Azeem Rafiq: Yorkshire to hold board meeting on Friday to discuss fallout from racism case
Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton has been called to appear before the DCMS select committee to give evidence on handling of Azeem Rafiq's allegations; Gary Ballance has admitted using a racial slur towards Rafiq; Kit supplier Nike ends relationship with club
Last Updated: 04/11/21 6:11pm
Yorkshire County Cricket Club will hold a board meeting on Friday to discuss the ongoing fallout from Azeem Rafiq's racism allegations.
The handling of the county's investigation into his claims has been heavily criticised within the sport and by politicians, with a host of sponsors ending their partnerships with the club this week.
Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton has been called to appear before the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's select committee to give evidence on the matter, with Rafiq also invited to the session which is set to be held on November 16.
Julian Knight MP, the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee, has called for the removal of the entire county board and said "this is one of the most repellent and disturbing episodes in modern cricket history".
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Rafiq says cricket needs "cultural change" and must address "institutional racism" after former Yorkshire team-mate Gary Ballance admitted using a racial slur towards him.
Former England cricketer Ballance, who played 23 Tests and 16 one-day internationals between 2013-2017, released a statement on Wednesday in which he accepted he was responsible for some of the offensive and derogatory terms that Rafiq revealed he was subjected to during his time at Headingley.
The 31-year-old referenced his "incredibly close relationship" with Rafiq during their time together at the club, saying both men "said things privately to each other which were not acceptable" but made it clear he had remorse for his part of those exchanges.
Just over an hour after Ballance's statement was released, Rafiq posted on Twitter: "Funny how things change from complete denial to I accepted everything over a 14-month period?".
On Thursday morning, Rafiq then said: "I'm not intending to say very much until the select committee hearing later this month. However, I wanted to stress this is not really about the words of certain individuals.
"This is about institutional racism and abject failures to act by numerous leaders at Yorkshire County Cricket Club and in the wider game. The sport I love and my club desperately needs reform and cultural change."
Dawood: Racism deep rooted in English cricket
Rafiq's comments about Yorkshire could be extended through the entire sport, according to another former Yorkshire player Ismail Dawood who, along with fellow umpire John Holder, sued the ECB over alleged discrimination - a claim which was eventually withdrawn.
Dawood told Sky Sports News: "I'm not surprised at all. No. Racism is deep rooted in English cricket. Many people have spoken out in regards to that.
"The history of racism at Yorkshire County Cricket is being highlighted for everyone to see. So there's no surprise at all that there's racism at Yorkshire and the type of things that have been happening. Especially in consideration to institutional racism. How deep rooted it is within the club and within the game. It's as deep as the coal of South Yorkshire unfortunately.
"I grew up in Yorkshire. Had four decades living in Yorkshire. From the 80s - I've come through the Yorkshire junior system. Played there as a Colt. Played some second team games. I've played for Yorkshire. Was a first-class cricketer. I've even coached there. I've seen the game through various different decades. And yes - there's no denying it. Racism is rife in Yorkshire. It's rife in society but in Yorkshire County Cricket it is rife - yes.
"From a very young age, from club cricket…from the cricket we played as a junior…coming up the system...yeah. I did experience racism. Racist remarks throughout my tenure. I've talked about them in this inquiry. So I have nothing to hide. Like many of us who have talked about our experiences. Some disturbing ones. So yeah - I've talked about the racism I've encountered. And unfortunately it seems to be the same now."
Yorkshire have been approached for further comment by Sky Sports News.
Ballance's name was redacted in a summary of the independent report into Rafiq's wide-ranging claims of institutional racism, but it has been reported by ESPNCricinfo that the panel upheld claims he had been repeatedly called a "P***".
The panel determined that those words were delivered "in the spirit of friendly banter" - a conclusion which has caused a wave of condemnation from prominent politicians and campaign groups and kicked off an exodus of Yorkshire's commercial sponsors.
Meanwhile, a prominent group of the county's politicians - including former Labour leader Ed Miliband and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves - wrote to the England and Wales Cricket Board demanding action.
The region's two metro mayors, Dan Jarvis (South Yorkshire) and Tracy Brabin (West Yorkshire), co-signed a sternly-worded letter to ECB chief executive Tom Harrison and were joined as signatories by 34 cross-party MPs.
As well as Miliband and Reeves, prominent backbenchers Hilary Benn and Yvette Cooper added their names, as well as assistant government whip Andrea Jenkyns.
The letter read: "We find any suggestion that using the word "P***" is "banter" truly abhorrent, but for the formal investigation to make such a conclusion brings the report and the club into disrepute.
"We therefore request that the ECB establish an immediate, comprehensive and independent inquiry into YCCC's handling of the original allegations and the subsequent investigation.
"We maintain the inquiry must be conducted in a timely and transparent manner, with consequences for both the players responsible, and those board members who have failed to address this blatant racism."
Rafiq said on Thursday he is still being subjected to "personal attacks" over his allegations of racism and bullying during his two spells at Yorkshire.
He tweeted: "We wonder why people don't come forward. Even after everything that is out there, there seems to be personal attacks coming. What a sad state of affairs."
Nike ends relationship with Yorkshire
On Thursday, Nike became the latest company to end its relationship with Yorkshire over the club's handling of Rafiq's allegations.
"Nike will no longer be the kit supplier for Yorkshire CCC. We stand firmly against racism and discrimination of any kind," read a statement.
Yorkshire had already lost a number of significant sponsors on Wednesday, including publishing company Emerald Group - which has had the naming rights for Headingley since 2017, as well as Tetley's and Yorkshire Tea.
Harrogate Spring Water announced on Thursday that it would also be ending its partnership with the county.
"We were deeply concerned at the details that have emerged in recent days surrounding the treatment of Azeem Rafiq at Yorkshire County Cricket Club and the way in which the club's current leadership have handled the important issues that have been raised," read a statement.
"As a result, Harrogate Spring Water has taken the decision to end its sponsorship agreement with the Club with immediate effect."
Gary Ballance's statement in full
My family and I are deeply saddened and upset by the allegations recently levelled at me in the press and by the misleading and selective nature of the reporting in the last few days. Azeem was not just a teammate of mine but he was my closest friend and supporter in cricket.
Throughout this process I have cooperated with the independent investigation and I have been completely honest and transparent with the club and the investigators at all times. Information and allegations have been leaked and reported in the press which in my view give a misleading impression of the evidence which was heard in the investigation.
I had not intended to make any public statement but, given the reports which have been published, and with journalists arriving at my house, I feel I have no choice but to provide a public response.
To be clear - I deeply regret some of the language I used in my younger years. The independent enquiry, having heard all of the evidence, accepted that the context of some of the language used was in a "friendly verbal attack" between friends which was not intended to offend or hurt and that no malice was intended.
Given my incredibly close relationship with Rafa over the years I am saddened that it has come to this. Rafa and I started playing for Yorkshire at a similar time and we quickly developed a very close bond.
He encouraged me to play club cricket for his club Barnsley CC, which I did, we went on many tours together, with both Yorkshire and the England Performance Programme, and we always supported each other on and off the pitch. We socialised a lot together away from the game and would also drink and enjoy ourselves together.
On the pitch we supported each other greatly. We both captained Yorkshire at various times and we backed each other when we filled these roles. Rafa has always been a huge supporter of mine and was always there for me in the highs and lows of my career with Yorkshire and England.
When he was first released by Yorkshire I was there for him during that tough time and I was delighted when he earned a new contract and a second spell with the club.
He was very pleased for me when I was selected for England and I was delighted to receive his supportive messages during my time with England. He was also always a big support to me at some difficult times in my career, and I have always been very grateful to him for that.
Because we were such good friends and spent a lot of time together drinking and on nights out we both said things privately to each other which were not acceptable. It has been reported that I used a racial slur and, as I told the independent enquiry, I accept that I did so and I regret doing so.
I do not wish to discredit Rafa by repeating the words and statements that he made about me and others but I have to be clear that this was a situation where best friends said offensive things to each other which, outside of that context, would be considered wholly inappropriate.
I regret that these exchanges took place but at no time did I believe or understand that it had caused Rafa distress. If I had believed that then I would have stopped immediately. He was my best mate in cricket and I cared deeply for him. To my knowledge, it has never been alleged that I reduced Rafa to tears.
That does not mean that what passed between us was right or appropriate. It was not. Rafa said things to me that were not acceptable and I did the same with Rafa. I never said anything with any intended malice or to upset Rafa.
Rafa and I remained closest friends throughout the time we exchanged these inappropriate comments. One winter, I suggested that Rafa and his bowling coach travel to Zimbabwe to stay with my family, which they did. He lived in my family's house in Zimbabwe and spent time with my parents and my brothers while he trained in Zimbabwe.
He would later become very good friends with my brother and the two of them stayed together regularly when my brother was in the UK. Rafa was always very grateful for the support and love which my family gave him and he regularly expressed this to me. I was honoured to be invited to his wedding in Pakistan which I sadly could not attend.
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.
My intention, during this whole process, has been to be honest and cooperate with the independent investigation. In light of recent media reports it is only right, on behalf of me and my family, that I put my position in the public domain.
I will not be making any further statement on this matter.