Few would be surprised to learn that the gentle world of club cricket has become a harsher environment in recent years, with reports of unsporting behaviour more commonplace. But an incident during which spectators abused players, leading to one fan being banned and the home club being fined, has dragged the image of the game down even further.
The unrest happened during a Wetherby League match in Yorkshire between Great Preston, who have subsequently won the league, and St Chad's, Broomfield on May 31. Four Asian players representing St Chads were allegedly lambasted as "al-Qaida members" among other racist comments.
The league fined Great Preston £100 and banned one of its regular spectators from all league games for two years. But that was not enough for St Chad's, who dismissed the measures as inadequate. Their representative on the league resigned in protest, saying that his club's players had suffered "the most unprovoked, uncalled-for, and sustained racial abuse".
A spokesman for the league said that more punitive measures, including the expulsion of Great Preston from the competition, had not been considered appropriate as there had been a limited number of witnesses to the incident.
The two sides were due to meet again on Saturday, but St Chad's refused to honour the fixture. Zahid Ali, their captain, explained the reason behind the decision to boycott the match. "Because of what happened we felt, as a club, it would be difficult to play the game. Great Preston will definitely get the points but we are not at all bothered as it means nothing compared to upholding what you feel about racial abuse. Nobody at the club was prepared to play the game and it was a unanimous decision."
This is unlikely to be the end of the matter though, as St Chad's now face punishment for failing to play the match. "What the subsequent consequences will be I wouldn't like to say," a league spokesman told Harrogate Today. "St Chad's are effectively refusing to play a game and are therefore holding the league to ransom."