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John Blain threatens legal action as Cricket Scotland race row descends into acrimony

Former fast bowler accuses board of 'craven, disingenuous and despicable attempt to rewrite history'

Osman Samiuddin
Osman Samiuddin
18-Jun-2024
A Running Out Racism banner ahead of a Cricket Scotland press conference at Stirling Court Hotel, Stirling, July 25, 2022

Running Out Racism made public a letter advising that disciplinary proceedings were not being initiated against Blain  •  Getty Images

Cricket Scotland's attempts to conclude independent investigations into allegations of racist behaviour have been overshadowed by an escalating row with John Blain, the former Yorkshire and Scotland fast bowler.
Blain, who last week declared that he had been "exonerated"of racism allegations dating back to 2007, pre-empted Cricket Scotland's formal conclusion of the process on Tuesday afternoon by issuing a further statement threatening legal action against the board. He accused Cricket Scotland of "a craven, disingenuous and despicable attempt… to rewrite history a week after I was forced to go public to clear my name."
Blain was sent a letter in January this year by the board in which they said allegations of racism against him had been "unfounded". The letter, sent by then interim CEO Peter Fitzboydon, was the basis for Blain to go public saying he had been cleared of the allegations and that the investigations "fully exonerate me".
But a letter sent by Cricket Scotland to one of the complainants against Blain reveals that he has not been exonerated. The letter was made public by Running Out Racism, the anti-racism advocacy group that has been advising complainants through the process. In it the board explain why disciplinary proceedings were not being initiated against Blain but make clear: "This procedural inability to progress these matters to a Conduct in Sport Panel is not a statement of exoneration."
The identity of the complainant has not been made public, but ESPNcricinfo has confirmed and verified with the former player their account of the allegations as well as the letter they received.
In its own statement, issued on Tuesday afternoon after Blain's, Cricket Scotland said that Blain's cases "were not progressed further due to a combination of insufficient evidence, a lack of an applicable rule at the time of the complaint, and/or a lack of jurisdictional remit or authority to take formal action" - a subtle but clear distinction from its communication of "unfounded" in January.
Blain's case was the only one specifically referred to within Cricket Scotland's statement. Though the board said it could not comment publicly on the reasons for Fitzboydon to present Blain with the outcome of his cases in the manner that he did, it is believed significant welfare concerns around Blain had been raised at the time Blain confirmed as much, alleging that the board's "preposterous position now appears to be that they in fact lied to me out of consideration for my welfare!" Blain has previously spoken about the toll the case had taken on his mental health.
"This latest Cricket Scotland letter is a desperate attempt to reinvent history and to row back from an unequivocal exoneration," Blain said, adding that Fitzboydon was not the only CEO to tell him the allegations were "unfounded".
"Not only did Pete Fitzboydon, the CEO of Cricket Scotland, write to me in January to say that all of the claims against me were unfounded, that I had no case to answer, and my case was closed, but that position was clearly confirmed by his successor Trudy Lindblade in a phone call with me in February.
"She reiterated on the call that the claims against me were unfounded and the case against me was closed. I am sure that, if asked, she will publicly confirm that to be the case."
Blain said he was now exploring legal options. "I will now confer with my lawyers and take all steps necessary to protect my reputation in light of this extraordinary and unsustainable about-turn."
On Tuesday the board officially closed investigations into the series of referrals stemming from the 'Changing the Boundaries' report in 2022 that found Cricket Scotland to be institutionally racist. But since Blain went public, pressure had been building on the board to clarify that he had not been exonerated but that the board were unable to progress with disciplinary proceedings against him.
Blain's statement prompted the investigating team to issue the only public utterance they have in two years, in which they made it clear nobody had been exonerated. And in a further illustration of their unhappiness with Blain's statements, ESPNcricinfo is aware of a letter the investigating team sent to Cricket Scotland strongly urging the board to correct Blain in writing as to the outcomes of complaints against him.
That correction appears to have been made, at least in the redacted letter they sent to the complainant, a copy of which is available with ESPNcricinfo.
"None of these outcomes take away from the feelings that you have as a result of the incidents you reported, but they do impact on Cricket Scotland's ability to take formal action," the letter to the complainant reads.
"We are keen to stress that none of the above seeks to undermine the belief that you had regarding the way that you were treated, but sets out the reasons why we will not be bringing disciplinary proceedings against John Blain."
Running Out Racism said the letter confirms "a contradictory account provided by Cricket Scotland to one of the complainants… and demonstrates that the allegations made were not 'unfounded', but not investigated due to them not having rules or jurisdiction at the time."
Cricket Scotland has sent communication to complainants and respondents in all the referrals that have now been concluded, including to Blain. He is expected to receive in his letter clarification around the correspondence he was initially sent by Fitzboydon, in which it has been made clear the reasons for disciplinary proceedings not going ahead.
The board also apologised once again to all victims of racism and discriminatory behaviour as it concluded what has been a long and complex two-year investigations process. Fifty-three referrals ultimately emerged from the 'Changing the Boundaries' report, of which 51 have now been investigated and stand concluded. Two referrals have not begun being investigated for external legal reasons.
Only five of the 51 completed referrals have, however, proceeded to disciplinary action. Cricket Scotland said the others had not met the criteria to be taken further, which included not demonstrating "sufficient evidence", a "clear breach of a rule that had been in place at the time of the offence", and the "requisite jurisdictional remit to proceed with the case".
The rest of the referrals have concluded with a series of learnings - over 250 - for Cricket Scotland to take on board as it attempts to move on from the central finding of the report that it was institutionally racist.
"It is clear that there are no 'winners' from this damaging and divisive period for cricket in Scotland," Lindblade, the current CEO, said in the statement. "Since joining in February this year, I know for a fact that Cricket Scotland has been driven to learn from mistakes of the past to ensure they do not happen again.
"The legacy of the referrals process will be the wholesale restructuring of Cricket Scotland for the benefit of all within our sport."
The board has asked complainants to consider seeking mediation as a next step. "It is the Board's wish that reconciliation and where necessary, independent mediation is accepted by those involved, for the good of individual personal relationships and for the good of the sport in Scotland," said the Cricket Scotland chair Wilf Walsh.

Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo