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Home Ashford News Article
A cricket-loving councillor has been knocked for six after being told he can't umpire at a church cricket match - because his great-great-grandfather was a bishop.
Michael Claughton, an experienced umpire, discovered Anglican newspaper Church Times was hosting a game between the Archbishop of Canterbury's XI and the Vatican XI later this month and contacted them to offer his services.
However, despite his 18 years' experience - and the fact he has played cricket since childhood - the publication refused to give him the job because his ancestor Thomas Leigh Claughton was a Church of England bishop... and it might make him biased against the Catholic team.
The 65-year-old father said: "What a bizarre state of affairs! Who would have thought a religious background would have a bearing on whether or not someone could umpire a cricket match?
"I phoned up to offer my services out of curiosity. They were very polite and seemed interested in my cricket experiences until they found out one of my ancestors was a bishop.
"They said I might be considered biased against the Catholics. They are looking for umpires who are neither Church of England nor Catholic but there are a lot of those people around.
"Most people laugh when I tell them but some people's jaws drop. It is obviously amusing, but there is a serious side to this. It is discrimination and it does cast aspersions on my ability to be a fair umpire.
"Do they really think I wouldn't call LBW (leg before wicket) on a Church of England player because my great-great-grandfather was a bishop? The mind boggles."
Mr Claughton, president of Bethersden Cricket Club who umpires for Wye Cricket Club, said he will not be making a complaint against Church Times - but probably will not go to watch the game either.
He added: "It would have been an honour to stand in a game like that. I'll be fascinated to see who they do get but I might not be going to watch it."
Thomas Leigh Claughton was Bishop of Rochester and the first Bishop of St Albans in the 19th century.
The Twenty20 match will take place at The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence, Canterbury, the home of Kent County Cricket Club, from 4pm on Friday, September 19.
Church Times managing editor Paul Handley said: "Kent County Cricket Club offered to find us umpires some months ago. We thought it would be a cheerful gesture, in the first-ever match between a side from the Vatican and the Church of England, to seek umpires from other denominations.
"I've not heard directly from Mr Claughton, and I can't imagine he would be upset by this. The last thing we would want to impute, of course, is that he is anything other than a competent umpire."
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