Players sent ‘reminder of the standards expected’
The England and Wales Cricket Board has issued a “very strong reminder” of the values at the heart of the national game as part of desperate efforts to rebuild the sport’s standing after the Ben Stokes saga.
Players now face strict rules around drinking and are subject to a midnight curfew after the ugly scenes outside a Bristol nightclub last year damaged the national team’s reputation.
Last night, Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive, delivered a thinly veiled warning to all players about their behaviour. “Today is a very strong reminder of the values that sit at the heart of our game and the standards that should always be expected,” he said.
At the time of the incident there were no rules on drinking for the England team and the night out had been sanctioned by management.
Stokes was arrested in the early hours of Sept 25 last year, midway through England’s one-day international series with the West Indies, and then charged with affray in January. Alex Hales was with Stokes at the time of the incident, in which a 27-year-old man suffered a fractured eye socket.
The scandal cast a long shadow over England’s dismal Ashes tour and the headlines generated by it caused reputational damage which the ECB is still repairing. Harrison and other senior figures were appalled by the footage of the fight as well as social-media posts from Stokes and Hales which surfaced in the newspapers at the same time.
Afterwards, Stokes lost his sponsorship contract with the sportswear giant New Balance and the ECB was concerned that national team sponsors would also pull out.
The jury at Bristol Crown Court were told that Stokes was the main aggressor and it was alleged that he had “lost control” in a “sustained episode of significant violence”. But he claimed he was acting in selfdefence and was standing up for Hales, who had been attacked with a bottle, and for two gay men who were being abused in the street.
Hales was not arrested, but it was claimed in court that CCTV footage showed him kicking a man in the head while he lay on the ground.
Stokes’s contrite statement yesterday was in contrast with a stonyfaced statement his lawyer, Paul Lunt, gave outside Bristol Crown Court after he was acquitted of affray. Lunt had said Stokes had been a victim of “pre-determined guilt” by social media and certain sections of the press.
“In addition to the extreme stress placed on Ben and his family by the trial, his intervention that night has already cost Ben the England vicecaptaincy, his place on an Ashes tour and other matches,” he added.