Azeem Rafiq racism row: What we know so far as Yorkshire CCC board come under pressure to resign
Azeem Rafiq’s battle with Yorkshire CCC over his racism claims is set to take another explosive turn after the spinner was invited to a parliamentary committee to give evidence against his former club.
The long-awaited report into Rafiq’s allegations of racism at Headingley revealed that the former Barnsley CC man was repeatedly called a “p*ki” by a current senior Yorkshire player – but the report dismissed it as ‘banter between friends’ and the club announced recently that no disciplinary action would be taken against any current employee.
That incensed Rafiq, who could get the chance to name his abuser without fear of legal action using parliamentary privilege when he appears before MPs at a Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee later this month.
According to Cricinfo, Yorkshire’s chairman Roger Hutton, chief executive Mark Arthur and director of cricket Martyn Moxon have also been called to give evidence on November 16.
What are Azeem Rafiq’s racism allegations?
Born in Pakistan, Rafiq moved to Barnsley in 2001 before joining Yorkshire’s youth system. A spinner talented enough to be named England’s U19 skipper, he became Yorkshire’s Twenty20 captain but was released in 2014, returning for a second spell a couple of years later.
In the second spell he helped Yorkshire reach T20 finals day and was awarded the prestigious Yorkshire county cap. But in May 2018 his son was tragically stillborn and that summer, he was released again.
Then, last year, Rafiq revealed, in an interview with Wisden.com, his experiences of racism while at Yorkshire. He remembers walking out to field just after his debut, with teammates Adil Rashid, Ajmal Shahzad and overseas player Rana Naved-ul-Hasan.
“We’re walking onto the field,” Rafiq said, “and one player said: ‘There’s too many of you lot. We need to have a word about that.’ You can imagine the sort of thing that leaves on you, and you hear these things all day, every day.”
Rafiq alleged that the club is institutionally racist, that he played under an “openly racist” captain during his time at Yorkshire and that his experiences led him to the brink of suicide.
He added that he was speaking out to "prevent anyone else feeling the same pain”.
What was Yorkshire’s response to Azeem Rafiq’s racism allegations?
Yorkshire responded to the allegations by promising a full independent inquiry, as well as a wider review into their policies and culture.
Yorkshire paid for law firm Squire Patton Boggs – a firm chairman Roger Hutton previously worked for - to lead the independent inquiry, with Rafiq telling the panel that he was “left isolated, lonely, bullied and targeted because of my race” while at Yorkshire.
Rafiq then filed a legal complaint against Yorkshire, alleging "direct discrimination and harassment on the grounds of race" and "victimisation and detriment as a result of his efforts to address racism at the club". He was reportedly offered a six-figure settlement but turned it down because it required a non-disclosure agreement to be signed.
What did the report say when it was released?
When Rafiq made his racism allegations, Yorkshire hoped to release their report by Christmas 2020. The 100-page report was sent to club officials in August 2021 and rather than release it in full, Yorkshire elected to publish a summary of it on their website.
The report did find that “several” of Rafiq’s allegations had been upheld and although it concluded that Yorkshire was not an institutionally-racist club, Yorkshire apologised to their former spinner for “inappropriate behaviour” he suffered at Headingley.
Because the enquiry does not have the power of a judicial review, individuals cannot be named without the possibility of legal action being taken. Yorkshire cited privacy law and defamation as reasons why the full report could not be released.
Who was punished for the racial harassment Azeem Rafiq suffered at Yorkshire?
As of now, no-one. Chairman Hutton admitted in a statement that there is “no question that Azeem Rafiq, during his first spell as a player at YCCC, was the victim of racial harassment”.
But after an internal investigation into the report’s findings, Yorkshire announced – in a statement saying they are “pleased to announce the actions” they have taken since receiving the report – that they had “come to the conclusion that there is no conduct or action taken by any of its employees, players or executives that warrants disciplinary action”.
The ECB eventually received a full copy of the report, after Yorkshire missed the initial deadline to provide the sport’s governing body with it, adding they also had “assurances from [Yorkshire] to cooperate fully with the ongoing regulatory process.”
What are the next steps for Azeem Rafiq and Yorkshire?
The next step in the saga will come later this month when the DCMS committee is convened. If parliamentary privilege is invoked, it means Rafiq will be able to name names and provide full details without the threat of legal action for defamation.
Further pressure mounted on Yorkshire when health secretary Sajid Javid said “heads should roll” at Headingley, before the news that one of the club’s main commercial sponsors, Arla Foods, would not renew their partnership. Other sponsors including Emerald and Tetley are also in discussions with the club.
Rafiq tweeted this morning: “Even now people trying to discredit me behind the scenes. Guess what … they are from my community. It hurts every day!! I will not be scared of any legal actions or things you say about me. You have all tried to END me … still here & fighting.”