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Former Scotland cricket player demands inquiry as racism allegation cleared

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One of Scotland’s all-time leading wicket-takers has called for a “full inquiry” after he was cleared of allegations of racism following a year-long legal investigation.

John Blain was suspended from Cricket Scotland’s Hall of Fame after allegations of racist behaviour were made against him and another, unnamed former internationalist.

The entire Cricket Scotland board resigned in July 2022 ahead of the publication of an independent review that highlighted 448 examples of institutional racism.

Following a year-long investigation carried out jointly by Harper Macleod, Bishop, Lloyd & Jackson and Sporting Equals, the claims that John Blain was among those examples have been rejected after numerous witness statements and a dossier of factual evidence were presented to investigators.

Blain, who represented Scotland 118 times, received written confirmation in January this year from former Cricket Scotland CEO Pete Fitzboydon that all allegations against him had been “unfounded” and that no action would be taken against him.

However, the 45-year-old was asked to keep the judgement confidential to enable Cricket Scotland to inform the complainers – but Blain feels “forced” to go public after claiming that Cricket Scotland is “running scared”.

Speaking out on social media, he said: “It’s obvious to me that, rather than publish this very clear and detailed judgement which fully exonerates me, Cricket Scotland is once again running scared of the small “anti-racist” cabal which has exerted such a malign influence over our sport.

“My life has been on hold for too long and it’s time that the truth is finally told about one of the biggest sporting scandals of recent times.

“Now that the investigation has cleared me, I am finally able to respond to those who falsely accused me. I simply could not believe that, after giving both Majid and Qasim considerable support during their careers, they made such false and disgraceful accusations against me.

“If he truly believed I was a racist, why did Majid try so hard to persuade me to join his club, Clydesdale, as professional player-coach in 2015, eight years after he claimed I’d used a racist word, and also recommended me to a string of Asian players for one-to-one coaching.

“Likewise, if Qasim really believed I was a racist, why did he seek me out for one-to-one coaching in 2014 to help him regain his Scotland place – something I gladly did for free?

“Crucially, the in-depth Scottish investigation did not accept Majid’s allegation that I had used the P-word during a tour to Kenya in 2007. That’s the exact same allegation the England and Wales Cricket Board panel used to support their finding against me.

“The fact that the year-long Scottish investigation has completely exonerated me fatally undermines the ECB process and must force them to reconsider their unjust verdict and clear my name.

“In contrast, I want to place on record my heartfelt thanks to a string of former players and others within our game – including several Asian players – who have been brave enough to stand up for the truth and to support me during an extremely difficult period for me and my family.

“I would also like to thank the independent panel which considered my lawyers’ submissions very carefully and objectively, reaching the clear conclusion that all of the allegations were unfounded. This raises some fundamental issues for both Majid and Qasim, as well as for the sporting authorities.

“I also note that Qasim has very recently been employed as a sports commentator by the BBC, ironically the same broadcaster which removed me from my longstanding cricket commentating role when these false allegations surfaced. It will be revealing to see what action, if any, the BBC takes in light of this definitive verdict. For the record, I would be very happy to resume my duties with them.

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“It’s taken over three years to clear my name and I remain very angry and disappointed at the way Cricket Scotland, sportscotland and the ECB have so badly mishandled these allegations and the wider process.

“From the beginning, and before any investigation had been conducted, the allegations were treated by sportscotland and Cricket Scotland as established facts but have now been proven to be without substance.”

Blain, who has claimed to have lost several jobs due to the negative publicity surrounding the claims, including at the BBC and George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh, has since launched a GoFundMe page campaign to help meet legal expenses.

The Edinburgh born cricketer is also calling for his re-introduction into the Cricket Scotland hall of fame.

He added: “After a huge amount of forensic work and tireless support from my legal team, we have finally proved that these allegations were baseless. However, thanks to a powerful cabal of people with a very specific agenda to unfairly and inaccurately paint the sport I love – and many of the key figures within it – as racist, its very future is threatened.

“My accusers, their supporters at sportscotland, Cricket Scotland and the lobby group Running Out Racism have very serious questions to answer.

“They endorsed a misleading narrative that cricket in Scotland is inherently racist, when it has long been the most multiracial and integrated sport in the country. Their narrow, activist agenda has done untold damage to Scottish cricket, from which I fear it may never fully recover.

“The last three years have created a climate of fear, where many players, officials and administrators have been afraid to raise their voices in support of what they know to be true. I’ve received enormous support from scores of former team-mates, including many in the Asian community, who are disgusted by what has been allowed to happen.

“The governing body should also immediately reinstate me to Cricket Scotland’s Hall of Fame, following my very humiliating and public removal in July 2022.

“I have been the victim of a cynical and highly effective smear campaign, including successfully putting pressure on several of my employers to sack me. I have suffered serious online defamation and multiple social media attacks. My house requires regular police surveillance, my children have also been targeted and the health of close family members has suffered due to the prolonged period of intense stress.”

John Blain’s legal team, David McKie and Grant Maclean of Levy & McRae, said: “A number of very serious and public allegations were made about our client before being tested by independent investigators. We presented a very substantial body of evidence, corroborated extensively with many witness testimonies and documentary proof, which overwhelmingly contradicted the claims made against him. After due process, which our client has faithfully observed, our client was told in writing that the allegations were unfounded and that he had no case to answer.

“Our client has remained respectful of the process. He and his family have watched as his reputation was destroyed very publicly and unjustifiably before the due process had even commenced, let alone completed. We are now reviewing all legal options with our client, including taking legal action against all of those who impugned his name.”

Lawyer Aamer Anwar issued the following statement on behalf of Majid Haq and Qasim Sheikh.

It read: “Disappointingly, many of the complainants involved in Changing the Boundaries are yet to be told of the final conclusion of their complaints. That Cricket Scotland wrote this letter to John Blain in January, months before even talking to the complainants, when a number of issues were still ongoing, and we were still engaging in inquiries (and in some cases still not concluded) demonstrates how flawed the so called ‘due process’ is.

“At this point, it is important to stress, that some but not all of the allegations against John Blain were made public by him, never by running out racism, other complainants or my clients.

“At all times my clients have shown respect for the process and confidentiality, despite their many frustrations with the process and the significant errors.

“It is clear from Mr. Blain’s statement that he has chosen to target and label Qasim and Majid in his press release, by claiming they had made ‘unfounded claims’. Both Majid and Qasim remain victims of racism who continue to be abused, vilified and excluded for daring to speak out. Sadly I suspect that will now increase.

“It was galling for my clients to see the huge camaraderie and support Mr. Blain received in comparison to the abject silence from Scottish cricket, when Majid and Qasim placed their heads above the parapet. My clients were subjected to all the various versions of racism that can be practiced but are yet to see any real action in response.

“Cricket Scotland hoped this matter would simply go away, it will not, as they will see in the coming days.

“Mr. Blain was found guilty following complaints of racism in England, which included a complaint not part of the Cricket Scotland inquiries. It was as we understand it Mr. Blain who refused to engage in the proceedings and perhaps he would wish to confirm if he has yet paid the fine imposed or has gone on the retraining ordered following the findings of ECB.

My clients have heard nothing about his proposed legal action, but would welcome the opportunity of an open court hearing of their experience of racism over the many years they gave to Cricket Scotland.

The one thing we can all agree with, is the need for the facts to be made public now. My clients have engaged in good faith in a process that has taken too long, and resulted in yet another case study for why Scottish cricket needs to accept institutional racism and put in place urgent changes to stop this happening again. The culture of denial remains rife and the dinosaurs are very much alive and well.

“My clients believe they no longer have any choice, but to ensure a full and public disclosure of their ongoing concerns. They are in the process of finalising all the evidence, which demonstrates to them just how much of a farce this entire process has been. The governing body has once again let down the real victims, which include not just Majid and Qasim, but many other cricketers.

“Those individuals will go public over the next few weeks, on their own terms, in their own time and with the full facts. There will be no further comment until then.”

Cricket Scotland and sportscotland have been contacted for comment.

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