County News - Yorkshire October 28, 2004

Local MP claims Yorkshire cricket is racist

Wisden Cricinfo staff

Yorkshire's chairman has demanded a full and public apology after Terry Rooney, the Labour MP for Bradford North, said in Parliament that there was "deep-rooted embedded racism in Yorkshire County Cricket Club".

Rooney, 53, told the House of Commons: "Virtually every Test player from Yorkshire started in the Bradford League. About 60% of cricketers in the Bradford League are from the Indian subcontinent. Not one of them, despite their skills and abilities, has ever been adopted by the Yorkshire County Cricket Club, even at trainee level.

"They have gone to other counties. Those have taken them on and they have gone into the first team. One or two have played at international level. There is only one name for that: deep-rooted, embedded racism in Yorkshire County Cricket Club. If we bear in mind that the club has not been particularly successful in the past 10 or 20 years, it is not a right good policy either."

Yorkshire won 29 County Championships between 1890 and 1968, but since winning in 2001 have been relegated from Division One and last summer finished seventh in Division Two.

Rooney spoke out strongly after the Bradford race riots in July 2001, and had asked whether the time had come to track and control movements of right-wing organisations like the National Front and the British National Party.

But Robin Smith, Yorkshire's chairman, told the Yorkshire Post that the comments were "incredibly hurtful and totally without foundation". He insisted that the MP retract his comments and make a comprehensive apology. "To say that I am livid about Mr Rooney's comments is an understatement."

He went on: "The thing that annoys me most about his remarks is that they are factually incorrect. Had Rooney made his comments outside of Parliament ... we would have been able to consider the option of suing him.

"To also suggest that no-one of Asian origin has come through the Yorkshire system is similarly untrue: eight of our 22 academy players are Asian and we've also had two represent the first team this year, in wicketkeeper Ismail Dawood and the right-arm seam bowler Ajmal Shahzad. So where exactly is he getting his facts from?"

Shahzad, 19, plays for Windhill in the Bradford League, and he became the first British-born Asian to represent Yorkshire's first team, when he played against Worcestershire in a National League match at Headingley in May this year.

"Yorkshire have been fantastic to me from day one," Shahzad told the Yorkshire Post. "Not once have I experienced any type of racism during my time at Headingley. I really can't understand why Yorkshire have been accused."

Smith added: "If he [Rooney] wants to come to Headingley and see all the work we have done and are doing with Asian players, he is most welcome."