The former Yorkshire chairman, Colin Graves, has been criticised by England cricket chiefs for claiming that incidents of racism at his former club were “banter”.
Last month, six former Yorkshire players who were found guilty of using racist language in the Azeem Rafiq case, were fined by the Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC).
Pakistan-born bowler Rafiq, 32, went public with allegations of racism and bullying in September 2020, related to his two spells at the English county.
The Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC) has admitted four charges issued by the ECB [England and Wales Cricket Board] in relation to its handling of allegations of racism and bullying made by Rafiq. It faces a sanctions hearing on June 27.
Graves, however, told Sky Sports that he didn’t believe there was racism involved in the abuse.
“I think there have been odd occasions where words have been said that people may regret afterwards,” he said. “I don’t think it was done on a racist, savage basis. I think there was a lot of – I know people don’t like the word banter – but I think there could have been a lot of banter in there about it, and I know people don’t like that.
“But when you play cricket and you’re part of cricket teams, and you’re in cricket dressing rooms, that’s what happened in the past. But the world has changed, society has changed, it’s not acceptable. I understand that, I accept it, full stop.”
Graves, who withdrew his application to return as Yorkshire chairman last week, added: “When I was chairman of the club, when some of these allegations were made, I can tell you now, nothing was brought up within the club.”
Former England batter Gary Ballance admitted charges levied against him, which included calling Rafiq a “P**i”.
But ex-Ashes winners Matthew Hoggard and Tim Bresnan joined Andrew Gale, John Blain and Richard Pyrah in withdrawing from the CDC proceedings in protest.
In their absence, the commission panel upheld charges against the five players. None of the six men who were sanctioned are currently active in professional cricket.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan was cleared of using racist language “on the balance of probabilities” after opting to defend himself at the hearing in March.
The ECB said it was disappointed by Graves’s remarks, adding: “We must never again hear the accounts like Azeem Rafiq’s, where racist slurs are used as part of normalised language.
“These events, along with many issues experienced by Azeem and others during their time at Yorkshire, have been upheld more than once, including during proceedings overseen by the CDC.
“We vehemently disagree this is ‘just banter’ and believe any debate in regard to it should stop immediately. Racism isn’t banter.” The ECB added: “Yorkshire is of huge importance to cricket in England and Wales with a deep history and an ability to inspire and connect all
“They are currently working hard to resolve their financial and cultural challenges and the club, and its new management, have our full support.”
Former Yorkshire chairman Lord Kamlesh Patel, who was bought in after several members of the board stepped down following the allegations of racism, said he was bought into address institutional racism at the club.
“I came to YCCC to do a job which I believe that I did – one of which was to address the institutional racism and discrimination that had taken place,” said Patel. “We should not forget that when I arrived on November 5, 2021, YCCC had lost the majority, if not all, its sponsors. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said that racism alleged to have taken place at YCCC was probably unlawful and threatened legal action if appropriate steps were not taken by the club to address the discrimination.
“The ECB had removed the right for YCCC to host any major and international matches. The only funds it had in the bank were advanced ticket sales for the two forthcoming international matches which had been withdrawn – so those funds would have to be returned. It had no governance structure and no effective leadership in place.