FORMER Test batsman Greg Ritchie has threatened to sue Cricket Australia and its chief executive James Sutherland, claiming he can muster the support of current and past players to take on the sport’s governing body and its head in court.
In correspondence between Ritchie and Sutherland obtained by Fairfax Media, the 52-year-old argues he is owed compensation for lost earnings and damage to his reputation following the luncheon speech scandal he was embroiled in during last month’s Test between Australia and South Africa at the Gabba.
Ritchie faced a torrent of criticism for using the forbidden word ”kaffir” as part of his performance at the Brisbane Cricket Ground Trust members’ function, and for a joke in which he referred to three young Muslim boys being locked in the boot of his car. He made further anti-Muslim comments in interviews with reporters that followed, including with Fairfax Media.
Ritchie blames Sutherland for allegedly not making public an apology Ritchie says he made to the CA boss on November 11, the day the story surrounding his comments was broken by South African newspaper the Sunday Times. Ritchie, who is being represented by former Test cricketer Bruce Francis, also claims Sutherland did not clarify statements from his adviser Peter Young and his public affairs staff that indicated he would be banned from speaking at CA and member-state functions as a result of the furore.
In a November 30 email Sutherland writes: ”If you want to go down the route of seeking compensation
or other redress, let me know as our lawyers are more than ready to deal formally and reject any claim.”
Ritchie replies: ”James, your bravado about bringing the court case on is based on you mistakenly believing I can’t find anyone to do the case pro bono or you are gambling I won’t spend a few hundred thousand to make say $200k. You are also gambling that I can’t win the support of ACA [Australian Cricketers’ Association] members to take on CA.
”On the other hand, my friends say Cricket Australia won’t spend $500k and risk you losing your job and subject itself to a humiliating public relations hammering, just to save apologising to me and reimbursing me for lost income – particularly when I did nothing wrong and you have made an incredible number of mistakes.”
Ritchie and Francis have also alluded to legal action against media organisations who reported the story, including Fairfax Media. The Queenslander believes his legal bill should be picked up by the players’ union but it is understood that request will be rejected by the ACA executive and is highly unlikely to be approved by members.
He insists his on-stage remarks in Brisbane were taken out of context and that he made them hundreds of times before at other events without complaint, including at another luncheon, staged by Queensland Cricket, on November 7.
”If it is good enough for football clubs to pick up the tab for players who have transgressed in many areas, it should be taken for granted that Australian Cricketers’ Association should fund my case when I have done nothing wrong.”
Ritchie apologised in person for his luncheon comments to South Africa’s team manager Mohammed Moosajee, flying to Perth where Australia played the Proteas in the third Test.
”You know I hate flying,” Ritchie wrote in his reply to Sutherland’s email. ”But I flew to Perth to resolve the matter with Dr Moosajee. And because of my fear of flying I had to pay for a mate to accompany me.” In Sutherland’s email to Ritchie of November 30, he writes: ”I am also comfortable to publicly reaffirm the fact that CA has not banned you from speaking at cricket events.”
Ritchie, however, believes he was cost guest speaking jobs at functions on the instruction of CA, including one he had been contracted to deliver at the South Australian Cricket Association’s black-tie pre-Test dinner in Adelaide last month. Sutherland’s adviser, Young, told ABC Radio on November 12 that ”effectively we are” banning Ritchie from speaking at CA events but SACA chief executive Keith Bradshaw said it was his organisation that revoked the offer after learning of Ritchie’s lack of contrition.
Young said in his radio interview last month that a letter had been sent to venues and state cricket associations as a reminder of Australia’s commitment to the ICC anti-racism code.
”SACA’s letter terminating my contract was tantamount to banning me. If it looks like a duck, if it walks like a duck and if it talks like a duck it’s safe to say it is a duck,” Ritchie wrote in his email to Sutherland on December 6.
A CA spokesman declined to comment, as did ACA chief executive Paul Marsh. Sutherland is on annual leave until later this month.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.