At last! SMS can be used for good, instead of evil!

Cricket’s ruling body announced a sweeping range of tough anti-racism measures overnight, to try and stop the sort of spectator taunting that greeted the South Africans in Australia last summer.

The one we liked the best was a recommendation to establish an SMS hotline at each venue, so spectators appalled by the behaviour of others nearby can quietly alert authorities. Sure, it leaves an uncomfortable amount of room for practical jokes against your brother-in-law, but it also offers fans a way of pointing out racists without having to stand up and tackle the morons themselves.

The most disturbing thing for Australia is how squarely these measures were aimed at us. It’s lucky that Crikey readers will remember that our Prime Minister, John Howard, assured us during the Cronulla riots that Australia is not a racist country and everything is just dandy, regardless of whether elements of the population choose to wear homemade “We grew here, you flew here” T shirts.

At the ICC, they seem to hold a different view. In fact, the story about this new code on Cricinfo, the world’s leading cricket website, carried the subhead today: “Tough measures follow incidents in Australia”.

The code demands national cricket authorities use a range of measures to punish racist spectators. They can be ejected from the venue or banned for life. While it was presented as a helpful tool to assist local cricket bosses tackle the issue, it was worth noting that the code also provides for potentially severe punishment of those officials who don’t jump on racist behaviour.

If Australian cricket executives, for example, were to sit on their hands as a group of South African expats acted as they did last summer, Cricket Australia could be fined or even have its international cricket status revoked.

“Cricket is a sport which reflects the world’s diversity with a range of races and religions all involved,” ICC boss Malcolm Speed said. “That diversity is something the game can be proud of and our Anti-Racism Code is something that emphasises the commitment of all our Members to maintaining and enhancing it.”

Here, here. The racist undercurrent in Australian grandstands has been a sad feature of the last decade, from last summer’s disgrace to the taunting of Muttiah Muralitharan. Cricket’s ethnic diversity and wide array of styles is to be treasured. It’s only sad that the ICC has to underline that point so heavily.

Peter Fray

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