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News

Azeem Rafiq calls on ECB, politicians to intervene after Yorkshire delay publication of racism report

Former England U19 and Yorkshire captain prompted report after his allegations of racism at the club a year ago

George Dobell
George Dobell
18-Aug-2021
Azeem Rafiq has spoken out about racism at Yorkshire  •  Getty Images

Azeem Rafiq has spoken out about racism at Yorkshire  •  Getty Images

Azeem Rafiq has called for the ECB and politicians to intervene after Yorkshire further delayed the publication of a report into racism at the club.
Rafiq, the former England U19 and Yorkshire captain, provoked the report after his allegations of racism at the club a year ago. At the time, the club said they hoped to complete it by Christmas 2020. As it is, it is understood the 100-page report was sent to Yorkshire officials on Saturday morning (August 14).
Rather than publishing it, or even its conclusions and recommendations, ESPNcricinfo understands that Yorkshire instead plan to produce a statement confirming they have received it and are currently reflecting on its contents. It is likely, however, the statement will confirm that several - though not all - of Rafiq's allegations of institutional racism at the club have been upheld. Rafiq has not been sent a copy of the report or contacted by the authors or the club.
ESPNcricinfo has seen much of the evidence and is aware of some of the conclusions. Among the witness statements are reports of multiple Asian players claiming they were called 'smelly P***' and a Yorkshire captain routinely using the word 'n*****.' More than one age-group coach also reports they were told not to select too many Asian youngsters in their side.
Furthermore, the report provides evidence of previous complaints of racism at the club that were not satisfactorily investigated or resolved. Among those complaints was one by Adil Rashid, the England legspinner, who told club officials at the end of the 2017 season about his "concerns about [the] treatment of certain individuals based on race", in the words of an internal club report. While the club did not hold a meeting to investigate those complaints until the end of August 2018 - ESPNcricinfo has obtained minutes of the meeting from a whistle-blower at the club - it acknowledges that Rashid and Rafiq both expressed concerns.
Rashid has so far declined to comment publicly on the episode. At one stage, Yorkshire's lawyers informed Rafiq that Rashid would be providing evidence against him; a suggestion that was not true.
Adil Rashid has subsequently contacted ESPNcricinfo to clarify that, whatever issues he may have had with Yorkshire, they have long since been resolved. He also says he does not remember the detail of what was spoken about at the 2017 meeting which he recalls as an informal conversation at a dinner. The evidence outlining his complaint in 2017 was provided by the club.
Yorkshire declined to acknowledge Rafiq's interviews in which he detailed his allegations of racism at the club until they were carried by ESPNcricinfo on 2 September, 2020. He had previously made similar comments to Wisden.com (on August 17, 2020) and the Cricket Badger podcast.
While some of those named in the report are well-known players - several of them former players - there are no players currently involved with England sides implicated. Indeed, Rafiq has been full of praise for the support of England's Test captain, Joe Root, and several former coaches including Paul Farbrace and Jason Gillespie. There is, however, one coach who is currently involved in the England pathway system named in the witness statements. ESPNcricinfo understands this section of the report has been brought to the attention of ECB officials.
ESPNcricinfo also understands Yorkshire offered Rafiq a large financial settlement - believed to be in excess of £100,000 - some months ago. He declined as it would have required him to sign a non-disclosure agreement and brought no public acknowledgement of a requirement to change from the club.
"It's a sham," Rafiq told ESPNcricinfo. "We've waited a year for this report and they are still trying to bury it. Surely now is the time for the ECB to become involved?
"The ECB's own anti-discrimination code states that any alleged breach must be investigated and dealt with in a 'timely' fashion. Well, it's been more than a year and no-one has been held accountable and nothing has changed. At some stage, the ECB need to act or, by passively accepting the situation, they are part of the problem.
"Why are our politicians not stepping in to ensure this issue is investigated with the transparency it deserves? There's a Test between England and India in Leeds next week. Do they want the issue of race hanging over it?
"This has never been about money for me and it never will be. I want change. I want the next generation to be able to able to play cricket without the abuse I have suffered.
"Nothing will get done if we leave it to the club. They wouldn't have had an enquiry if the media hadn't forced them into it. Now they'll try to cover up the conclusions. They've had their chance. It's time for the ECB and politicians to step in."
While the report is not understood to demand a change in the management of the club, the current incumbents are likely to come under enormous pressure in the coming weeks. One beacon amid the gloom is Roger Hutton, who was appointed as the club's chair less than 18 months ago, who is not criticised in the report and has emerged as someone determined to improve the club's record in this area. He is understood to be frustrated by the club's intransigence and considering his own position.
Yorkshire's issue is that the enquiry - which they claim was independent, but was actually paid for by the club and carried out by individuals chosen by the club - has none of the power of a judicial review. As a result, individuals cannot be named without risking the possibility of legal action. It is understood the terms of reference of the review allow the club's lawyers to redact any details - including names - which they see fit.
Ian Watmore, ECB chair, said: "We respect the independent process behind the review, and the Club's legal responsibilities to all parties. We also understand the frustration at the length of time this investigation has taken.
"Now that the Club has a full copy of the report, we have today written to Yorkshire to formally request a copy, together with a timeline for publication.
"It has taken considerable courage for Azeem Rafiq to speak out, and it is right that his experiences should have been thoroughly investigated. We now look forward to receiving a copy of the report promptly to enable us to fulfil our role as the ultimate regulator of the game."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo