The ECB’s attempts to rebrand cricket in the wake of the Azeem Rafiq racism scandal have faltered after the governing body suspended a senior official, accused of making a racially offensive comment about the former England fast bowler Devon Malcolm.
According to reports in the Times and the Telegraph, the official, who has worked at the ECB for a significant number of years, allegedly commented earlier this summer that he was unable to see Malcolm “until he smiles”. The ECB refused to comment on the claims, but the official is understood to be standing down pending the result of the investigation.
Malcolm caught the country’s imagination when he steamed in at The Oval in 1994, taking nine for 57 against South Africa. He finished his career with 128 Test and 16 ODI wickets, after moving to the UK from Jamaica as a teenager.
Last year, Malcom was one of five people appointed onto the ECB’s match referee’s panel, in an attempt to diversify the game. He had previously being rejected twice in his bid to become a first-class umpire, despite others breezing through the system.
In 2020, former umpires John Holder and Ismail Dawood alleged discrimination in the ECB’s appointments system, pointing out that no non-white official had been added to the first-class list since 1992. Holder, the most important black official in the English game, was dropped from the Test match list in 1991, not long after reporting an alleged ball tampering incident by an England player; while Dawood never made it off the reserve list. They later withdrew their employment claim against the ECB, shortly after Malcolm’s appointment to the new ‘supplementary panel’ of match referees.
The latest incident comes two weeks after the ECB announced it was bringing charges against Yorkshire and seven individuals for bringing the game into disrepute.