‘I’m not going to stand there in a blazer sipping a gin and tonic’: After becoming the first black president of a county, new Gloucestershire chief David Lawrence is eager to rid cricket of its beige suits and stuffiness
- Gloucestershire chief David Lawrence is the first black president of a county
- Lawrence wants to get Gloucestershire more involved in the local community
- He hopes his appointment may open more doors for black English cricketers
The new president of Gloucestershire sits in the Bristol pavilion, his right foot encased in a protective boot after one stringent workout too many, and contemplates a very different approach to county cricket officialdom.
‘I’m not going to stand there in a blazer sipping a gin and tonic,’ says David ‘Syd’ Lawrence, looking ahead to his first day in office at Nevil Road this summer. ‘That’s not going to be me.
‘My wife said, “Are you going to wear a shirt and tie?” and I replied, “No, I’m not”. I want to get away from the stuffiness. We have the chance to change things, bring cricket up to date.
New Gloucestershire chief David Lawrence (above) is the first black president of a county
‘I can’t imagine there will ever have been a president like me. I met the outgoing one here and you couldn’t find two more different people to be honest!’
The first English-born black cricketer to play for England is now the first black president of a county where he made his name as a whole-hearted, larger than life and, above all, genuinely quick fast bowler. And he is going to do it his way.
‘On my president’s day I want to invite people of colour to the ground who may not have come to cricket before,’ says Lawrence, warming to his theme.
‘In that room will be a cross section of people. Not your typical president’s guests.
‘There will be black poets up there, friends I have from the group Massive Attack. All the people I’ve spoken to are keen to come up and support so that will be great.
‘I don’t want them all to be 70 with beige suits on. We want to see new people and that’s what I’m about. I wouldn’t have taken the job if I couldn’t be who I am.’
It is a role that was offered to Lawrence, 58, by Gloucestershire after they officially apologised to him last year for the racism he revealed he suffered at the start of his county career in the Sky documentary You Guys Are History.
The genuinely quick fast bowler was the first English-born black cricketer to play for England
‘The game has gone through a watershed moment and it hasn’t been pretty at all,’ says Lawrence, who played five Tests before suffering a horrific knee injury bowling against New Zealand at Wellington in 1992. ‘I suffered racism when I played and I think it’s important for me to prove to the community here that anything is possible.
‘Fact is, I was born in Gloucester and grew up playing cricket on the back streets of Tredworth. If someone had told me then I’d be president of Gloucestershire one day I would have said, “I don’t think so”.
‘But I talked to the club about getting more involved after they issued that apology and this role seemed perfect.
‘I know people will say, “Is this a box-ticking exercise?”.
Lawrence hopes his appointment may open more doors for black English cricketers
‘But if you turn down opportunities like this because you think it’s a box being ticked then where do you start?
‘That’s one of my biggest gripes. There’s no point saying no and then moaning about the lack of diversity in the game.
‘I’m excited about this and I plan to embrace it and get Gloucestershire more involved in the community. Bristol is a diverse, vibrant place and we have to reflect that. I want to get more inner-city kids involved here, black or white.’
And Lawrence hopes his appointment may open more doors for black English cricketers. ‘I was with Mark Alleyne last week and apart from a gig in the Hundred he hasn’t got a full-time coaching role,’ he adds.
‘If you look at his c.v. – how many one-day trophies has he won? What more could he do?
‘Black cricketers look at him and think, “If he can’t get a job, what chance have I got?”.
New president wants to get Gloucestershire more involved in the local community
‘Michael Carberry is very critical of that. He says, “I’m not wasting my time because I’m not going to get a chance”. That has to change. What does it say about our game?
‘Yorkshire were the ones who got exposed but is it that other clubs are just being a bit clever? It’s still rooted in there. You’ve still got the stuffy white committee members and they’re reluctant to be the first ones to give someone an opportunity.’
Now Lawrence – a huge, muscle-bound man through years of bodybuilding post-cricket – will combine his presidential duties with running Dojo nightclub in Bristol, just up the road from Mbargo of Ben Stokes infamy. ‘Luckily we weren’t open that night,’ he says.
‘I’m going to devote a lot of time to this,’ adds Lawrence.
‘I would love to see a local Gloucester boy walk out to play for Gloucestershire. Like I did. Nothing makes you prouder than that. And I’m very proud to come back now and do this.’
It promises to be anything but dull.
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