Hair drops racial discrimination case against ICC

Darrell Hair arrives in court

This really is big news and utterly unexpected. Darrell Hair, the Australian umpire who was suing the ICC for racial discrimination, has dropped his case at the start of the second week of hearings.

“Darrell Hair withdraws his allegation of racial discrimination against the ICC board, members and staff,” Robert Griffiths QC, Hair’s barrister, told the media. “Mr Hair has undertaken to work with ICC management in accordance with the rehabilitation programme over the next six months.”

Hair is contracted to the ICC until March 2008 but Cricinfo has learned that he then has to be given 12 months notice, so in effect he remains an employee until March 2009. He will continue to umpire international matches, but not those involving Test-playing countries. The ICC board will meet in March to discuss the results of Hair’s rehabilitation and decide whether he can return to elite umpiring, and if so, on what terms.

The term “rehabilitation” is a dirty one. And I’m intrigued by Malcolm Speed’s comments:

“I think in six months we’ll have a better idea [about his future as an umpire], it’s a matter for the board, which is a very diverse group generally with strong and differing groups, so a lot will depend on the rehabilitation programme and his attitude towards it.”

“…a very diverse group generally with strong and differing groups”? Even in the current climate, I think it’s fair to say Speed is speaking about the Asian Bloc, against which Hair has been fighting. The ICC appear to be divided by skin colour and it is a huge concern for the future of the game.

My boss, Martin Williamson, wrote an excellent comment on the whole mess.

But more seriously, the executives that run the world game were shown to be a pretty rum bunch. Faced with a cunning QC, they not only fell into his traps but often appeared to give him a hand in digging them as well. If these are the men entrusted with the future of the game and its best interests, then we are all in trouble.

That’s not necessarily the ICC’s fault – it has to work with what it is sent by the Full Member countries. But, with a few exceptions, a more self-interested and self-important bunch would be hard to find.

So finally the circus is over and, when his contract with the ICC expires at the end of March 2009, so almost certainly is Hair’s career. But when he is gone and largely forgotten, most of those on the ICC executive will still be running cricket. That’s a sobering thought.

This case had all the makings of becoming a landmark for racial discrimination in sport. But now, neither party has won. In fact both Hair and the ICC lost – their reputations are in absolute tatters. Hair’s a goner, so where does that leave the ICC?

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