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Yorkshire cricket racism: Chief executive Mark Arthur resigns after Azeem Rafiq case

Written by on 12 November 2021

The chief executive of Yorkshire County Cricket Club has resigned after heavy criticism of the club’s handling of racism and bullying allegations.

Player Azeem Rafiq had called for Mark Arthur to be removed from his role, and the club’s new chairmanhad also refused to back him after the scandal.

In a statement, the club’s chair, Professor The Lord Patel of Bradford, said: “This is an important moment for the club which is ready to move forward with new leadership, which will be vital in driving the change we urgently need.

Lord Kamlesh Patel during a press conference at Headingley Cricket Ground, Leeds. Picture date: Monday November 8, 2021.  Image: Lord Kamlesh Patel is the new chairman of Yorkshire County Cricket Club

“We know there is still much work to be done and more difficult decisions to be made. We need to rebuild the trust of the fans, the cricketing world and the public.”

Mr Arthur made no mention of Rafiq or the racism and bullying scandal, but said he had “eight fantastic years” at the club.

He signed off: “I would like to thank the members for their support over this period and wish the club all the very best in the years to come.”

It comes just hours after England’s test captain, and Yorkshire player Joe Root, told reporters he could not recall seeing incidents of racism at the club.

Speaking on a video call from Australia’s Gold Coast, where he is based for England’s pre-Ashes training camp, Root had said: “I think when I look back now, I can’t. I can only speak from my personal experiences.

“But it is clear things have happened at the club and we have to make sure we eradicate it.”

Rafiq, who has previously said that the racism at the club left him feeling suicidal, said he was “incredibly hurt” by Root’s statement.

He wrote on Twitter: “Disappointed is not even the feeling. Incredibly hurt.

“But uncomfortable truths are hard to accept it seems.”

Some of Yorkshire’s biggest recent names have been the subject of bullying or racism claims.

Root’s friend and mentor Michael Vaughan denies making an offensive comment to a group of Asian teammates over a decade ago, Gary Ballance has admitted using a “racial slur” against Rafiq, and former club captain Andrew Gale has been suspended from his post as head coach while a historical tweet is investigated.

Root had also said: “I just want the sport to be a place where everyone is enjoying it for the beautiful game it is and feels equal and safe.

“It hurts knowing this has happened at YCCC so close to home. It’s my club. I care passionately about it. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting. There is no debate about racism, no one side or other. It is simply intolerable.”

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Root’s comments were his first in public since Yorkshire settled an employment tribunal case with Rafiq, who reported a culture of racism and bullying at the English club over a year ago as a result of his two spells there between 2008 and 2018.

The scandal has already seen Yorkshire lose sponsors and the right to host England international matches at Headingley.

Analysis by Tom Parmenter, sports correspondent

It tells you something of the scale of the crisis in cricket that England’s test captain felt he had to break off from preparation for the Ashes to field questions on racism at Yorkshire from his hotel room in Brisbane.

Both Joe Root and Azeem Rafiq both came up through the ranks at Headingley – they know the place inside out – but offer two strikingly contrasting views of the culture at the club in the recent past.

Rafiq says he was subjected to institutional racism, Root says he never heard, saw or was even aware of racist comments.

If it did happen during his fourteen years at Yorkshire – and the evidence available suggests that it did – Root can’t recall it.

Azeem Rafiq will paint a different picture when he gives evidence to MPs next Tuesday.

He is expected to provide details of what happened and he could name more names with the benefit of parliamentary privilege – more high profile figures may be drawn into the controversy.

It could get worse for Yorkshire before it starts to get better.

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