Azeem Rafiq: Yorkshire call board meeting for Friday to discuss racism allegations

Azeem Rafiq
A former England youth captain, Azeem Rafiq played for Yorkshire across two spells and captained the county in a Twenty20 fixture in 2012

Yorkshire County Cricket Club have called an unscheduled board meeting for Friday to discuss the ongoing fallout from Azeem Rafiq's racism allegations.

Sponsors have ended partnerships with Yorkshire this week and a senior MP has called for the board to resign.

An investigation found former spinner Rafiq had been a victim of "racial harassment and bullying" at the club.

Yorkshire previously said they would take no disciplinary action against its employees, players or executives.

That followed Yorkshire's own investigation into the findings of the independent report.

However, the fallout intensified on Monday when ESPN Cricinfo reported a racist term about Rafiq's Pakistani heritage was regularly used towards him, but the investigation concluded it was "friendly and good-natured banter".

Rafiq's former team-mate Gary Ballance says he was responsible for some of the racist language Rafiq was subjected to during his time at Headingley.

Julian Knight MP, the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee, has called on the Yorkshire board to resign.

Senior Yorkshire officials have also been called to attend a DCMS select committee hearing on 16 November.

Rafiq, who last played for Yorkshire in 2018, will also give evidence at the hearing.

Ballance, who still plays for Yorkshire and has 23 England Test caps, said on Wednesday he "regrets" using racist language towards Rafiq.

On Thursday, Rafiq responded by saying it is "not about individuals" but "institutional racism and abject failures" by leaders at Yorkshire and in the wider game.

He added that Yorkshire and cricket "desperately needs reform and cultural change".

"I am not intending to say very much until the select committee hearing later this month," Rafiq said.

Yorkshire have been approached for comment. The club has previously said its decision to not take any disciplinary action does not "diminish the importance of the findings or the fact that there is much the club can learn from the report".

Yorkshire's response what 'you'd expect in '70s or '80s'

Yorkshire's investigations began in 2020 after Rafiq claimed "institutional racism" at the club left him close to taking his own life.

After more than a year - and having been asked to do so by MPs - Yorkshire released the findings of an independent report which upheld seven of the 43 allegations made by Rafiq.

Speaking before the board meeting was called, former England batter Mark Butcher said Yorkshire's reaction "beggars belief".

"You get to this point, November 2021, you're thinking 'OK: the penny's dropped, people have got it', and then Yorkshire come out with a report, where they basically turn a deaf ear to all of the stories, the testimony that has been heard over the course of the last 18 months and react to Azeem Rafiq's complaint in a way that you expect to happen in the '70s or '80s," Butcher, who played 71 Tests for England, told BBC Radio 5 Live.

Butcher said Ballance "is the first person from Yorkshire to come out with any sort of credit".

"I'm sure the spotlight is going to turn very harshly on Gary Ballance right now," Butcher said.

"I don't excuse the language that he used, but I do actually say: 'Fair play to him for sticking his head above the parapet and taking a little bit of responsibility on for this'.

"The rest of the cricket club could do with taking a leaf out of his book."

Rafiq report timeline

2 September 2020: Following an initial interview with Wisdenexternal-link,ESPN Cricinfo publish an article with Rafiqexternal-link in which he claims "institutional racism" at Yorkshire County Cricket Club left him close to taking his own life.

3 September 2020: Yorkshire say they have launched a "formal investigation" into the claims made by Rafiq and chairman Roger Hutton says the club would be carrying out a "wider review" of their "policies and culture"

5 September 2020: Yorkshire ask an independent law firm to investigate racism allegations against the club by Rafiq.

13 November 2020: Rafiq says he hopes to bring about "meaningful change" after giving his first statement to the inquiry.

15 December 2020: Rafiq files a legal claim against Yorkshire "claiming direct discrimination and harassment on the grounds of race, as well as victimisation and detriment as a result of trying to address racism at the club".

2 February 2021: Yorkshire threaten a lifetime ban for anyone found to have made threats against Rafiq or his family and legal team after ESPN Cricinfo show them messages sent to Rafiq's legal firm.

17 June 2021: An employment tribunal case between Rafiq and his former club Yorkshire fails to find a resolution. The independent investigation into his racism allegations remains ongoing.

16 August 2021: Yorkshire receive the findings of an independent investigation into the racism allegations and, two days later, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) asks for a copy.

19 August 2021: Yorkshire, yet to release the findings of the report at this stage, admit Rafiq was "the victim of inappropriate behaviour" and offer him their "profound apologies".

Rafiq accuses Yorkshire of downplaying racism by calling him the victim of "inappropriate behaviour".

8 September 2021: MPs tell Yorkshire to publish the findings of the report "immediately".

10 September 2021: Yorkshire release the findings of the report, which says Rafiq was the "victim of racial harassment and bullying" and seven of the 43 allegations made by the player were upheld by an independent panel.

According to Hutton, the report said there was "insufficient evidence to conclude that Yorkshire County Cricket Club is institutionally racist".

Yorkshire released a summary of the panel's report and recommendations but said the full report could not be released for legal reasons "in relation to privacy law and defamation".

8 October 2021: Yorkshire miss a deadline to send the full report to Rafiq and his legal team after BBC Sport understands an employment judge ordered the club to release it in full by Friday, 8 October.

13 October 2021: Rafiq then receives a heavily redacted version, while the ECB says it is still awaiting the full report.

28 October 2021: Yorkshire says it carried out its own internal investigation after the findings in the report and concluded that "there is no conduct or action taken by any of its employees, players or executives that warrants disciplinary action".

2 November 2021: The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee calls on Hutton to appear before it to answer questions about Yorkshire's handling of a report into Rafiq's allegations of racism.

Julian Knight MP, chair of the DCMS select committee, calls on the board of Yorkshire County Cricket Club to resign after a leaked report emerges apparently containing details of the investigation into the treatment of Rafiq.

A story published by ESPN says the report had concluded that a racially offensive term used towards Rafiq was regarded as "banter".

Knight makes his comments after UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid calls for "heads to roll" at Yorkshire and said that if the ECB did not take action "it's not fit for purpose". He further states in a Twitter post that the term allegedly used to describe Rafiq was "not banter".

The ECB announces it will conduct a "full" investigation into the situation.

3 November 2021: The date of the DCMS hearing is scheduled for 16 November and Rafiq is called to give evidence in person, along with senior Yorkshire officials.

Several sponsors, including primary sponsor Emerald Publishing and Yorkshire Tea, end their partnerships with Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

Ballance releases a lengthy statement expressing regret for using a racial slur against former Yorkshire team-mate Rafiq.

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