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Roger Hutton, the recently-departed chair of Yorkshire, has admitted in front of parliamentarians that the county is institutionally racist.
Hutton, who stepped down as chair earlier this month, made the admission under persistent questioning from MPs at the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee hearing into Yorkshire's investigation of Azeem Rafiq's claims of institutional racism at the club.
Hutton was the first witness to appear after Rafiq's testimony and was eventually asked whether Yorkshire was institutionally racist. At first Hutton pointed out that the independent panel behind the report concluded there was insufficient evidence for that conclusion to be made, though he added that he had observed "a great deal of thoughtlessness, ignorance, reluctance to apologise, to see Azeem as a victim and a reluctance to put into place the recommendations."
When pressed on the matter by Kevin Brennan MP, Hutton conceded: "Yes I fear that [the club] falls within that definition."
Hutton joined the club as chair in April 2020, 18 months after Rafiq's departure and it was in his tenure that Yorkshire carried out the investigation into Rafiq's claims. He claimed he had consistently wanted the entire report from that investigation to be published, but had been thwarted by legal advice as well as an unwilling club management.
It was frustration at this inaction, as well as frustration with the club's refusal to accept and then apologise for its treatment of Rafiq that led to Hutton's resignation. Tellingly, he was the only administrator with any ties to Yorkshire to appear as a witness at the DCMS hearing on Tuesday; both Martyn Moxon and Mark Arthur, who recently resigned as chief executive, declined to appear, although Lord Kamlesh Patel, the new chairman, was called forward as well during the questioning.
Hutton said he was "deeply disappointed" that no current representative from the county appeared and said that Arthur and Moxon had failed to recognise the gravity of the situation and that they had not wanted to apologise.
"There was a moment I was asked if we could abandon the investigation," Hutton said, identifying the "CEO" - Arthur - who asked that. "The CEO made it clear that he did not want to apologise to Azeem Rafiq," he says of the failed conclusion to the employment tribunal in June this year. That case was recently settled.
"There was a clear resistance to see Azeem as the victim, and a failure to look at the recommendations of the panel."
Hutton had wanted to remove both Arthur and Moxon, because of their failure to recognise the gravity of the situation, but said he felt he couldn't because of the influence the Graves Trust has over the county. That is the family-run trust of the former ECB chairman Colin Graves which saved the county from insolvency by lending it in excess of £20 million, and whose members retain a veto over who can join, or be removed from, the Yorkshire board.
Hutton made it clear the Trust supports Arthur, Moxon and senior management, including HR. "I believe there are a number of people in the organisation who impact the culture negatively," he said.
Hutton acknowledged that the Trust saved Yorkshire from financial strife, but said it was wrong that a creditor should hold such sway over the club.
Hutton again pointed to ECB inaction on the matter. At the time he stepped down at Yorkshire, he said that he had reached out to the ECB and asked for their intervention in holding a robust inquiry. That intervention was not forthcoming and at the DCMS hearing, Hutton said, "In my view they could have investigated, they should have investigated."
The ECB - represented at the hearing by CEO Tom Harrison, head of legal Meena Botros and head of communications Kate Miller - appeared after Hutton, and claimed they had asked for an ECB board member to be included on the Yorkshire investigation panel. Asked if Hutton had requested the ECB to take on the investigation in its entirety, Harrison said that the former ECB chair, Ian Watmore, may have had discussions, but was unable to clarify.
"The reason why Yorkshire were allowed to undergo this investigation is that up to that point it was normal," Harrison said. "We have learnt lessons through this process, not only that it has been handled incredibly badly, but has taken so long. There are a litany of issues to deal with which will help us going forward."
Harrison said the ECB felt let down by Yorkshire - "We trusted them and were let down" - but refused to condemn the club as institutionally racist.
"I agree that the handling of the report indicates issues around institutional racism," he said. But when pressed further on whether he agreed with Hutton's assessment, Harrison said only, "I think I've made my position".