Sometimes, cricket’s obsession with rules gets in the way of common sense.
Hedar Rasool, of Rockingham Colliery Cricket Club, has been prevented from wearing a cricket jumper with ‘No Room for Racism in Cricket’ on the front by his local league.
There is history here. Hedar says he was a victim of racist abuse in a match in what was the South Yorkshire Cricket League.
He feels that incident wasn’t properly dealt with and his anti-racism top is a way to express a positive message.
As a teacher, Hedar sees his views on standing up to racism and expressing himself as particularly important for younger generations:
‘I just want to get this message across so no-one else has to go through what I went through. I want to bring people together. I believe in diversity; in educating young people to come together and respect each other.’
This season, Yorkshire Cricket Southern Premier League has stepped in to stop him wearing the shirt as it has introduced a policy of no slogans on playing kit. The reasoning being that slogans could potentially include controversial messages.
It’s important to stress that the League, as reported by BBC Sheffield & South Yorkshire, said in an email they supported his anti-racism message but, well, rules are rules.
I understand this slogan ruling was new for this year – which begs another vital question. Why was it introduced? Hedar himself?
Which is where we return to common sense – and context.
It is highly unlikely this will lead to a flurry of cricketers wearing slogans. The League could judge it on a case-by-case basis – as they have to do in all areas of cricket admin.
With a number of unsavoury incidents associated with the league and its clubs in the past (from Roger Pugh’s resignation to a storm involving Barnsley Woolley Miners), they must have been aware of the optics.
It shuts down debate rather than encouraging it.
Yes, the slogans ruling is not just about racism – but at this moment in time, it absolutely is. To pretend otherwise is to ignore all that has happened across Yorkshire over the years.
Club cricket loves its rules. Rulebooks, handbooks, committees, sub-committees. It needs this rigidity for fairness but also to protect itself.
It’s a sad state of affairs but Leagues nowadays are terrified of controversy and legal action. We can forget they too are run by volunteers just trying to do the best they can.
However, in this case, it’s the wrong move at the wrong time.
It’s also open to misinterpretation and sidestepping.
There is an #ItsOkToTalk Hundred Game on 1 July raising funds for Project14 and Samaritans Barnsley. It has made £14,000 over 3 years and is supported by players and clubs from across South Yorkshire.
It’s a powerful and vital expression of community awareness around mental health – is it so different?
Perversely, Hedar admitted to me his own mental health has really suffered as a result of the battle that stemmed from the racist incident in the match, that has lasted 2 years.
He just wants to play cricket but feels it’s important to stand up to what he perceives as an injustice that has never been properly addressed.
Let me ask: what would you do in his position? Give up. Go away. Keep quiet?
The contrast with mental health is striking. Is it that we feel mental health affects us all and racism doesn’t?
In 2021, The Halifax Cricket League decided to launch a campaign called ‘Knocking Mental Health for Six’ to raise awareness and flag up support.
Fifty banners were constructed to be displayed at every club around the ground perimeter and across major cricket finals for both the Senior and Junior League.
A positive move by a cricket league to support its players and those affected by a serious issue.
Which brings us to sidestepping – and sponsorship.
If I sponsored Hedar as a company with the name / logo ‘No Room For Racism in Cricket’, it should be perfectly ok to appear on his shirt.
Ridiculous – but tempting.
Hedar has actually been wearing this shirt for a year now – including in games during the 2021 season.
He has had support from his own team and other teams and to my knowledge, the world did not cave in nor did lots of other players start wearing their own slogans.
So, why was the ruling brought in? It’s hard to see it as anything other than a direct result of Hedar himself.
The Yorkshire Cricket Southern Premier League was approached for comment but have so far declined. Perhaps they’ll release a statement but if they can publish regular news, this is surely just as important.
It’s disappointing not to get their view – this isn’t a witch hunt, I genuinely want to understand the thinking here – but it’s the second time I’ve made a request for comment on racism issues that didn’t get a response.
The Yorkshire Cricket Southern Premier League has an Equity & Diversity Group, I’m told they are doing great work.
It would be good to hear from them too.
Want to know who’s part of that Equity & Diversity Group? Yes, that’s right.
Hedar Rasool. After all, you’ve got to be part of the conversation to try to bring about change.
The League’s website reads: ‘Hedar joined the group to make a difference by helping tackle issues of racism and ensuring that the League is equitable for everyone. He hopes to help the group move forward by educating people, promoting justice and reviving the faith of all players in the system.’
Now, I know the YCSPL don’t exist just for my media requests but they are the only League I’ve ever dealt with, over 25 years, to refuse to comment.
The silence is deafening.
Meanwhile, Rockingham Colliery Cricket Club, Hedar’s new club, have put up a sign with the slogan in support of him and the anti-racism stance.
Richard Skipworth, Rockingham Colliery’s Director of Cricket, told me that they are keen to look forward:
‘Where people think we may be angry or may wish to fight, what we want to do is plough our energies into supporting that positive message. Hedar’s a highly intelligent man with a message for the world – and we’re really pleased to help him.’
They have written to other South Yorkshire clubs about their sign and hope visiting clubs will take photos or get their own ‘No Room for Racism in Cricket’ sign.
The feeling is that momentum is quietly starting to build behind the scenes and it’s an easy way for any cricket club to support – without being docked league points.
As a club, Rockingham Colliery have an inclusive and progressive outlook; a diverse membership, ladies hardball and softball teams as well as female players in men’s league cricket.
The cricket club originally received a 12 point suspended penalty because Hedar wore the cricket jumper with the slogan.
Richard met with league officials and Rockingham Colliery chose not to contest the decision and Hedar has not worn the jumper since.
The league rule has worked. “Order has been restored.”
But it won’t, nor should it, end there.
As Hedar told me himself: ‘It’s not about one man and his jumper, it’s about the bigger picture.’
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