Naren Patel
Naren Patel
A view from Naren Patel

Yorkshire cricket racism scandal should be a warning for UK media industry

Adland has not done enough to create a sense of belonging, the founder of Media For All says.

Is the media and advertising industry any better than Yorkshire Cricket Club when it comes to diversity and creating a sense of belonging?

Azeem Rafiq’s heart-wrenching testimony in front of a parliamentary committee last month presented the sport of cricket with its day of reckoning.

There’s no turning back now – cricket is in a spin it seems but could this scandal usher in a new dawn for the rest of us too? How about the media industry? Does it have the same skeletons in its closet? 

In 1968, county cricket welcomed the world’s greatest players through its doors by relaxing the rules on residential qualification.

Alongside the great Sir Garfield Sobers came the cream of world cricket, and these great players association began long associations with their adoptive counties.  

However, Yorkshire Cricket Club opted to put themselves at a deliberate disadvantage by insisting that all its players must be born in the county, otherwise known as “God’s own country”.

They dropped this birth qualification rule in 1992 when they signed the Indian “maestro” Sachin Tendulkar.

So, as I look back – I start to wonder if that anti-diversity mindset contributed to the current mess they find themselves in? 

Although the media industry certainly didn’t ban foreign employees during the 1970s and 1980s, there wasn’t much consideration given to diversify the workforce. 

Recruitment bounties were very much the norm in the industry, and many companies encouraged employees to put forward friends and family members for roles to reduce recruitment fees and to employ people who would fit in and look like “us”.

The Advertising Association released the All in Census in June this year. The lived experience of people from black backgrounds made painful but unsurprising reading given the global focus on Black Lives Matter in the previous 12 months.

The census also highlighted that Asian experience in the UK advertising sector was far from ideal. I think those findings startled the industry because we do have a number of people from Asian backgrounds in C-Suite positions yet it is not enough.

The results were truly shocking, with 15% of Asians experiencing discrimination and 27% of them likely to leave the industry due to a lack of inclusion. Employees who are Muslims are 32% likely to leave the industry and 16% of them believe they have faced discrimination because of their religious beliefs, compared to the industry average of 1%.

The number of people from Hindu (27%) and Sikh (23%) who are looking to leave the industry is woeful.

Even more shocking is that islamophobia seems to be prevalent in our industry.

People from Pakistani (41%) and Bangladeshi (35%) backgrounds are significantly more likely to feel left out at work either when engaging in work or social activities, versus 22% of white employees.

Asian people as a whole are twice as likely to be excluded from events or activities in the last 12 months.

With Azeem Rafiq making clear that he wouldn’t want his own children to play cricket – it’s easy to see how cricket could miss out on an entire generation of players of colour.

And be warned – this is what could happen to our own industry if we don’t step up now and really commit to change. 

The lack of diversity at Yorkshire Cricket Club created a culture which has backfired and has had a major financial impact on the club as sponsors have cut ties and the valuable revenue from international cricket is set to disappear as the club has been suspended as a host ground by the ECB .

Perhaps, one day advertisers will ask businesses in our sector to share the experiences of people from ethnic minorities in their organisations and move money towards or away from them accordingly?

Whatever the case – we need to do the work. We’ve only just scratched the surface.

Naren Patel is founder of Media For All