Devon Malcolm, Dean Headley set to be appointed as ECB match referees

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Respected former fast bowlers given new roles in sign of ECB commitment to diversity

Devon Malcolm and Dean Headley are set to be added to the panel of ECB match referees as the organisation seeks to address a long-standing failure to appoint non-white officials.
ESPNcricinfo revealed in November that John Holder, the former Test umpire, had called for an inquiry following the revelation that the ECB had not appointed a non-white match official to the first-class list since 1992. Holder also claimed they had never appointed a non-white Pitch Liaison Officer, Cricket Liaison Officer, Match Referee, Umpires’ Mentor or Umpires’ Coach.

Malcolm and Headley, both highly-respected former England fast bowlers of African-Caribbean heritage who have remained involved in the game in coaching roles, are among the five names added to a ‘supplementary match referees’ panel which is expected to be announced shortly. Headley is expected to officiate in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy next week.

Malcolm has previously told ESPNcricinfo that when he expressed an interest in qualifying as an umpire he “was basically told ‘I wouldn’t bother if I was you‘.”

As a result of such stories, the ECB acknowledged “areas where we need to be better and do more to be inclusive and diverse”.

They also announced several measures aimed at improving diversity, including a commitment to ensure that a minimum of 15 percent of umpires on the national panel (the panel operating at county second XI and National County level) are from a Black and minority ethnic (BAME) background by the end of 2021. At present the figure is 8 percent.

In addition, the ECB committed to establishing a mentoring programme to encourage umpires from a BAME background and promised to ensure BAME representation on all umpire selection panels.

The appointment of Malcolm and Headley would appear to be a first tangible sign of such policies in action. Both men have impeccable records in the game: Malcolm took over 1,000 first-class wickets – 128 of them in Test cricket – while Headley’s fine Test career – he took his 60 wickets at a cost of 27.85 apiece – was curtailed by injury.

Meanwhile, Sue Laister, who has served as a Competitions Officer for Recreational Cricket at the ECB, is set to become English cricket’s first female match referee when she oversees Northern Diamonds versus Central Sparks in the first round of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, at Headingley on Saturday.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo