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Azeem Rafiq racism report: Yorkshire criticised for 'woefully inadequate' response to complaints

Panel noted "highly concerning" problem of Muslim spectators being abused at Headingley

George Dobell
George Dobell
11-Nov-2021
Headingley during the England-India Test match in August  •  Associated Press

Headingley during the England-India Test match in August  •  Associated Press

Yorkshire were found to be "woefully inadequate" in protecting players and spectators from racist abuse, according to the report into Azeem Rafiq's allegations of racism at the club.
While upholding complaints of racism or discriminatory behaviour against two of the coaching staff, the report also noted "a very real, prolific and highly concerning problem of Muslim spectators being subjected to racial abuse at Headingley".
It went on to chastise the club for "a very concerning and alarming pattern" of failing to act when such behaviour was reported.
After hearing evidence, which included incidents of alcohol being thrown over Muslim spectators - including children - and the shouting of racist abuse - in one case by the grandparent of a current player - the report concluded the club "failed to deal, adequately or at all, with such allegations". This inaction, the report said, could have the effect of discouraging Muslim spectators from attending.
The ECB has recently suspended Yorkshire from hosting major matches, including international games and Hundred knock-out fixtures, until they are able to prove they have taken action to improve the situation.
The incidents included in the report, which was produced by an independent panel, include one in which the grandfather of a player shouted "who are all those P**i kids running around" and several in which alcohol was deliberately thrown over Muslim spectators. A club employee described the management's response to the incident as "not interested".
While the incident involving the grandfather of the player was reported to the police, the panel said this should not have "absolved [the club] from taking further action". As it was, they did not investigate further or take action against the individual concerned.
"The panel's view is that the club's actions have been woefully inadequate in protecting both spectators and players from being subjected to racist abuse by others, and their omissions have had the unfortunate result that those responsible for such behaviour have suffered no adverse consequences for their actions," the report stated.
"The panel notes there appears to be a very concerning and alarming pattern of the club failing to take any action, or taking inadequate action, when such incidents are reported to them, and failing to adopt any or any adequate measures of prevention, control or elimination of racist abuse.
"The panel observes that the club could have made further enquiries and taken action such as banning the grandparent from attending the grounds, issuing a general statement or apology to those who were there and witnessed it, issuing a statement concerning how such language will not be tolerated by the Club, and reminding players that they are ultimately responsible for their family members' actions on YCCC premises and that they must make every effort to ensure their families behave appropriately and respectfully.
The report concluded: "This is a historic problem which has continued precisely because YCCC have failed to address it or take any action in respect of it."
Meanwhile, the panel upheld a complaint against a member of the coaching staff - a former international cricketer - for using "P**i" to address players of Pakistani origin. While the same panel dismissed Gary Ballance's usage of the word on the basis that it was "banter" between friends, they concluded on this occasion that "the 'P' word is offensive and racially derogatory in every context within which it is used".
Rafiq's testimony was corroborated by another player who has played international cricket.
With the panel noting that the individual involved is an ECB Level 4 coach, they suggested the ECB may wish to "consider whether… disciplinary action or some other form of sanction would be appropriate".
The panel also upheld a complaint against a more senior member of the coaching team - another former international player - for discriminating against former West Indies fast bowler Tino Best "on the grounds of his nationality and therefore his race". That coach was alleged to have used the words "go home" during a disagreement following a game.
In the panel's view, this was a reference to the overseas player's nationality and therefore amounted "to discrimination on the grounds of race under the Equality Act 2010."
They concluded: "The use of the term 'go home'… has quite serious derogatory racial implications. The panel observes that such comments from senior members of staff… could have the effect of isolating players of a different nationality or signalling to players that the use of such phrases is acceptable and sanctioned by the club.
"Senior individuals at the club ought to be leading by example when it comes to their comments and conduct. If senior individuals are demonstrating behaviours contrary to that ethos, it will be more difficult to promote appropriate behaviour and language amongst players and other employees."
Another member of the Yorkshire staff, head coach, Andrew Gale, has been suspended while an investigation is conducted into alleged anti-Semitic language used by them on social media.
In a separate development, Yorkshire have said they will investigate after their head of human resources reacted to a complaint from a spectator by calling them a "coward" and accusing them of "waging a campaign" against the club on social media. Khalid Akram had reported racist abuse in the stands at a game in 2018 and, more recently, took to social media to claim a lack of action from the club.
Yorkshire's head of HR, Liz Neto, replied earlier this week, in an email seen by ESPNcricinfo, by claiming Akram had "breached my GDPR [data protection]" and contributed to "whipping up a crowd" by sharing a screenshot which included her contact details.
This "shows you to be a coward", the email continued. "I hope you are proud."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo