January 31, 2006

Australia calls for life bans on racist fans

By Julian Linden

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian cricket officials have called
for the introduction of tough new laws to combat racism that
could see offending spectators receive lifetime bans.

The move follows an announcement by the International
Cricket Council (ICC) that it had appointed a top Indian lawyer
to investigate complaints South African players were abused by
spectators in Australia.

Cricket South Africa's chief executive, Gerald Majola, was
quoted by a Durban daily as saying it would consider boycotting
Australia if South African players continued to receive racial
abuse on the current tour.

"Racism has no place anywhere in world cricket, either on
or off the field, and spectators who offend should face life
bans and/or heavy fines," Cricket Australia said in a statement
released on Tuesday.

Cricket Australia Chief Executive James Sutherland said
cricket administrators should be given the power to impose life
bans and heavy fines on spectators found guilty of racially
abusing players.

Makhaya Ntini, Garnett Kruger, Herschelle Gibbs and Aswell
Prince, who are black, were targets of racial abuse by a
section of the crowd during the first test in December in
Perth, which is also home to a large expatriate South African

Australian media speculated that while the initial
offensive taunts were made in Afrikaans, their publication led
to them being repeated at other grounds around Australia.


In response to South African complaints, the ICC announced
it had appointed Indian Solicitor General Goolam Vahanvati to

ICC Chief Executive Malcolm Speed said Vahanvati had been
charged with establishing the facts before reporting back to
the ICC's board meeting in Dubai in June.

"Racism in any form is abhorrent and everyone in cricket is
unhappy with the way in which players from international teams
have been subjected to racist abuse in Australia," Speed said
in Australia.

"The actions of what would seem to be a small number of
people are reflecting poorly on Australia and on cricket. It is
essential that this issue is addressed."

Speed said the cricket world was united in its bid to stamp
out any form of racism in the game and praised Cricket
Australia's handling of the incidents.

"Both James Sutherland and Ricky Ponting have been very
public in the condemnation of racial abuse and Cricket
Australia has sought to make sure that the incidents that have
taken place are dealt with swiftly and in keeping with the
ICC's Anti-Racism Policy.

"Once the ICC Executive Board has received this report, we
will be in a position to identify what further steps cricket
can take to tackle this issue before it spreads beyond the
incidents that have taken place in Australia."

Sutherland said he hoped the isolated incidents would not
deter international teams from wanting to visit Australia.

"Nearly 1 million Australian spectators have offered a warm
and enthusiastic welcome to South Africa's, West Indies' and
Sri Lanka's competitive and skilled international cricketers
this summer," Sutherland said.

"I am appalled that their welcome has had a shadow cast
over it by shameful behavior of maybe half a dozen half-wits."