Yorkshire County Cricket Club appoint new chairman amid racism storm

5 November 2021, 08:07 | Updated: 5 November 2021, 19:27

Azeem Rafiq: Monty Panesar speaks to LBC

By Asher McShane

The chairman of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Roger Hutton, has resigned over the club's response to racism experienced by player Azeem Rafiq.

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He "apologised unreservedly" to 30-year-old Rafiq but in a strongly-worded statement he claimed that he experienced “a culture that refuses to accept change."

He said the club "should have recognised at the time the serious allegations of racism".

It comes after an investigation found Rafiq was a victim of "racial harassment and bullying," but the club said failed to take any disciplinary action.

In the wake of Hutton's resignation, Lord Patel will take over as chair and will also become a director.

The club said that Hanif Malik and Stephen Willis had also left the board, with Neil Hartley to follow once Lord Patel's transition to chair had ended.

Speaking of his new role, Lord Patel said: "I'm looking forward to taking this club forward and driving the change that is needed.

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."

Lord Patel's announcement comes after pakistan cricketer Rana Naved-ul-Hasan revealed he heard ex-England captain Michael Vaughan's racist remark towards a group of Asian players at Yorkshire.

Vaughan is alleged to have said: "There's too many of you lot, we need to do something about it."

Former player Azeem Rafiq experienced racism but the club failed to take action
Former player Azeem Rafiq experienced racism but the club failed to take action. Picture: Alamy

Health secretary Sajid Javid stated yesterday that "heads should roll" at Yorkshire over their response to a report into Rafiq's allegations of institutional racism.

The parliamentary committee for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has called for an evidence session into the matter.

MP Alex Sobel, who represents Leeds North West, the constituency which includes the county's home ground of Headingley, sent a formal letter to the club's chief executive Mark Arthur on September 22 outlining his unhappiness at the situation.

Mr Sobel queried the club's decision to release the findings of an independent report on the morning of September 10 - the day of the cancelled Old Trafford Test between England and India.

He also expressed dissatisfaction that the name of a coach who had been found to use racist language had been redacted.

He welcomed the panel's subsequent recommendations but noted that Yorkshire had offered no timetable for compliance.

The letter was sent in private at the time but Mr Sobel, who is still awaiting a reply, has now released the document having noted recent developments - including a report by ESPNcricinfo that a player's repeated use of the word 'P***' was deemed to be "in the spirit of friendly banter".

He said: "They didn't respond to a local MP who has the best interests of the club, and of Azeem, at heart.

"It is a reflection of Yorkshire's poor handling of this. The club don't seem to understand the gravity of the situation they are in.

"Racism should always be treated with the utmost seriousness and challenged. The club knew about the racist language for some time but chose to downplay it."

A DCMS committee hearing is set to take place within a fortnight. Yorkshire chair Roger Hutton has already been called to appear and it is understood Rafiq and other board members - likely including Arthur - will also give evidence.

Parliamentary privilege means hitherto unpublished details of Rafiq's claims, as well as any rebuttals, can be aired without fear of legal reprisal.

Julian Knight, chair of the committee, suggested on Wednesday that Rafiq had been a victim of "victim-blaming" over his alleged use of the word "Zimbo" when referring to a player of Zimbabwean heritage.

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