Azeem Rafiq’s claims of institutional racism at Yorkshire – Key issues

County Cricket
Azeem Rafiq

Yorkshire’s handling of Azeem Rafiq’s racism claims has drawn strong rebukes from prominent politicians, while a number of major sponsors have cut ties with the beleaguered club.

Here we explore the issue which has been bubbling away since Rafiq first made claims of institutional racism against his former employers in August last year and has exploded in recent days and weeks.

How did this start?

An investigation was commissioned by Yorkshire after Rafiq alleged he had been the victim of racial abuse at the club, whom the former off-spinner represented in two spells between 2008 and 2018.

A long-winded and extensive enquiry upheld several of the claims 12 months after they were first made and Yorkshire apologised to Rafiq after accepting he was the “victim of inappropriate behaviour”.

The White Rose county were accused of “fudging” the issue and the club later conceded there was “no question” Rafiq had been the victim of “racial harassment and bullying”.

So what have the club done about it?

While Yorkshire announced their intention to act on the recommendations the investigation panel had made, there was widespread disbelief when they said “there is no conduct or action taken by any of its employees, players or executives that warrants disciplinary action”.

There was further astonishment when ESPNCricinfo published what it claimed to be details of the report, including a senior player’s admission that he had repeatedly used the word “P***” in reference to Rafiq, which was subsequently deemed by the panel to be “in the spirit of friendly banter”.

What has the reaction been?

Many politicians have spoken out, none more so scathingly than health secretary Sajid Javid, who in 2014 became the first British Pakistani to head a government department.

He said “heads should roll” at the club. Javid added if the England and Wales Cricket Board did not step in “it’s not fit for purpose”. That followed the news Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton will be called to face the parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

Companies including primary sponsor Emerald Publishing and Yorkshire Tea have ended their associations with the club.

Has anyone specifically been implicated?

Gary Ballance admitted on Wednesday he was responsible for some of the offensive terms Rafiq was subjected to at Headingley. The former England batter, still on Yorkshire’s books, confessed in an emotional statement he had used a “racial slur” and expressed his remorse for doing so.

He attempted to add some context to his language, adding both men “said things privately to each other which were not acceptable”. Rafiq responded on Twitter: “Funny how things change from complete denial to I accepted everything over a 14-month period ??”

What happens next?

The ECB last week received Yorkshire’s report and says it is in the process of conducting a “full regulatory process that is fair to all parties” and one they hope can be wrapped up swiftly.

It is unclear what punitive action the ECB might take but political pressure has heightened the situation. Hutton only took up the chairman post last year but his handling of the crisis engulfing the club has put pressure on his role, while a number of hierarchical positions are also under scrutiny.

While Hutton will be readying himself to face the DCMS Committee, so too will Rafiq, who is set to appear before an evidence session on November 16.

This could offer up his fullest and most damning account yet given the presence of parliamentary privilege.

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