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Yorkshire cricket racism: From Azeem Rafiq to Michael Vaughan, the key people involved in the storm

Written by on 5 November 2021

Yorkshire County Cricket Club and the wider sport are currently mired in allegations of racism in the game and the way such claims are handled.

Azeem Rafiq was found to have been a victim of “racial harassment and bullying” while playing for the team – but no one was punished.

The response from Yorkshire CCC has prompted widespread criticism, with club chairman Roger Hutton resigning. Lord Kamlesh Patel of Bradford has now been appointed director and chair of the club.

Here, Sky News details the key figures involved in the controversy and what they have said and done.

Azeem Rafiq

Azeem Rafiq.  Yorkshire County Cricket Club v Leeds Bradford MCCU. Leeds, UK - 02 Apr 2017  Image: Azeem Rafiq playing for Yorkshire in 2017

Azeem Rafiq, 30, is a cricketer who played for Yorkshire CCC for two stints between 2008 and 2018.

In 2012 he became the first player of Asian origin to captain Yorkshire in a senior game, leading the squad to victory in a Twenty20 tie against Durham.

In 2020, he accused the club of “institutional racism” during his time there and an internal investigation was launched.

The probe found the 30-year-old spinner was a victim of “racial harassment and bullying” but Yorkshire CCC said “there is no conduct or action taken by any of its employees, players or executives that warrants disciplinary action”.

The report included an admission by one senior player that he used the word “P***” in relation to Rafiq, which on at least one occasion reduced the player to tears.

Yorkshire concluded the incidents in question amounted to “friendly banter”, and added: “The Panel does not accept that Azeem was offended by (the other player’s) comments, either at the time they were made or subsequently.”

Rafiq criticised the club for its response – and is due to give evidence to MPs later this month about racism in the sport.

Roger Hutton

Roger Hutton who has resigned from Yorkshire Cricket Club  ***Picture taken without permission from Yorkshire Cricket club*** Image: Roger Hutton, who has resigned from Yorkshire Cricket Club

Roger Hutton was chairman of Yorkshire County Cricket Club – arriving to the role 18 months after Rafiq left the team.

Following the furore over the report into the racism allegations, Mr Hutton stepped down and “apologised unreservedly” to Rafiq.

Despite never meeting the player, he has now opted to take a share of responsibility for the response to claims of racism, which have been in the public domain for more than a year

In a statement he said: “There has been a constant unwillingness from the executive members of the board and senior management at the club to apologise and to accept racism and to look forward.”

He has been followed out of the door by other non-executive directors, and has called for executive members of the board to resign.

Gary Ballance

Championships - Division One - Day One - Headingley  Gary Ballance Image: Gary Ballance has been suspended from being selected for England

Gary Ballance, 31, was teammates with Rafiq at Yorkshire, and played 23 tests for England.

Following the findings of the report, Ballance admitted using a racial slur towards his teammate.

He said in a statement: “I am aware of how hurtful the racial slur is and I regret that I used this word in immature exchanges in my younger years and I am sure Rafa feels the same about some of the things he said to me as well.”

Ballance said Rafiq had been his “closest friend and supporter in cricket” and that he has been “completely honest and transparent” throughout the investigation.

Just after Ballance issued the statement, Rafiq tweeted: “Funny how things change from complete denial to I accepted everything over a 14 month period ??”.

Michael Vaughan

Former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan is interviewed regarding the Australian ball tampering scandal during an All Stars cricket training session at Edgbaston, Birmingham.  Image: Michael Vaughan has denied allegations about his words in 2009

Michael Vaughan, 47, was England and Yorkshire captain – with a playing career stretching between the 1990s and 2000s, before moving into punditry and commentating.

He has revealed he was approached by the inquiry into racism at Yorkshire CCC over allegations he said to Rafiq and two other Asian players that there were “too many of you lot, we need to do something about it” in 2009.

Writing in The Telegraph, Vaughan said: “The allegation came completely out of the blue and more than a decade after it was alleged to have happened made it all the more difficult to process.

“I completely and categorically deny that I ever said those words. I responded to the panel by saying I was gobsmacked and that my professional legal advice was that I could not appear before a panel having had just a few hours’ notice of such serious claims made against me.”

Kamlesh Patel

Lord Patel of Bradford. Pic: Houses of Parliament Image: Lord Patel of Bradford is the new Chair of Yorkshire CCC. Pic: Houses of Parliament

Lord Kamlesh Patel of Bradford was announced as the new chair and director of Yorkshire CCC today.

Before being made a peer in 2006, Lord Patel worked as a social worker in inner city Bradford.

Following his appointment, he said: “The club needs to learn from its past errors, regain trust and rebuild relationships with our communities.

“There is much work to do, including reading the panel’s report, so we can begin the process of learning from our past mistakes.

“Yorkshire is lucky to have a vast talent pool of cricketers, and passionate supporters, from all of our communities and we must re-engage with everyone to make a better Yorkshire County Cricket Club for everyone.”

Stephen Willis & Hanif Malik

Stephen Willis, left, and Hanif Malik Image: Stephen Willis, left, and Hanif Malik

Stephen Willis and Hanif Malik were both non-executive members of the Yorkshire CCC board.

They stepped down alongside Mr Hutton.

Mr Willis was the chair of the audit, governance and risk, and the remuneration committees.

Mr Malik was the chair of the equality and diversity committee.

The executive members of the board include the director of cricket Martyn Moxon, and Mark Arthur.

In the wake of the report and Yorkshire CCC’s response, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) suspended international games being played at the club’s home, Headingley Stadium in Leeds.

Sponsors including Yorkshire Tea, Tetley’s brewery, and Nike have announced they are ceasing to be associated with the club.

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2:22 Cricket boss quits over racism claims

An employment tribunal involving Yorkshire CCC and Rafiq is currently underway.

The ECB has asked its executive committee to review Yorkshire’s governance “to consider whether the existing arrangements are fit for purpose”.

The board also said that “the regulatory processes already underway into the allegations brought by Azeem Rafiq will ultimately be determined by an independent tribunal (The Cricket Disciplinary Commission)”.

In a statement released last week, Yorkshire CCC said: “The Club is also keen to work with the ECB on issues of diversity and have offered their help to the ECB on what is such an important issue for the game as a whole.”

It added today: “The board of the Yorkshire County Cricket Club has met this morning and can confirm a number of changes.

“It is resolved to do whatever it takes to regain the trust of all its stakeholder inside and outside the game.”