Royton’s John Holder, cricket’s first black umpire, claims racism is more widespread in the sport than we realise 

IN a recent interview with John Holder – Britain’s first black cricket umpire – Global Indian Series uncovered the reality that many non-white people face in the so-called ‘gentleman’s sport’ in the wake of the current high-profile Yorkshire cricket racism scandal.

As part of the Global Indian Podcast, a weekly discussion on topics as far-ranging as life and death, entrepreneurship, national identity and sport, Holder was invited to participate in a tell-all interview about his experiences with racism in cricket, taking the ECB to court for unfair dismissal, and the connection between cricket and British identity.

John Holder

As Holder, who has had a lengthy association with Royton Cricket Club, raised in the interview: “There’s an awful lot of hypocrisy [in the UK] and to talk about cricket being a gentlemen’s game is nonsense because some of these so-called gentlemen that they talk about were some of the biggest rogues in the game.”

In recent weeks, racism in cricket has been under a spotlight after the mistreatment of players of South Asian origin was brought to the public’s attention, but this discrimination has affected many additional non-white players and umpires in the sport.

Holder, 75, who previously played for Hampshire County Cricket Club, is best known for being the first black umpire, and is still the only non-white British umpire in 150 years of Test cricket.

He made headlines last year for suing the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) for alleged racial discrimination after he was dropped as an umpire after raising an issue of suspected ball tampering with the England captain.

“I was penalised for doing my job properly,” says Holder.

Rajan Nazran, chief explorer of Global Indian Series, said: “Time and time again we see how deep-rooted cultural bias is in British society. People need to be educated at all levels, particularly in sports that are often branded as the pinnacle of Britishness such as cricket.

“For zero-tolerance of this type of behaviour to truly exist, we need to address how we see our fellow Brits and, importantly, note the voices that need to be heard, even if they aren’t the most convenient ”

As the pair reflect on the racism in sport, Holder added: “All I want is a level playing field for everyone. If you desire to become a player, become an umpire, whatever, at least you’ve got a chance… But the present system is bigoted. The present system is way too heavily in favour of white people.”

Global Indian Series has uncovered that when we look at the game of cricket today, it is hard to separate racism and the sport, and we must wonder whether the game itself and our understanding of Britishness really stands the test of investigation.

To listen to the full conversation from Global Indian Podcast, visit:

To find out more about the work that Global Indian Series has been doing for people of Indian origin, visit

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