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Parliamentary pressure on Yorkshire as DCMS demands publication of Azeem Rafiq report

Julian Knight MP writes open letter to club officials, calling for findings to be open to scrutiny

George Dobell
George Dobell
A view of the Yorkshire County Cricket Club's signage  •  PA Photos/Getty Images

A view of the Yorkshire County Cricket Club's signage  •  PA Photos/Getty Images

Pressure on Yorkshire to publish its report into allegations of racism at the club has increased significantly after the invention of parliament's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS).
Julian Knight MP, the chair of the DCMS committee, has written to Yorkshire's chief executive, Mark Arthur, and urged him to make "the report and its full findings… public and open to scrutiny".
An investigation was launched by the club in September 2020 following Azeem Rafiq's allegations of institutional racism at Yorkshire. Almost 12 months later, a report was produced which concluded that "several of the allegations made by Azeem were upheld" and that he had been "historically… the victim of inappropriate behaviour". It also found that the club had "failed to implement its policies and procedures in relation to these serious issues".
The club has so far declined to publish either the report or any of its recommendations, claiming that legal advice informs them that to do so would potentially expose them to libel proceedings from those implicated in the report. ESPNcricinfo understands that, at present, as few as three people at the club - the chair, Roger Hutton, the CEO, Arthur, and the director of cricket, Martyn Moxon - may have read the report. Despite repeated requests, the club have also declined to share it with MPs, the Professional Cricketers' Association (the PCA) or the ECB.
This has left Azeem, in particular, unimpressed. He has called the entire investigation "a sham" and called upon the ECB and politicians to intervene. It would appear his calls for assistance have not gone unheard.
"We are very surprised that this report has not been published by the Yorkshire County Cricket Club, given the seriousness of the allegations of racism which span more than a decade and the fact that it has taken almost three years to reach this point," Knight wrote in an open letter to Arthur.
"Given that YCCC said in its statement that several allegations made against the club had been upheld, and that Azeem Rafiq had been a victim of inappropriate behaviour, it is crucial that the process, the report and its full findings are made public and open to scrutiny. He deserves no less."
The intervention of DCMS follows public calls for the publication of the report from various MPs including Hilary Benn, the MP for Leeds Central, and Kevin Brennan, the MP for Cardiff West and a member of the DCMS committee. Alex Sobel, the MP for Leeds North West, has also confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that he has written to the club requesting a copy of the report.
Ultimately, the DCMS committee could call for a full enquiry which would involve witnesses giving evidence in public. While their ability to directly intervene is limited, any recommendations made by them would be tough for Yorkshire (or the ECB) to ignore. It is also possible - probable, even - that MPs will raise questions on the issue in the House of Commons. In doing so, they will be protected by parliamentary privilege which means they are immune to libel proceedings.
At the same time, the ECB could charge Yorkshire with bringing the game into disrepute unless they receive the report within the next couple of weeks. While there is some sympathy towards the club not publishing the full report - or ensuring some of it is redacted ahead of publication - it is understood the ECB are incensed that they, as the game's regulators, have not been trusted with it. If Yorkshire were found to have brought the game into disrepute, it would enable the ECB to withhold funding and, potentially, demand changes in the identity of those running the club.
The DCMS intervention comes after the ECB confirmed that Yorkshire would be hosting one Test against New Zealand and an ODI against South Africa in the 2022 season. The former Kent cricketer, Fabian Cowdrey, suggested "all England fans hold fire on purchasing ticket for Headingley matches in 2022" until the "report is released for public scrutiny". Making the suggestion on Twitter, Cowdrey said "justice must be served".
Meanwhile, it is understood that Yorkshire - or people employed directly or indirectly by the club - have threatened legal action against Azeem or a couple of organisations which have published his comments. Wayne Morton, the former England physio who now oversees medical provision at Yorkshire, is one of those understood to have threatened legal action against Azeem following comments made in an interview on Sky.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo