Azeem Rafiq expects MPs to push Yorkshire to release report into institutional racism allegations

Yorkshire are facing further pressure to release a report into allegations of institutional racism at the county - with MPs expected to intervene.

Azeem Rafiq celebrates taking a wicket for Yorkshire in 2017. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

The county commissioned law firm Squire Patton Boggs to conduct an inquiry last year following allegations made by former player Azeem Rafiq.

Rafiq alleged he suffered racist abuse during his time at the club, where he had two spells between 2008 and 2018, which left him feeling suicidal.

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He initially spoke out in August last year, referencing alleged specific instances of non-white players being called “p***s” and “elephant washers” as well as being told to “go back to where you came from”.

Azeem Rafiq playing for Yorkshire against Surrey and Yorkshire in 2017 (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Last week, Yorkshire released a statement saying it had received the final report and would aim to publish “as much of the report and recommendations as we are able” in the coming weeks - but warned this may be subject to legal restraints and its “duty of care” to all who have participated in the investigation.

The club’s statement said the investigation had considered whether Yorkshire CCC was institutionally racist but did not answer what the finding on the matter had been.

However, it did state that several of the allegations made by Rafiq had been upheld and he had been “the victim of inappropriate behaviour”.

Mr Rafiq told The Yorkshire Post today he is yet to be provided with a copy of the report and does not know what allegations have been upheld.

“I have not seen the report and I’m not quite sure if I’m going to see the report at all. But I’m hoping that the ECB is going to ensure the right thing is done.

“They have taken a stance for the last year that they have got to let the process take place. It is pretty clear now that the goalposts keep shifting within the process. The ECB needs to step in and take this away from Yorkshire.”

He said he was disappointed the club’s statement shied away from answering whether the investigation had uncovered institutional racism.

“They ask the question in the statement but they have not answered it. These are things that are all examples of institutional racism.”

Several unnamed MPs from both sides of the political divide have reportedly told The Times they intend to push Yorkshire to release the report after growing concerns it will never be put into the public domain.

They plan to write to Yorkshire and the England and Wales Cricket Board about the issue. The ECB has already asked Yorkshire for a copy of the report.

Mr Rafiq said today that political intervention now appears likely.

“I think that is where it is heading but at this stage it is up to the ECB to deal with what is happening.”

Mr Rafiq said he does not accept Yorkshire’s explanation for not releasing the report at this time as being due to legal reasons given the inquiry was handled by a law firm.

“They should have known that right from the outset.”

Mr Rafiq first raised concerns with the club in 2018 before going public last year.

He said it has been a difficult period but he will not be deterred from seeking answers.

“Over the last 12 months since I spoke out, it has surprised and shocked me what it has been like. I’m not a perfect human being and I’ve made a lot of mistakes but I have put myself in the firing line. I feel like the game has made my life harder.

“I have been lucky to have my account heard and I have had countless messages from people who want to speak but feel they can’t. I had some dark times at Yorkshire but at times the last 12 months have been worse.

“But now is not the time to back down, I have got to fight on. If I don’t, my son might go through the same thing and that is not something I want.

“All I needed at the start was an apology, an acceptance and working on a way to move forward. That was even the case last year. But now there is this bunker mentality and defensiveness. Doing this now is important for future generations and also for me to get closure.”

A Yorkshire CCC spokesperson said: “The club have no further comments to add at this stage following last week’s statement.”

What Yorkshire said last week

Roger Hutton, appointed Yorkshire chair last year, issued a personal apology to Rafiq, a former England Under-19 captain who skippered the White Rose in a Twenty20 match in 2012, and hopes the report is a catalyst for change.

He said: “I would like to acknowledge Azeem’s courage in raising these issues, and his participation in the investigation, which I understand must have been very difficult. I would also like to express my sincere apology to him for certain failings by the club, which have been highlighted by the panel.

“He has very obviously experienced some difficult and distressing times during the time since 2008 and the club could, and should, have supported him better.

“Since I joined the board in 2020, it has become obvious to me that both prior to and since, it has continually tried to improve its relationship with diverse communities.

“It has however not progressed far enough, particularly as we learn to see the world from fresh eyes, and I consider that this report will be a platform for further important changes at Yorkshire County Cricket Club.”

ECB chair Ian Watmore on Wednesday asked for a copy of the investigation’s findings and a timeline for publication from Yorkshire, who aim to make a report believed to be in excess of 100 pages available “in the coming weeks”.

The club’s statement added: “The investigation has been in depth and far from easy. We acknowledge that it has been a distressing and difficult period for those involved. We are sorry that the process took longer than we had hoped.

“It is inevitable that there is much to digest and we shall have to take advice on the contents of the report.

“It is important to note that this is not a judicial process and everyone who participated did so voluntarily.

“We are mindful that in a process of this nature we have a duty of care to all who participated, and we must not breach that duty.

“We aim to publish as much of the report and recommendations as we are able, subject to any legal restraints on doing so, in the coming weeks.”

Cindy Butts is chair of the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket, which is looking to conduct a thorough examination of how ECB-governed cricketing organisations approach complaints of racism and wider discrimination.

Butts said last week: “We will be reaching out to Azeem and others to speak to us as part of our work to build the body of evidence needed to promote meaningful and sustainable changes to the game.”

The call for evidence launches in the autumn, with the commission wanting “to hear from anyone who has experienced discrimination in cricket”.

Rafiq's thanks to Joe Root

Azeem Rafiq thanked his former Yorkshire teammate Joe Root for his recent words of support.

Speaking before today’s Test at Headingley, England captain Root said: “I can’t really speculate or comment too much on a report I have not seen but, as a former team-mate and friend, it’s hard to see Azeem hurting as he is.

“More than anything, it just shows that there is a lot of work we have to do in the game.

“It’s a societal issue in my opinion. We have seen it in other sports, we have seen it in other areas.

“As a sport, we have got to keep trying to find ways of making sure this isn’t a conversation that keeps happening.

“We have got to find ways of creating more opportunities, making our game more diverse, educate better.

“I don’t think that just comes from players and administrators – that is from everyone in the game. There has got to be a want and a will to do that and it is something we have to prioritise as a sport.”

Mr Rafiq said: “We have played together since we were 12 and had a lot of good times. Joe is an outstanding guy. There is not much more he can add and I know it is an uncomfortable situation for him.”

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