Lord Patel says sorry to Azeem Rafiq and reveals employment case has been settled

Azeem Rafiq

Yorkshire’s new chair Lord Patel says the county have settled their employment case with Azeem Rafiq and apologised to him over their handling of the racism and bullying allegations he made against them.

Rafiq filed a claim against Yorkshire last December for direct discrimination and harassment on the grounds of race, after the club had launched their own investigation into allegations he first made in the summer of 2020.

The county’s handling of that investigation has been widely criticised both within the sport and by politicians, and also led to sponsors deserting the club and the England and Wales Cricket Board last week suspending Yorkshire’s right to host international matches at Headingley.

Yorkshire chair Roger Hutton resigned on Friday amid the crisis and his successor Lord Patel said on Monday he had spoken at length to Rafiq in recent days.

Also read: Moeen Ali ‘won’t be surprised’ if more stories of racism in cricket come out

He confirmed the employment case had now been settled, with no restrictions on what Rafiq could say about it.

“I thank Azeem for his bravery in speaking out. Azeem is a whistle-blower and should be praised as such,” Patel said at a press conference.

“He should never have been put through this and I’d like to apologise to him. We’re sorry for what you and your family experienced and the way in which we’ve handled this.”

Patel said he and Rafiq had spoken for more than six hours since the former’s appointment and added: “It was difficult. It was actually quite sad. It was tough for me, it was incredibly tough for him.

Lord Patel at Yorkshire's Headingley HQ on Monday

“You did feel ‘why would we do this to any human being?'”

Rafiq released a statement after Patel’s press conference thanking the new Yorkshire chair for his offer over the claim.

He said Patel had made “a good start” in his first 72 hours but reiterated his call for chief executive Mark Arthur and director of cricket Martyn Moxon to quit.

“They have consistently failed to take responsibility for what happened on their watch and must go,” Rafiq said.

“I urge them to do the right thing and resign to make way for those who will do what is needed for the club’s future.”

Patel was asked about the future of the county’s executive directors and said: “Leadership is important in any of these circumstances.

“But I need to look across the system and how people behaved, what made that happen and where we need to go next.”

Criticism of the county intensified last week when it was reported that a team-mate had repeatedly used the word p*** as a derogatory slur aimed towards Rafiq during his second spell at Yorkshire between 2016 and 2018, but the allegation was not upheld in Yorkshire’s investigation on the basis that it was in the context of friendly banter between the two.

Patel said in reference to that finding: “Let me be clear from the outset – racism, or any form of discrimination, is not banter. It’s simply not acceptable.”

He said he had been appointed to establish “if this club is institutionally racist, and how we can address that”.

The report commissioned by Yorkshire found insufficient evidence to support that allegation.

Gary Ballance has admitted using a racial slur towards Rafiq

Patel said the much-criticised report would be sent to those with a “legal interest” in the case – including Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee chair Julian Knight. However, he did not say there were any immediate plans to publish it.

He said he had not had the chance to fully digest it yet, but added: “What I’ve seen so far does make me feel uncomfortable, it makes me feel the process wasn’t as well completed as it should have been.”

Patel said he was also commissioning a specialist independent review of the county’s processes and procedures on diversity and inclusion.

He said he had spoken to the ECB about the restoration of international cricket at Headingley but that Yorkshire would have to “address the root causes” that had led to the suspension.

Yorkshire player Gary Ballance has admitted using a racial slur towards Rafiq during their time as team-mates, and Patel was asked how he would handle the cases of any players found to have used racist language.

“If (something they said) was abhorrent and they recognise that then they need to think about their own futures and what they’re going to do,” Patel said.

“But I believe everyone can change – if I didn’t I wouldn’t work with drug users or people locked up in prison cells.”