More than 30 Yorkshire politicians call for 'immediate independent inquiry' into Yorkshire County Cricket Club amid Azeem Rafiq racism scandal

More than 30 Yorkshire politicians have written to the England and Wales Cricket Board calling for an “immediate independent inquiry” into Yorkshire Cricket Club’s reported handling of racist remarks made towards Azeem Rafiq.

General view outside Headingley Stadium (PA)
General view outside Headingley Stadium (PA)

The signatories - including 34 cross-party MPs and two mayors - want to see “consequences” for players and board members found to be at fault, with the events having brought the County Club “into disrepute”.

Their intervention follows revelations that a panel commissioned by the club to investigate racism reportedly dismissed Mr Rafiq repeatedly being called a “P***” as “friendly banter.

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The note sent to the sport’s governing body this afternoon, says that the bowler “was not afforded the dignity and respect that he deserved” and calls on them to ensure the “degrading incident is not repeated”.

It reads: “We find any suggestion that using the word “P***” is ‘banter’ truly abhorrent, but for the formal investigation to make such a conclusion brings the report and the club into disrepute.

“As such the report further erodes confidence in YCCC’s commitment to being inclusive to all our communities.

“We therefore request that the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) establish an immediate, comprehensive and independent inquiry into YCCC’s handling of the original allegations and the subsequent investigation.

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“We maintain the inquiry must be conducted in a timely and transparent manner, with consequences for both the players responsible, and those board members who have failed to address this blatant racism.

“Cricket is an institution in Yorkshire. No matter who you are or where you come from, everyone should be able to enjoy our beloved game. Azeem Rafiq was not afforded the dignity and respect he deserved, it now falls to the ECB to ensure this degrading incident is not repeated.

“We trust you will treat this matter with the urgency it deserves.”

Barnsley MP and South Yorkshire Mayor Dan Jarvis who organised the letter said: “The disgraceful treatment of Azeem Rafiq has brought Yorkshire County Cricket Club into disrepute. It’s appalling that anyone has to suffer racist abuse in the workplace, and then for that abuse to be repeatedly dismissed as ‘banter’ is utterly unacceptable.

"The English Cricket Board needs to act urgently to rectify these failures, eradicate the scourge of racism from cricket and restore the reputation of cricket in Yorkshire.

"Azeem Rafiq has been courageous in speaking out and has my full support.

"There is no place for racism anywhere.”

Signatories to the letter include West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin, as well as MPs on both sides of the House, such as Conservative Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake and his Penistone and Stocksbridge colleague Miriam Cates, as well as Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and Deputy Speaker Dame Rosie Winterton.

Last night, Health Secretary Sajid Javid called for “heads [to] roll” at the club and that if the ECB did not take action, “it’s not fit for purpose”.

A report previously found Mr Rafiq had been a victim of racial harassment and bullying after upholding seven out of 43 allegations he made.

Despite a “full apology” being issued, Yorkshire said last week it did not believe any club employee, player or executive had acted in a way that “warrants disciplinary action”.

The report has not been made public, but earlier this week, ESPNcricinfo published details from the report, stating a current senior player at the club had admitted to regularly using the term ‘P***’ when talking to Mr Rafiq.

It said the panel had not only deemed the remarks - which the player admitted had reduced Mr Rafiq to tears at one point - as intended to be “good-natured banter” but they also accused Mr Rafiq himself of using racist language himself by referring to a player of Zimbabwean heritage as ‘Zimbo from Zimbabwe’.

However, ‘Zimbo’ is commonly understood to be a demonym - with its general usage similar to non-offensive terms such as ‘Brit’ or ‘Aussie’.