County news September 17, 2014

Gale charged with racist abuse after 'Kolpak' outburst

Yorkshire's captain Andrew Gale has become the first county cricketer to be accused of a racism offence after he was charged on Wednesday by the ECB for a confrontation with Ashwell Prince in the Roses match which included a rejoinder to return to his own country, followed by a disparaging use of the term "Kolpak".

ESPNcricinfo revealed that the Kolpak term was part of the issue under investigation by the ECB hours after Gale was barred from collecting the Championship trophy on Yorkshire's behalf following their clinching of the title with victory against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge.

Now the Daily Telegraph has confirmed that the ECB intends to press ahead with the charge in defiance of Yorkshire's fury that their captain's reputation has been tainted.

The ECB's charge will be that Gale used abusive language with racist connotations when the case the governing body laid itself is heard by its own disciplinary committee.

Yorkshire are assembling a legal team to contest the charge, which has left relationships between the county and the ECB - historically, often shaky - at their lowest levels for years and soured celebrations of their first Championship title for 13 years

The hearing could take place next week with Gale anticipating a Level 3 charge.

Gale's outburst came against Prince, Lancashire's South African batsman, who qualifies to play domestic cricket by virtue of the Kolpak rule, on the third evening of the Roses match on September 3.

Gale had become increasingly incensed at OId Trafford by Prince's sledging and timewasting as Yorkshire pushed for victory. As tempers flared, Prince told Gale to get back to his fielding position, Gale's rejoinder to Prince was that he should get back to his own country and included a reference to Prince's Kolpak status. There was a dose of bad language on both sides.

The umpires brought a Level 2 charge and Gale was suspended for two matches but the ECB was not satisfied that the affair had been sternly enough dealt with. The night before Yorkshire won the Championship at Trent Bridge, they were instructed that Gale should have no part in the trophy presentation ceremony as further charges could be laid.

Prince's immediate on-field gesticulations indicated that he viewed the outburst as having racist overtones, and as a Cape Coloured South African immersed in South Africa's apartheid history, his response was perhaps not altogether surprising. But there are no indications that Prince himself has pressed for the matter to be taken further.

Yorkshire will contend that there is no country, nor racial origin for Kolpaks - it is simply a descriptive term for those players from many countries who are able to play in county cricket because of reciprocal EU trade agreements - and it therefore cannot be construed as racist.

The ECB itself has lobbied hard against Kolpak registrations, with some success, and some senior officials have not always referred to their presence in county cricket in a decorous manner. They, though, are not on trial.

Gale's rejoinder to Prince that he should "eff off home" will also have lawyers thumbing through the Race Relations Act and the Equality Act to decide whether, in such a context, that constitutes racism or merely the sort of all-too-common abuse, perhaps tinged with xenophobia, that has already been punished by a two-match ban?

The ECB, led by the chairman Giles Clarke, is adamant that its task is to uphold behavioural standards in the game. No right-thinking person would question the general view that removing the scourge of racism from cricket is a noble aim.

Whether Gale's outburst can be fairly regarded in that vein will be fought out by the lawyers. But whether this case - unusual to say the least - is an appropriate occasion on which to make a stand on such a sensitive and important issue, an issue where reputations can be damaged for life, is a wider debate altogether.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments