. Get that wrong, and its over. Manchester United will be a sub-par team again for another half a decade.

It’s a very tricky period for Manchester United and for Rangnick, but if navigated properly, this could be the revolution United have been looking for since Sir Alex Ferguson left. 

United will not be challenging for the title this season, their battle lies in qualifying for the Champions League. But we need not discuss what Rangnick brings as a manager. We know what he is capable of, and to manage half a season is not enough time to change the whole philosophy at a club. Rangnick should be judged in three years’ time, after the permanent manager is selected and given a few years to show what progress United make. That will be Rangnick’s real test.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Pakistan confirmed to host Champions Trophy 2025, ICC Announces

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After a nearly three-decades long wait ends for Pakistan to host a global event as International Cricket Council confirmed, Champions Trophy 2025 to be held in Pakistan. 

It must come as an enchanting and unexpected news for Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the millions of ardent fans of the sport in the country, especially after the disappointing setbacks of New Zealand and England pulling out of tours to Pakistan in September, citing security risk and player health respectively. 

The last time Pakistan held a major multinational cricket tournament was back in 1996, when they hosted the Cricket World Cup as co-hosts with India and Sri Lanka. 

Since the Lahore attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009, Pakistan had been a no-go area for international cricket teams. Following the attack, Pakistan was stripped of its rights to host the Champions Trophy later that year, as well as being dropped as co-hosts for the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup – on security grounds. Subsequently, the event was held in Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka. 

PCB has been working on the revival of international cricket in Pakistan for the past few years, resulting in several teams touring the country in recent years. 

The Former PCB chairman Ehsan Mani had been working on a plan to secure the hosting rights for at least two major events. Therefore, ICC’s announcement, following a board meeting of the sport’s global governing body, is welcome news for the fans, the players, and the country as a whole. 

England Cricket Board (ECB) have reached out to PCB to mend their relations which suffered a blow after ECB’s decision to pull out of the tour back in September and facing backlash from PCB and cricket fraternity of both countries. 

ECB have since resolved their differences with the PCB, they have agreed to compensate the losses suffered by the PCB by playing two additional Twenty20 matches when England’s team tours Pakistan late next year. The proposed tour in Autumn 2022 will be the first since 2005 for the England cricket team, while Australia is also scheduled to tour Pakistan early next year for the first time since 1998. 

Ramiz Raja, the newly elected PCB chairman, also attended the ICC board meeting and welcomed the decision, in a PCB press release he was quoted saying

“I am pleased no-end with the ICC’s decision to select Pakistan as a host nation for one of their elite tournaments. By allocating a major global event to Pakistan, the ICC has expressed complete confidence and faith in our management and operational capabilities and skills.”

He continued to say that: “We have continued to demonstrate how a great host we are and through the ICC Champions Trophy 2025, we will again showcase our passion and love for the sport as this event will be a boon to the millions of home fans, who will see world class teams and their favourite international players from close quarters.”

The tournament in Pakistan will see the return of the Champions Trophy after an eight-year break. The last edition was hosted by the ECB in England and Wales in 2017 when Pakistan beat India by 180 runs in the final and were crowned champions. 

In 2018 the ICC had decided to scrap the eight-team tournament in favour of the Twenty20 World Cup but backtracked on that idea earlier this year. The next edition of the Champions Trophy after Pakistan 2025 will be hosted by India in 2029.

Pakistan, the current holders of the Champions Trophy, will take further motivation to do well in front of their home crowd to not just perform well in a global event in their backyard, but also to defend their title and keep the trophy at home. 

Talking about Pakistan’s title defence of the Champions Trophy and referring to their strong performances in the recently concluded World Twenty20 competition, where Pakistan won all five of their group matches, especially, beating India, their arch-rivals, for the first time in a world cup match. Raja further added:

“We not only endeavour to plan and deliver a world-class event, we will also prepare and field a strong and formidable side that can perform and entertain our home fans. We saw during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup campaign how the nation got united and the ICC Champions Trophy 2025 at home will be another opportunity to further strengthen that bond as we defend the title.”

In the media release, ICC also announced seven other men’s global event to be held in the next cycle from 2024-31, making it a very exciting and thrilling coming eight years for the game’s global fanbase and audience with eight global events in eight years. 

It comes as delightful news for both countries, USA and Namibia will host an ICC World Cup for the first time. USA will co-host the Twenty20 World Cup 2024 along with West Indies, while Namibia will share the hosting duties with South Africa and Zimbabwe for the ODI World Cup in 2027. Talking about the planned strategic growth of the game and need to expand it to the newer markets ICC Chair, Greg Barclay said: 

“We are delighted to have concluded this competitive bidding process for the first time for ICC events. To have 14 Members hosting 8 events is a reflection of the truly global nature of our sport and I’d like to thank every Member that submitted a bid and offer our congratulations to the successful bidders.

“It is fantastic to be returning to so many previous hosts, but what is really exciting about this process is the countries who will stage ICC events for the first time including the USA which is a strategic growth market for us. This gives us the opportunity to deepen our connection with fans in traditional cricket nations and also reach new fans around the world.”

ICC events taking place between 2022 and 2031 are as follows:

ODI World Cup – 
2023 India, 
2027 South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Namibia, 
2031 India and Bangladesh 

Twenty20 World Cup – 
2022 Australia, 
2024 USA and West Indies, 
2026 India and Sri Lanka, 
2028 Australia and New Zealand,
2030 England, Ireland, and Scotland 

Champions Trophy –
2025 Pakistan, 
2029 India 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Champions League: Game week five review

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This is the penultimate game week which showcases a lot of teams cementing their positions for the knockout – but, in which position and at what cost? For eight teams, it will be the end of European football. Game week five relived some of the earlier lively games in the reverse fixture.

Made in Cobham special for the reigning European Champions

Three academy graduates were on the scoresheet as the defending champions outclassed the visitors. Trevoh Chalobah, Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi each score impressive goals, with Timo Werner grabbing the fourth. 

Chelsea completely dominated their match, with Juventus’s only chance coming when Morata’s chip over Edouard Mendy was miraculously prevented from going over the line by 37-year-old Thiago Silva. 

The ever impressive Reece James continued his incredible form, becoming Chelsea’s top goal scorer this season. His fine strike doubled Chelsea’s advantage after Chalobah swept home a neat finish in the first half. 

Whilst the Chelsea manager will be delighted with the result, there will be huge concerns after left wing back Ben Chilwell went off with a suspected ACL injury. The wing backs are crucial to Tuchel’s system at Chelsea, he will be hoping that the injury is not as bad as feared. There are reports suggesting the Englishman will be out till at least the new year and potentially the rest of the season. 

Frustrated Xavi’s first Champions League game

This was a 0-0 draw that nearly saw Benfica come away with all three points. Haris Seferovic squandered an incredible opportunity in the dying seconds at the Camp Nou. If he had scored, then Barcelona would be all but a Europa League team come 2022. Regardless, if the Catalans lose to Bayern and Benfica beat Kyiv in the final match day, Barcelona will be in the second tier of European football.

Xavi, in his first Champions League as manager, was left frustrated as Barca created numerous opportunities in the first half, but couldn’t find the target. 

Jordi Alba stung the palms of Benfica’s keeper and Yusuf Demir’s curling effort hit the bar. Both teams put the ball in the net, but both times the referee and VAR intervened. Incidentally, Ronald Araujo suffered an injury whilst celebrating his disallowed goal and was substituted off.

Xavi and his team face the mammoth task of needing a result away to Bayern Munich in order to qualify – unless Kyiv can save their blushes by beating Benfica.

Milan stays alive

The La Liga champions are facing a similar fate to Barcelona after suffering a defeat at home to AC Milan. 

The result will mean the final matchday will be a tense one for Group B. Porto, Milan and Atletico are all separated by one point. All three teams will be battling for 2nd place, with Atletico currently bottom. Junior Messias’ header gave the Italian outfit their first win in the competition this season. The goal is another chapter in an incredible story, as the 30-year-old Brazilian only made his professional debut three years ago. 

Diego Simeone’s men will be ruing their missed chances, in particular Matheus Cunha’s who

spurned a golden chance in added time. All to play for in this group, with the seven-time winners alive and kicking.

Five out of five for Ronaldo

A much needed win for the team from Manchester, as they secured qualification into the

second round with a victory over Villareal. 

Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho gave interim manager Michael Carrick the first win of his tenure. Ronaldo has now scored in every game in this season’s edition of the competition. Jadon Sancho, United’s big money summer signing finally got off the mark with a smashing finish late on. Carrick will thank his goalkeeper David De Gea for his heroics, after the Spaniard made two excellent saves from Villarreal’s Manuel Trigueros. 

Carrick will be looking to the tough task of visiting reigning European champions and Premier League leaders Chelsea on the weekend, a tough assignment for the rookie coach.

European elites in Manchester

A steady performance by Pep’s team after being down 1-0 at the start of the second half. City were left annoyed when they could not score in the first half due to PSG’s goalkeeper and defence being in the way.

With Messi, Neymar and Mbappe upfront, it only took 50 minutes to find the net for Mbappe to score after a pass directed from Messi was deflected into his path. But with the might and tactical brilliance from Pep, City found themselves ahead by the 76th minute when Sterling and Jesus took their chances.

At times, City should have inflicted more pain. PSG did not look in the game for a long period of time. Only near the end of the first and start of the second half, did they look dangerous.

With 11 out of 16 places confirmed for the next round of the Champions League, the last game week is the one to watch – especially in Group B, F and G. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Umar is currently studying the Legal Practice Course. He has a LLB Law and LLM International Human Rights Law degree. When he is not studying or volunteering, he likes to Cycle and play Football

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Commentary Box

What’s next for Manchester United as the manager merry go round continues? – The Commentary Box

The Premier League appears to be as cut throat as ever, as managers continue to be sacked with regularity. The revolving door of football management sees a number of familiar faces returning, but what is next for one of the biggest clubs in England? Meanwhile in the T20 World Cup, there was a new world champion.

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All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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A ‘gentleman’s game’

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A glaring sense of irony shrouded the cricketing world when the news of the Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC) racism scandal coincided with the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) decision to raise awareness about racism by making it mandatory for players to take the knee before every T20 World Cup match.

It was widely thought that racism in sport, particularly in the UK, was mainly associated with football. We have heard stories of monkey chants during football matches and persistent online abuse of Black footballers, but have hardly heard of racist remarks in cricket on or off the field.

Well, we were all wrong and the YCCC racism saga exposed it.

Pakistani born Azeem Rafiq played for YCCC between 2008 and 2018. Rafiq spoke out about facing institutional racism at the YCCC in September 2020 during an interview with ESPN cricinfo. Following that allegation, the YCCC launched an investigation into their policies and culture. They appointed the law firm, Squire Patton Boggs, to carry out an independent investigation last autumn.

The firm gave its findings to the YCCC in August 2021, but the club did not release the report or disclose is findings to the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) which governs the England cricket team. At that time, the YCCC only admitted Rafiq was a victim of inappropriate behaviour and offered him an apology.

However, YCCC was forced to release the report summary on 10th September after continuing pressure from MPs. Attempts were made to try and lessen the fallout by releasing it at the same time as the news of the postponement of test match between England and India due to a Covid outbreak in the Indian camp.

The club’s summary of the report denied any institutional racism in the club but admitted Rafiq was the victim of racial harassment and bullying. They sent an edited copy to Azeem Rafiq despite a court order to send a full report. The YCCC also announced on 28th October that no one would face disciplinary action. Since then, ESPN has published another story where the YCCC investigation concluded that although “the ‘P’ word was used frequently”, it was used as part of “friendly and good-natured banter” which caused outcry. 

The events of the last couple of months has led to the YCCC Chairman Roger Hutton resigning, and being replaced by Lord Kamlesh Patel. Hutton has since come forward to apologise to Azeem Rafiq. However, the revelation of racism in the club, its subsequent cover-up and the public response, led to the club’s sponsors, such as Nike, Emerald Publishing, Harrogate Water, Anchor Butter, Yorkshire Tea, David Lloyds Club and Tetley Beer cutting ties with the club; thus bringing the club’s finances into dire strait. 

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the Parliament asked the relevant parties to give their testimony on 16th November 2021. Azeem Rafiq, Ex-chairman Roger Hutton and ECB official attended the hearing. The main points from Rafiq’s statement to the committee are as follows.

Players used racist language, including the “P” term without being challenged, and in Rafiq’s opinion, such words were racist and not “banter”. He felt isolated and humiliated. Rafiq told the committee that things got even worse when he joined the club again in 2016. Especially when Gary Ballance became captain, and Andrew Gale replaced Jason Gillespie as head coach. Rafiq also described an incident at a different club, where a fellow team member pinned him down and poured wine down this mouth when he was only fifteen. He said he started drinking in 2012 so that he could fit in the club.

YCCC former chairman Roger Hutton also gave evidence. According to him, Martyn Moxon and former chief executive Mark Arthur “failed to accept the gravity” of the Rafiq situation. Mr Hutton also told the committee that Mark Arthur asked him to abandon the racism investigation.

Surprisingly no YCCC official or key witnesses like Martyn Moxon, Mark Arthur, Andrew Gale and Garry Ballance agree to speak to the committee

Observing the YCCC racism saga unfolding, it seems there is evidence of institutional racism in the club. The club gave Garry Ballance a three year contract, despite the investigation finding his use of racist remarks towards Rafiq. Although we don’t have the full text of the report; the way management made every effort to brush it under the carpet and hid part of the report suggest deep-rooted racism in the cricket club, and they failed to rein it in. If it weren’t for the bravery of Rafiq and journalist George Dobell of ESPN, who persisted with the story, the matter wouldn’t have gotten the public attention it needed to bring about change. If a world-renowned cricket club with 158 years of history has racism embedded in it, then it’s not unreasonable to assume that cricket itself has a racism problem while authorities have long ignored it. The time has come for the English and Wales Cricket Board to lead in taking concrete steps to root out racism from the game.

The problem of racism in cricket is not confined to the players and management, nor does it have geographical boundaries. It exists within the fans and supporters and is apparent in all parts of the world. Recent examples are Muhammad Shami and Hassan Ali of Pakistan. When India lost to Pakistan in the T20 World Cup, Muhammad Shami was made a scapegoat by the Indian fans declaring him a traitor and telling him to leave India due to his religion. Pakistan fans made similar threats to Hassan Ali when they lost to Australia in the semi-final, profiling him as a Shia due to his name and his wife’s Indian origin.

We’d like to think that taking the knee before a match wouldn’t be just a theatrical gesture. It’s about time that the ICC and all the cricketing boards will install policies to eradicate discrimination based on race and religion and develop a culture of inclusiveness.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Azeem Rafiq: a damming interview for cricket

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On 16th November at the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Parliamentary committee hearing, Azeem Rafiq gave, what many have called, a brave and courageous interview which shocked everyone to the core in the cricketing world. 

At the hearing, Azeem detailed the accounts of bullying and racism he faced, as young as 15 years old, when alcohol was forced down his throat whilst being pinned down by a former professional player. He even started to drink alcohol because he wanted to fit in.

He made reference to the nickname ‘Kevin’ being used by two of his former team-mates, Gary Ballance and Alex Hale, both of whom have denied the claims. The significance of the nickname ‘Kevin’ was that it was being used in a derogatory manner describing people of colour. 

Furthermore, he described how at times, especially during the period when he lost his child, he did not receive the same treatment as other teammates. He was ignored, casted away and disenfranchised.

But it was revealed on Thursday that a private Facebook message exchange, in 2011, when Azeem was 19 years old were to be anti-Semitic. He since then, has accepted and apologised to the Jewish community, and deleted the tweet. 

The Co-Chief Executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, Claudia Mendoza said in a tweet, “There’s no doubt that this is massively awkward for Azeem Rafiq but he’s taken full ownership, apologised, and undoubtedly – through his own experiences – learnt a lot about racism since then.”

The very fight Azeem Rafiq is trying to stand up against has awkwardly backfired due to his own ignorance of the Jewish community. This should not capitulate in the sense that it destroys the evidence presented but it could have impact on his character and legacy.

Institutional racism

Current England player and captain, Joe Root, was also mentioned at the hearing. Azeem reflected upon this by stating that the racism was so deep and normal, that even a “good man”, like Root, was not able to recognise what was happening. 

Azeem Rafiq has alleged “institutional racism” at Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC) where he had two spells as player and captained them, whilst being the youngest to do so in YCCC history. This allegation came as a result of YCCC’s own internal findings with a reputable law firm, who stated that racist language against Pakistani-British Cricket player was being used but in the form of ‘banter’. 

Since Tuesday’s hearing, the support Azeem has received has been overwhelmingly positive and reassuring. However, he is not in it for the pride, rather, he wants to create change within cricket which has been plagued with this endemic of subtle, yet obvious racism. 

As a result, nearly 1,000 people have come forward to call The Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC), from elite to grassroots to come forward and share their experience of racism within the sport. What will be made of this is expose the ugly truth of the game bit-by-bit. This is the sort of impact and influence Azeem wants to achieve.

Sport is not immune from racism. If we look at football, players in the Premier League still take the knee in rejection of racism before every match. Cricket certainly is not exempt either. 

Barriers

A large demographic of those within England who play cricket are from the South Asian community. They put blood, sweat, and tears into the game and, to some extent, it is a religion for some. It represents a way into society and creates community cohesion within British culture. The revelations of the detailed racism and bullying experienced by Azeem Rafiq are not to be understated. It will have dented and knocked the confidence of those within the community.

One barrier imposed on cricket players of colour is the drinking culture where the expectation is to go to the clubhouse after every game and drink alcohol. It is in that environment where players market themselves as either being part of the team or causing a problem. 

The responsibility now lies with politicians to hand down justice. Azeem and the cricketing world’s eyes are on the report the DCMS will publish once the committee concludes the hearing. 

There is no doubt that has the potential to be a watershed moment for cricket. A gentlemen’s sport thralled in an outbreak of accusations of racism, is just the beginning of the boiling pot finally opening. It will require a heavy hand from those from the top to be the enforcers of change if this is to be a watershed moment, otherwise the worry is that this might be forgotten very easily. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Umar is currently studying the Legal Practice Course. He has a LLB Law and LLM International Human Rights Law degree. When he is not studying or volunteering, he likes to Cycle and play Football

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