Matches (20)
IND v ENG (1)
WPL (2)
PSL 2024 (2)
BPL 2024 (2)
NZ v AUS (1)
WCL 2 (1)
Ranji Trophy (4)
WI 4-Day (4)
CWC Play-off (3)

Azeem Rafiq set to give evidence before DCMS as pressure mounts on Yorkshire

Club comes in for criticism from government over handling of report into allegations of racism

George Dobell
George Dobell
Yorkshire have faced criticism for their handling of a report into allegations of racism  •  Getty Images

Yorkshire have faced criticism for their handling of a report into allegations of racism  •  Getty Images

The full details of Azeem Rafiq's allegations of racism at Yorkshire are set to come to light after he was called to give evidence to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee.
Roger Hutton, the chair of Yorkshire, Mark Arthur, the chief executive, and Martyn Moxon, the club's director of cricket, have also been called to provide evidence. The hearing will be held on November 16.
Yorkshire spent many months waiting for a team of lawyers to compile a report into Rafiq's allegations of racism at the club. Once it was completed, however, Yorkshire decided the contents were too controversial to publish and, despite admitting Rafiq was "the victim of inappropriate behaviour" and detailing failures in following their own procedures, announced that no player, coach or official would face sanctions.
Subsequently, however, the report was leaked to ESPNcricinfo and, once details were published, the public backlash persuaded various political figures to intervene. These details included incidents of a fellow player referring to Rafiq as a "P**i" on numerous occasions. The panel reviewing the information concluded that Rafiq should have appreciated this was no more than "banter" and didn't believe his alleged upset was genuine.
This led to UK health secretary Sajid Javid calling for "heads to roll" at Yorkshire, while culture secretary Nadine Dorries labelled Rafiq's treatment "disgusting". A spokesperson for Boris Johnson, the prime minister, said the language used against Rafiq was "racist" and "should never be used in any context whatsoever".
Perhaps most pertinently, the chair of the DCMS select committee, Julian Knight, called for the entire board of the club to resign. Knight has the power to call all involved to give evidence to the committee of MPs. The conclusions of his panel will prove hard to ignore.
"Given the endemic racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club," Knight wrote on Twitter, "I struggle to think of any reason why that the board should remain in post. This is one of the most repellent and disturbing episodes in modern cricket history."
While Hutton, Arthur and Moxon may be in for an uncomfortable ride when the DCMS session begins, it is perhaps the testimony of Rafiq that promises to reveal the most. While he has been limited in what he can say as his employment tribunal and the Yorkshire investigation took place, Rafiq is likely to be protected by parliamentary privilege when talking to DCMS and is thought unlikely to spare any detail. As a result, some significant figures in the history of Yorkshire and England cricket are likely to be sitting extremely uneasily.
Hutton's testimony may also be revealing. He didn't join Yorkshire until April 2020, long after the period to which these allegations relate, and retained a relatively good relationship with Rafiq. He had originally indicated a desire to see the full report published but, in the face of strong opposition from a couple of his key executives and some legal advice which suggested to do so would risk libel actions, was eventually persuaded to take a different approach. He is seen, by the ECB and to some extent Rafiq, as a reforming influence at the club and is still thought to want to see the contents of the report published.
His relationship with his senior executives has clearly deteriorated, however. Some of them feel the club should have fought the allegations more aggressively and resent Hutton's attempts at contrition. As a result of the disagreement within the senior management, the club has neither effectively refuted the allegations nor accepted fault. Hutton was understood to be considering his position.
Were he to step down, it seems a familiar face could replace him. Colin Graves, the former ECB chair, is understood to have let it be known that he would be prepared to return to the club. Graves was also chair of Yorkshire for some of the period in which Rafiq was at the club.
There would be some irony in Hutton's departure, as it would leave in place two of the officials who came in for some of the fiercest criticism in the report. The pair were found to be "dismissive of the concerns of race discrimination" raised by Rafiq. They were also accused in the report of demonstrating "insufficient concern" that one of the club's "players may have felt racially discriminated against". This convinced the panel that they were "dismissive of Azeem's concerns".
Both remain in high-profile positions at the club and are understood to have been among the small group who reviewed the final report and decided not to share its contents.
Elsewhere in the report, a former Yorkshire and England player - who no longer represents the club - is found to have engaged in behaviour which "amounted to bullying". He is cleared of serious misconduct, however, as the panel concluded his motivations were not racist.
The panel was chaired by Samir Pathak, surgeon and trustee of the MCC Foundation, and included Mesba Ahmed, vice-chairman of the National Asian Cricket Council, Rehana Azib, an employment barrister, Helen Hyde, the former Waitrose personnel director and Stephen Willis, CFO of Durham University and the senior independent director of Yorkshire County Cricket Club.
Meanwhile Roger Pugh, the former chair of the Yorkshire South Premier League, has been proposed as Head of the Premier Section of the league. Pugh was obliged to stand down in September 2020 when he reacted to news of Rafiq's struggles, including his suicidal thoughts and the loss of a child, by saying he was "discourteous, disrespectful and very difficult". He then invoked a biblical phrase to suggest a karmic element to Rafiq's plight, writing "as ye sow so shall ye reap".
Pugh was proposed for the role by Barnsley Woolley Miners CC, whose own chair, Phillip Chapman, was criticised for saying a rival club's overseas player reminded him of a street-seller he had encountered while on holiday.
The news will do nothing to assuage the growing doubts at the ECB about the culture of cricket in the region. Having only had the Yorkshire report for a few days - the club refused to hand it over until the ECB threated to prosecute them for bringing the game into disrepute - they are still getting to grips with the key facts. The board is likely to speak to dozens of witnesses before coming to any conclusions so any report could be some months away.
"Last week we received Yorkshire's report into the racism and bullying allegations Azeem Rafiq made against the club," the ECB said in a statement on Tuesday evening. "We are conscious about the length of time that Azeem has waited for resolution and the toll that must be taking on his wellbeing and that of his family. We are sorry that, as a sport, this has not yet been resolved.
"We will conduct a full regulatory process that is fair to all parties, but also ensure this happens as quickly as possible. To achieve this, we have secured the services of a QC, along with other external investigatory support to upweight resource around our process. The ECB board has also reaffirmed its commitment to further additional resource, should the investigation require it."
ESPNcricinfo understands there is increasing concern within the ECB at Yorkshire being allowed to host or bid for international fixtures while issues around the subject remain unresolved. The club are currently scheduled to host a Test against New Zealand in 2022 and an Ashes Test in 2023. With political opinion building and the ECB anxious to show they are tough on the issue of racism, it is becoming ever more possible the club could be stripped of such games.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo