By: Sarwar Alam
YORKSHIRE COUNTY CRICKET’S new chairman, Lord Kamlesh Patel, on Monday (8) praised Azeem Rafiq for speaking out over racist abuse as he apologised to the former player.
Pakistan-born Rafiq accused Yorkshire of failing to deal adequately with racist abuse he suffered while playing for the county, saying he had been driven to thoughts of suicide.
The club apologised to the 30-year-old in September, but subsequently said they would take no disciplinary action against any of their staff.
Yorkshire were widely criticised, with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) suspending their right to host international matches and sponsors, including Nike, walking away.
Lord Patel’s appointment was announced last week following the resignation of his predecessor, Roger Hutton.
“Azeem is a whistleblower and should be praised as such, he should never have been put through this,” the peer told a press conference at Yorkshire’s Headingley headquarters in Leeds.
“We’re sorry for what you and your family have experienced and the way in which we’ve handled this.
“I thank Azeem for his bravery in speaking out. Let me be clear from the outset, racism or discrimination in any form is not banter.”
Lord Patel’s reference to “banter” came after that word was said to have been used in the county’s report to describe a racist term directed at Rafiq.
The new chairman also said Yorkshire had settled a separate employment tribunal with the former spinner.
“Absolutely no restrictions have been placed on Azeem on what he can or cannot say about his experiences,” Lord Patel insisted.
“The settlement does not involve a non-disclosure agreement.”
Lord Patel added he was also commissioning a specialist independent review of the county’s processes and procedures on diversity and inclusion.
He also said he had spoken to the ECB about restoring international cricket at Headingley, but said Yorkshire would have to first “address the root causes” that had led to the suspension.
While he revealed he had yet not been fully able to digest Yorkshire’s report into Rafiq’s allegations, Lord Patel said: “What I’ve seen so far does feel uncomfortable. It makes me feel the process wasn’t as well completed as it should have been.”
Lord Patel said he would release the report to those who had a “legal interest” rather than simply make it public.
This would include, he explained, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the chairman of a parliamentary committee that is expected to hear testimony from Rafiq and several senior Yorkshire figures on November 16.
Lord Patel said he had spoken to Rafiq for six and a half hours since his appointment as chairman on Friday.
“It was difficult and it was actually quite sad,” Patel told the press conference.
“It was tough for me, it was incredibly tough for him. You did feel ‘why would we do this to any human being’?”
Patel revealed he had asked Rafiq to “sit on his shoulder” and “challenge him” on how he handles matters from this point onwards.
“It would be a shame not to work together to seek his help to find a way forward,” he said.