ECB seeking to ‘protect reputation’ amid racism claims, says former umpire John Holder

John Holder has claimed the ECB are “more interested in protecting their reputation than dealing with the issues” after it emerged they had hired an expert in reputational damage to counter allegations of institutional racism.

Holder, the former international umpire, has announced that he and fellow former umpire Ismail Dawood are attempting to sue to ECB for racial discrimination. They have also called for an independent inquiry into the lack of non-white match officials in English cricket.

Now it has emerged that the ECB are utilising the skills of Julian Pike, a high-profile lawyer from the London firm Farrer & Co, to advise them on the case. Pike is renowned as an expert in reputation management who, according to the Farrer & Co website, advises organisations which “could be at risk of reputational harm”. He previously defended News International against claims of phone hacking.

But while Farrer & Co may have a lofty reputation – members of the royal family, including Queen Elizabeth II, are among their clients – their usage has left Holder and Dawood underwhelmed. Instead they feel it suggests the ECB are more focused on protecting their image rather than demonstrating a commitment to greater equality and diversity in future.

“I think the ECB should face the issues and ensure lessons are learned,” Holder told ESPNcricinfo. “Instead, it seems they are more interested in protecting their reputation than dealing with those issues.”

Dawood would appear to agree.

“Are the ECB focused on ensuring there is more equality and diversity in the game?” he asked ESPNcricinfo rhetorically. “Or are they focused on brushing their issues under the carpet in the hope of ensuring their broadcasters and sponsors don’t realise the severity of the problem?

“We think they should be looking to employ more people from Black and Asian backgrounds. Instead, they’ve spent a lot of money employing a lawyer who deals in reputational damage. That is, I think, telling.”

Pike also made the news when he was cleared of wrongdoing by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in a high-profile incident that was concluded in 2017.

While he admitted to instructing a private investigator to carry out surveillance of two lawyers acting against News International in the phone-hacking scandal, the tribunal found he had not acted without justification or without placing limits on the scope of any investigations. He was, however, ordered to £20,000 in costs after the tribunal concluded it was “repugnant” that solicitors should carry out surveillance on other lawyers.

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