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.
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 in Brisbane.
Ritchie faced a torrent of criticism for using the 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 following interviews with reporters, including those with Fairfax Media.
Ritchie blames Sutherland for allegedly not making public an apology he says he made to the CA boss on November 11, the day the story about 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 members’ state functions as a result.
In a November 30 email, Sutherland said: ”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 replied: ”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.
Ritchie insists his remarks in Brisbane were taken out of context and 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 the Australian Cricketers
Association should fund my case when I have done nothing wrong,” he said.
Ritchie apologised in person to South Africa’s team manager, Mohammed Moosajee before the third Test in Perth. ”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 on November 30, he said: ”I am also comfortable to publicly reaffirm the fact that CA has not banned you from speaking at cricket events.”
Ritchie, however, believes he lost 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.
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 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,” Ritchie wrote in his email to Sutherland on December 6. ”Cricket Australia has either banned me or instructed or influenced or counselled third parties to terminate my contracts. I understand this action could be in breach of the law. My family has diminished significantly while my reputation has been trashed by Cricket Australia.”
A CA spokesman declined to comment, as did ACA chief executive Paul Marsh. Sutherland is on leave.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.