Ali Martin, The Guardian, November 2, 2021
Yorkshire are facing the wrath of senior political figures over their handling of Azeem Rafiq’s allegations of racism at Headingley, with the club’s chair set to be questioned by the digital, culture, media and sport committee and Sajid Javid, the health secretary, calling for “heads to roll”.
Javid, the son of Pakistani immigrants, was among a group of MPs incensed by a report on Monday from ESPNCricinfo that revealed the club’s investigation into the issue – previously published only as a summary of findings in September – had concluded the repeated use of the word “Paki” by a senior player, who is still at the club, towards Rafiq was “in the spirit of friendly banter”.
On Tuesday Javid tweeted: “‘Paki’ is not banter. Heads should roll at Yorkshire CCC. If [the England and Wales Cricket Board] doesn’t take action it’s not fit for purpose.”
Sayeeda Warsi, the peer and former Conservative party co-chair who hails from the county, added: “‘Paki’ is not banter. Too many of us in too many walks of life have heard the ‘defence of banter’ for too long as an excuse for racism. For years my business & others supported @YorkshireCCC – we need you to stop posturing & prevaricating & take responsibility for this.”
Rafiq went public last year with allegations of the racism he experienced during two spells at the club between 2008 and 2018, with Yorkshire responding by launching an investigation headed by the law firm Squire Patton Boggs.
A summary of the final report was released eight weeks ago, upholding seven of Rafiq’s 43 claims – including confirmation he was the “victim of racial harassment and bullying” – and led to an unreserved apology from the club.
Among the findings came an admission from Yorkshire that it had failed to properly escalate Rafiq’s allegations when the former England Under-19s captain first raised them privately in 2018. But last week the club said it was “pleased” to announce that, after an internal review, no disciplinary action would be taken against any current player or staff member.
After much prevarication, Yorkshire finally sent an unredacted copy of its report to the ECB last Thursday, with the governing body having now tasked its own regulatory and integrity teams with looking into the findings.
On Tuesday, the ECB said: “We are conscious about the length of time that Azeem has waited for resolution and the toll that must be taking on his wellbeing and that of his family. We are sorry that, as a sport, this has not yet been resolved.
“We will conduct a full regulatory process that is fair to all parties, but also ensure this happens as quickly as possible. To achieve this, we have secured the services of a QC, along with other external investigatory support to upweight resource around our process. The ECB Board has also reaffirmed its commitment to further additional resource, should the investigation require it.”
As well as the ECB’s investigation, it was confirmed on Tuesday that Roger Hutton has been called to face questions from the DCMS committee, while senior management will also be invited to give evidence. Covered by parliamentary privilege, this could lead to more revelations entering the public domain.
Julian Knight, MP for Solihull and the DCMS committee chair, said: “We are extremely concerned by recent reports about the lack of action against individuals following the findings. It’s clear that Yorkshire County Cricket Club has questions to answer.
“We have monitored developments around the club’s handling of the serious allegations made by Azeem Rafiq. We want to see much greater transparency from YCCC – it is time for them to answer their critics. We intend to call the chair of the club before the DCMS committee to give a much fuller explanation than we have had so far.”
Knight later tweeted: “Given the endemic racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, I struggle to think of any reason why the board should remain in post. This is one of the most repellent and disturbing episodes in modern cricket history.”
Along with pressure from MPs and the ECB, Anchor butter, which had its logo on the first team’s shirt during this year’s Royal London Cup, confirmed the partnership would not be renewed. The company tweeted: “There is never a place or an excuse for racism. We have no further activity supporting YCCC.” Its logo was later removed from the YCCC website. The Emerald publishing group – one of Yorkshire’s primary sponsors, with naming rights at Headingley – has also said it will review the partnership following the conclusion of the ECB’s new investigation.