The ECB has been accused of going “over the top” in its punishment of Ollie Robinson by a UK government minister. Oliver Dowden, the secretary of state for sport, called on the ECB to think again after it suspended Robinson from international cricket pending a “disciplinary investigation” into tweets he made in 2012 and 2013.
The tweets, written when Robinson was aged 18 and 19, contained both racist and sexist comments as well as unsavoury references to Madeleine McCann and Gary Speed.
While Dowden, who has been head of the department for digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) since 2020, accepted the tweets were “offensive and wrong” he urged the ECB to reconsider its course of action.
“Ollie Robinson’s tweets were offensive and wrong,” Dowden wrote on Twitter. “They are also a decade old and written by a teenager. The teenager is now a man and has rightly apologised. The ECB has gone over the top by suspending him and should think again.”
R Ashwin, the India allrounder, also expressed sympathy towards Robinson. While understanding the “negative sentiments” towards Robinson, Ashwin said he felt “genuinely sorry for him being suspended after an impressive start to his Test career”.
Ashwin also warned that the suspension was “a strong indication of what the future hold” for a generation brought up on social media.
But it is Dowden’s intervention that is most relevant. The ECB has been obliged to work very closely with DCMS over the last couple of years and was reliant upon its acquiescence for ensuring international cricket was played in England in 2020. DCMS was also the body which allowed the second LV= Insurance Test against New Zealand at Edgbaston to be treated as a test event with larger crowds. Dowden clearly has influence and clout.
Robinson admitted he was “embarrassed” and “ashamed” by the tweets, which emerged during the first day of the first Test against New Zealand. He apologised “unreservedly” and said he wanted “to make it clear that I’m not racist and I’m not sexist”.
The ECB declined to comment on Dowden’s remarks.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
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