CSA panel including Graeme Smith reject England legend Karen Smithies as team manager of Women's team for being gay

Karen Smithies led England's Women team to their second World Cup title in 1993.

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Karen Smithies
Karen Smithies. (Photo by David Munden/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Former England women’s team’s captain Karen Smithies is reportedly locked in a legal fight with Cricket South Africa (CSA) after the latter allegedly refused to make her the team manager of its women’s team because she is gay. Smithies is one of the great cricketers to have graced the game. She plied her trade in international cricket between 1986 and 2000.

She represented England in 15 Tests and 69 ODIs and also led the side between 1993 and 2000. In her first year as captain, Smithies led England to their second World Cup victory, against New Zealand at the iconic Lord’s. She led England in 10 Tests, guiding the team to one win and nine draws. Smithies’ record as captain in ODIs was not bad either as England won 23 of 45 matches under her captaincy.

Following the conclusion of her playing career, Smithies moved to South Africa. She has spent the past 20 years in the African country as a coach and administrator. However, her hopes of becoming the South Africa women’s team’s manager has turned into an ugly controversy. According to a report in The Times, Smithies was turned down for the job by an interview panel that included former South Africa captain Graeme Smith.

Karen Smithies not suitable

Smith, who is South Africa’s most successful Test captain, attended the interview in his role as CSA’s Director of Cricket. Apart from Smith, the panel also included Vincent Barnes, the CSA high performance manager, Edward Khoza and Chantel Moon. The report stated that the panel found Karen Smithies unsuitable for the job because of the risk she posed ‘getting into some darling-darling relationship with one of the players’.

As per the news outlet, the panel made the remark shortly after Smithies had disconnected the video call which was the mode of the interview. The panel was unaware that the recording of the interview continued until long after it had finished and a copy of its contents was later leaked to Smithies. In the discussion after the interview, the panel talked about Smithies’ sexuality.

It started when Moon asked her colleagues whether they were aware that Smithies is ‘bisexual or lesbian’. Khoza responded by saying that Smithies ‘is in a life partnership with a previous South African women’s captain’. It led to Moon saying that Smithies’ sexuality would be an issue as it would add ‘a different dynamic’.

Not only that, one member of the panel called Smithies a ‘Pommy’ and said: “It would not be right to employ a white Pom instead of a black African male”.  The CSA panel subsequently offered the job to Sedibu Mohlaba who was the other candidate. The panel’s comments and their decision, however, have not gone down well with the England legend and she has decided to take the legal route. Last week, her lawyers served legal papers to Smith.

Smithies has also communicated with Smith as soon as she heard the comments from him and his colleagues. The report stated that Smithies is distraught that her sexuality has the potential to become the central focus of what would be a high-profile court case.

“My private life should be exactly that. Women’s rights are a huge thing these days, especially in South Africa,” Smithies was quoted as saying by The Times.

Disclaimer: This article was first published in The Times and CricTracker doesn’t hold any rights of this story.

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