By: Sattwik Biswal
YORKSHIRE is facing the heat from the UK political figures over the handling of Azeem Rafiq’s allegations of racism, with the health secretary Saji Javid calling for “heads to roll”.
Javid, son of Pakistani immigrants, was among the group of MPs angry by a report published in ESPNcricinfo on Monday (1), which revealed how a current senior player at the club repeatedly called Rafiq “Paki”, and the panel appointed by the club for independent investigation had concluded it as “in the spirit of friendly banter”.
On Tuesday (2), Javid tweeted: “‘Paki’ is not banter. Heads should roll at Yorkshire CCC. If [the England and Wales Cricket Board] doesn’t take action it’s not fit for purpose.”
Sayeeda Warsi, the peer and former Conservative party co-chair who hails from the county, was quoted as saying: “‘Paki’ is not banter. Too many of us in too many walks of life have heard the ‘defence of banter’ for too long as an excuse for racism. For years my business & others supported @YorkshireCCC – we need you to stop posturing & prevaricating & take responsibility for this.”
The Guardian reports that Rafiq has now been given a chance to share his experiences of racism at the club when the digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) select committee takes up the issue later this month.
It added that the 30-year-old former cricketer has been invited to give evidence in parliament as part of a session on 16 November that is expected to be attended by Roger Hutton, the Yorkshire chair, Mark Arthur, the chief executive, and Martyn Moxon, the director of cricket at the club, to be questioned by the MPs.
Rafiq went public last year with allegations of racism he experienced during his two spells at Yorkshire between 2008 and 2018, with the club responding by launching an independent inquiry.
A summarised version of the final report was released eight weeks ago, upholding seven of Rafiq’s 43 allegations – where the club accepted that he was a “victim of racial harassment and bullying”, leading to an unreserved apology from the club.
The club also accepted that they failed to escalate the issue when first Rafiq raised the issue of racism with them privately. But last week they announced that no disciplinary action would be taken against any current player or staff member.
After receiving the full report of the findings last Thursday, ECB has tasked its own team to look into the findings.
On Tuesday, the ECB said: “We are conscious about the length of time that Azeem has waited for resolution and the toll that must be taking on his wellbeing and that of his family. We are sorry that, as a sport, this has not yet been resolved.
“We will conduct a full regulatory process that is fair to all parties, but also ensure this happens as quickly as possible. To achieve this, we have secured the services of a QC, along with other external investigatory support to upweight resource around our process. The ECB Board has also reaffirmed its commitment to further additional resource, should the investigation require it.”
Julian Knight, MP for Solihull and the DCMS committee chair, said: “We are extremely concerned by recent reports about the lack of action against individuals following the findings. It’s clear that Yorkshire County Cricket Club has questions to answer.
“We have monitored developments around the club’s handling of the serious allegations made by Azeem Rafiq. We want to see much greater transparency from YCCC – it is time for them to answer their critics. We intend to call the chair of the club before the DCMS committee to give a much fuller explanation than we have had so far.”
Knight later tweeted: “Given the endemic racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, I struggle to think of any reason why the board should remain in post. This is one of the most repellent and disturbing episodes in modern cricket history.”