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Yorkshire admit Azeem Rafiq suffered from 'racial harassment' while at club - but refuse to release report

Summary released by club says there was "insufficient evidence" to support claim of institutional racism

Azeem Rafiq looks frustrated, Surrey v Yorkshire, Specsavers County Championship, Division One, Kia Oval, 1st day, September 12, 2017

Yorkshire have admitted that Azeem Rafiq "was the victim of racial harassment" during his first spell at the club  •  Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

Yorkshire have reiterated their stance that they are unable to publish the independent report into Azeem Rafiq's allegations of racism at the club, due to issues "in relation to privacy law and defamation", following parliamentary pressure to release its findings.
Yorkshire distributed a summary of the report and its recommendations on Friday morning, which detailed seven instances of racial harassment and bullying of Rafiq that were upheld by the investigation. Last month, the club issued an apology to Rafiq, saying he had been "the victim of inappropriate behaviour".
Roger Hutton, the club's chairman, has now gone further and admitted that there is "no question that Azeem Rafiq, during his first spell as a player at YCCC, was the victim of racial harassment". However, while apologising to Rafiq once again, Hutton also said that the panel had determined there was "insufficient evidence" to support the claim that Yorkshire were "institutionally racist" as a club.
The ECB has previously called on Yorkshire to come up with a timeline for publication, while on Wednesday, the chair of Department of Culture, Media and Sport select committee, Julian Knight, wrote to the club saying it was "crucial that the process, the report and its full findings are made public and open to scrutiny".
A spokesperson for Rafiq criticised Yorkshire's "atrocious" handling of the investigation and said failure to hand over a copy of the report was "an abuse of process".
"We note that Yorkshire County Cricket Club has confirmed Azeem was the victim of racism and bullying during his two spells at Headingley," the spokesperson said. "However, we must highlight the atrocious way this process continues to be handled. Azeem was not given any notice of this morning's statement - he received a copy only a couple of minutes before the media.
"Azeem and his team are not in a position to properly understand the club's conclusions and how they reached them, because Yorkshire has not provided a copy of the report. This is clearly unacceptable and an abuse of process.
"What is clear is that Yorkshire County Cricket Club admits racism and bullying has taken place on many occasions, yet won't accept the obvious - that this is an institutional problem.
"We also note that Baroness Morgan, the former Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has written to Yorkshire County Cricket Club in recent days demanding that Azeem see a full copy of the report. We further note the letter to Yorkshire from Julian Knight, the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, on Wednesday. We welcome their interventions. We will provide a fuller statement in the coming days."
Ian Watmore, the ECB chair, said: "No one should have to experience racism or discrimination in cricket, and it is very concerning that the independent panel has upheld a number of allegations and concluded that historically Azeem Rafiq was the victim of racial harassment and of bullying during his time at Yorkshire County Cricket Club.
"It is clear that the game owes him an apology and we are happy to offer that apology to him. There is simply no place for racism in cricket, and what Azeem experienced was unacceptable. The ECB has only seen the statement and summary report for the first time today, so we will now examine the contents in detail to decide what further action is required."
Meanwhile, ESPNcricinfo understands that Mark Arthur, Yorkshire's chief executive since 2013, has been placed on furlough.
In a lengthy statement attributed to Hutton, Yorkshire said they had been given "clear legal advice" that the report should not be made public.
"The report and recommendations were delivered to the board on 13 August 2021 and since then the board and its executives have been considering the report and its recommendations and taking legal advice upon them," Hutton said. "The club has been advised of its responsibilities in relation to privacy law and defamation and as such, is not able to publish the full report. Although our clear legal advice is that the full report should not be made public, the club has instructed counsel to assist it in producing a summary of the report and recommendations which is attached to this statement.
"The report shows that there were in excess of 40 allegations made against the club by Azeem Rafiq. The majority were not upheld, and some were not upheld on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence. However, seven of Azeem Rafiq's allegations were upheld. There is no question that Azeem Rafiq, during his first spell as a player at YCCC, was the victim of racial harassment. He was also subsequently the victim of bullying. On behalf of all at YCCC, I wish to extend my sincere, profound and unreserved apologies to Azeem and to his family."
Of 43 allegations made by Rafiq, the report said seven were upheld and the rest fell into two categories: "not upheld" and "not upheld on the basis of insufficient evidence".
The allegations upheld by the panel were as follows:
  • "When Rafiq was playing junior cricket for Yorkshire, he was not provided with halal food at matches. This has now been rectified.
  • "Prior to 2010 the panel found that there were three separate incidents of racist language being used by former players which were found to be harassment on the grounds of race.
  • "Before 2012 a former coach regularly used racist language.
  • "During his second spell at Yorkshire between 2016 and 2018 there were jokes made around religion which made individuals uncomfortable about their religious practices.
  • "During his second spell at the club, a former player made references to Rafiq's weight and fitness that amounted to bullying.
  • "In August 2018, when Rafiq raised concerns of racism there was a failure by the club to follow its own policy or investigate these allegations.
  • "On a number of occasions prior to 2018 the club could have done more to make Muslims more welcome within their stadiums and should have dealt better with complaints of racist or anti-social behaviour within those stadiums."
  • However, despite Rafiq's claims that the racism he experienced during two spells at the club left him on the brink of suicide, Yorkshire's statement said that the panel "did not find that YCCC made any cricketing decisions in relation to Azeem Rafiq based on his race or religion".
    Hutton said: "In being honest and direct about the clear failings at the club that were highlighted in the report, we must also be honest and direct about what the report did not say. It determined that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that Yorkshire County Cricket Club is institutionally racist. It did not find that any decisions by the coaching staff or the club, relating either to Azeem's inclusion within a team or his ultimate release from the club was for anything other than cricketing reasons."
    Yorkshire have also committed to pursuing recommendations made by the panel, which include a review of internal policies, ensuring staff undergo training on equality, diversity and inclusion, increased engagement with minority communities, more rigorous policing of "unacceptable language", and the production of an annual report detailing the club's efforts on inclusivity.
    "Looking to the future, the club will now enthusiastically implement the panel's recommendations and will look to work with a broader group from diverse communities to further develop and improve our inclusivity, accessibility and sensitivity to the pulse of modern Britain," Hutton added. "We also commit to giving regular updates on our plans and our progress. We should be judged on this over the coming months and will report on our progress at our Annual General Meeting in the spring."