Institutionalised racism crisis at Yorkshire County Cricket Club

It has been 14 months since Azeem Rafiq first made allegations of racism, and the handling of the situation from Yorkshire has been widely criticized as unacceptable. On the 8th November, he settled his employment tribunal under the new Yorkshire chairman Lord Patel.

When allegations were first made in September 2020, the YCCC got an external enquiry to investigate the case. Despite this report being completed in August 2021, they chose not to release it and rather deny any presence of institutional racism. 

The situation has finally accelerated in the last few weeks as it was revealed, current player and former England batsman Gary Ballance used the slur ‘P***’ in relation to Rafiq, as well as various other examples of casual racism. Ballance has been suspended by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB). 

Former England captain Michael Vaughan was accused of racist comments but denied these allegations. He has since been fired from his BBC show. 

Roger Hutton then resigned as Yorkshire chairman and publicly criticised the rest of the board and the ECB for a “reluctance to act”.

Yorkshire have since been suspended from hosting international or major matches by the ECB. 

The whole situation has been undoubtedly hard on Azeem Rafiq, having suffered from racist abuse throughout his career. He revealed the racist acts he endured left him “close to suicide”. 

The failure to deal with this situation with any clarity or compassion has led to the cricket community coming out in support of Rafiq on social media. 

A review of the report by Sports Journalist George Dobell made for difficult reading. 

The allegations made by Rafiq were damning. The racist incidents were simply played off as “banter” by the YCCC report: “Rafiq broke down in tears at one point, the player insisted he had no idea he was causing offence and would have stopped if Rafiq had asked”. The “player” was later revealed as Gary Ballance. It then went on to equate this to Rafiq referring to his Zimbabwean teammate [Gary Ballance] as a ‘Zimbo’. 

The conclusion made by the independent enquiry was they refuted that Rafiq “was offended by [the other player’s comments], either at the time they were made or subsequently.” Following this, Yorkshire revealed in their statement, they were “pleased” to report that none of their staff would face any action.

Critics say this is another mistake in a long line of them in the handling of this case. 

New developments in this case have emerged due to the increased coverage. Ex-teammate Rana Naved-ul-Hasan has offered his support to claims made against Micheal Vaughan. Hutton and Rafiq are both expected to speak to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee at their meeting on November 16. Azeem Rafiq will continue his fight and many within the cricket world will hope for this to lead to lasting and seismic change in the game.

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Oscar Ress

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June 2022
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