News   |    November 8th, 2021


Cricket has never had the same level of controversy as there is in other sports like football but the situation with the racism scandal surrounding Azeem Rafiq and Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC) has caused enormous damage to the game of cricket.

YCCC has been widely criticised in the media for their handling of the situation, for dragging their heels over the report produced on the issues involved and saying they were ‘pleased’ to announce that none of its staff would face disciplinary action.

YCCC has maintained it is not institutionally racist, but this week’s further allegations by a second Asian player citing blatant racism have further damaged YCCC. We have seen sponsors withdrawing their support and the ECB has sanctioned the county by withdrawing their Headingley stadium as an international venue.

We have seen Roger Hutton resign as Yorkshire YCCC Chairman even though he played no part at the time of the incident, but he didn’t go quietly, and he took aim at his fellow board numbers in a stinging public attack.

Rafiq played for YCCC for ten years between 2008 and 2018 and he first spoke of the racist abuse he encountered in September 2020.YCCC immediately asked an independent law firm to investigate. Rafiq then filed a legal claim under the Equality Act in December 2020. In June 2021 a tribunal sat to consider the matter and as a result the independent report was delayed. In August 202, YCCC received the report but decided not to release it stating that Rafiq was just the victim of ‘inappropriate behaviour’. Under pressure they then reviewed the matter in September 2021 and accepted there was ‘no question’ Rafiq was the victim of racial abuse and harassment. In October 2021, Rafiq finally received a copy of the report, but it then transpired it was heavily redacted and it was accompanied by a further statement from YCCC that no disciplinary action would be taken against any of its players or staff. Then last week we have details from the report leaked which caused YCCC further damage as it named those involved and what was said.

On November 16th Rafiq and Hutton are to appear before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee and the way this story has played out you can expect further damaging revelations I suspect.

I know Mark Arthur the CEO of YCCC, and he is a decent, hard working and honourable man. I got to know him well when he was CEO of Nottingham Forest FC and in fact only a few weeks ago he invited me up to YCCC and it is disappointing for everyone involved that this situation has been allowed to develop as it has.

Racism is unacceptable on any level and this episode has caused damage not only to YCCC but to the wider game of cricket. The ECB and YCCC have a duty to ensure the full facts of this case emerge and they take whatever action is needed to put their house in order.

Image – Getty Images

Peter Varney - Chairman, Integral Sports Management.

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