Fresh delay to ECB diversity plan as Mehmooda Duke leaves Leicestershire

As the England and Wales Cricket Board once again postponed publication of their plan to improve diversity in the sport the game took a backward step when Mehmooda Duke stood down from her role as chair of Leicestershire.

Duke was the only female chair of a first-class county and one of just three female board members from black or minority ethnic backgrounds. In total there are 28 women who sit on the boards of first-class counties.

Duke departed with a statement describing how cricket had been “torn apart” in recent months by allegations of racism. Neither Duke nor Leicestershire elaborated on the reasons for the move, beyond saying in a statement that she “is sorry to leave the game at this stage”. The vice-chairman, Jonathan Duckworth, will become interim chairman until a long-term replacement is identified.

“Cricket has been torn apart by recent events and I am deeply saddened by the hurt felt by individuals within our game,” Duke said. “With fresh leadership at national level and with a determination to learn from the recent past and move forward, I hope that racism and discrimination will be expunged from the dressing rooms, the fields, and the game as a whole, allowing us to celebrate the diversity which makes cricket and sport in this country so great”.

Duke is founder and CEO of Moosa-Duke Solicitors and was made an MBE in the 2019 New Year’s Honours List for services to the legal profession and female entrepreneurship. She had previously announced that she would leave the post at the conclusion of her term in March 2022 in order to become the county’s high sheriff, but has unexpectedly brought the move forward.

“I wish all of my colleagues on the board and across the network, the players, staff and the community teams, all the very best for the future,” she said. “I thank the Members, supporters, and sponsors for their unwavering loyalty to the club and especially during some difficult times.”

Meanwhile, the ECB admitted their ambitious but hurriedly-prepared response to racism and discrimination in cricket was “not quite there” as they continue to negotiate with stakeholders over the wording of a few key sections. Initially promised on Wednesday before being pushed back to Thursday, they now hope to release a version that all involved have been happy to commit to before the weekend.

As exclusively revealed in the Guardian, agreeing a deadline for and the wording of a target to reach a minimum of 30% women across county boards and leadership teams has so far proved an insurmountable stumbling block, but the ECB is confident that agreement is close.

The Australian broadcaster Fox Sports has confirmed that Michael Vaughan remains part of their commentary team for the Ashes, despite the former England captain being dropped by the BBC after being accused by Azeem Rafiq of racially abusing him at Yorkshire. BT Sport, who have exclusive rights to show the series in the UK, had planned to use Fox commentary in their broadcasts but said on Wednesday that as a result of Vaughan’s involvement they “are reviewing and discussing our commentary plans”.

Rafiq had accused Vaughan of telling a group of Asian cricketers in 2009 that there were “too many of you lot, we need to do something about it”. Though two other players, Adil Rashid and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, have corroborated Rafiq’s version of events, Vaughan has “completely and categorically” denied using the words.

“Michael Vaughan is part of the Fox Cricket commentary team for the summer of cricket, including the Ashes tour,” a Fox Sports spokesman said. “There is no place for any form of racism in sport, and we are closely monitoring the situation. At this stage, we have no other comment.”

Following the announcement of the BBC’s decision, Vaughan said: “Very disappointed not to be commentating for TMS on the Ashes and will miss working with great colleagues and friends, but looking forward to being behind the mic for Fox Cricket in Australia.”

Meanwhile, the former Middlesex and Durham bowler Simon Hughes has left his post as editor at large of the Cricketer magazine following criticism of his comments in a recent podcast regarding Rafiq’s allegations of racism at Yorkshire involving Gary Ballance.

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