MPs condemn 'lack of genuine contrition' from Yorkshire over racial harassment of Azeem Rafiq

Yorkshire have been criticised by MPs for “a lack of genuine contrition” after the county admitted ex-player Azeem Rafiq had been the victim of racial harassment and bullying.

Azeem Rafiq playing for Yorkshire in 2017. Picture: Getty

Department of Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee chair Julian Knight MP condemned Yorkshire for showing a "lack of genuine contrition" in a statement about the investigation the club ordered into the case.

He said: “We welcome the decision by Yorkshire County Cricket Club to publish today further details of its investigation into allegations of racism following our call for its report to be made public. It is concerning that YCCC was not initially willing to publish its findings and had to be pressed into doing so.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

"Equally concerning is the lack of genuine contrition in YCCC’s statement. We now know that among the allegations upheld was harassment on the grounds of race following incidents of racist language used by former players and it being ‘regularly used’ by a coach. We need to know what action will be taken against those individuals involved.

"It is critical that YCCC acts on recommendations made by its investigators and is seen to do so with the utmost transparency and speed.”

An independent investigation was commissioned by Yorkshire last September after Rafiq alleged institutional racism during his time at the club, where he had two professional spells between 2008 and 2018, left him feeling suicidal.

The DCMS select committee had called for the full release of the report, thought to be in excess of 100 pages, earlier this week. On Friday a summary of the findings and recommendations was released, though the county stopped short of declaring institutional racism.

Rafiq, who has not been provided with a copy of the full report, reiterated his claim there is an “institutional problem” at Yorkshire after they accepted there was “no question” their former player was the victim of racial harassment and bullying during his time at the club.

While the club say they are acting on legal advice in not making the report public, they revealed Rafiq made 43 allegations, with seven upheld by the panel. The rest were not upheld but some of those were because of a lack of evidence.

Yorkshire chair Roger Hutton said in a statement: “There is no question that Azeem Rafiq, during his first spell as a player at YCCC, was the victim of racial harassment.

“He was also subsequently the victim of bullying. On behalf of all at YCCC, I wish to extend my sincere, profound and unreserved apologies to Azeem and to his family.”

The summary said the panel was unable to determine whether or not the club was institutionally racist.

The report found Rafiq, who first joined the club as a junior from 2002 before going on to represent them professionally from 2008 to 2014 and then from 2016 to 2018, had not been provided with halal food at matches, something which has now been rectified.

It found there were three instances of racist language being used prior to 2010 which amounted to harassment on the grounds of race, while before 2012 a former coach “regularly used racist language”.

During his second spell, jokes around religion were made which left individuals feeling uncomfortable, the report found, and also in that time frame, a reference was made to Rafiq’s weight and fitness which amounted to bullying.

The report also accepted that there was a failure by the club in August 2018 to follow up on allegations Rafiq made at that time.

The final allegation to be upheld was that on a number of occasions prior to 2018 the club could have done more to make Muslims feel more welcome within their stadiums and should have dealt better with complaints of racism and anti-social behaviour within those stadiums.

However, the report found that all decisions made concerning Rafiq’s selection and ultimate release from the club were entirely based on cricketing reasons.

Hutton added: “There were a great many people at the club who cared deeply for Azeem and who worked extremely hard over a long period to develop and assist him, both personally and professionally, and who celebrated his successes and championed him at the club.

“And there were others that worked exceptionally hard with him on his cricket, particularly when he struggled for form.”

England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive Tom Harrison said on Sky Sports: “I know we’re only in receipt of a summary of the report, but what’s super clear is that Azeem Rafiq deserves a sincere apology from the ECB.”

Former England captain Nasser Hussain was scathing of the timing of Yorkshire’s release, which coincided with the announcement the fifth and final LV= Insurance Test against India at Emirates Old Trafford had been cancelled, though it is understood Yorkshire had been preparing the release prior to the international news breaking.

Hussain told Sky Sports: “What’s the saying? A good day to hide bad news. It felt like that this morning. Rafiq, with all he’s been through emotionally and financially, to put himself out and the abuse he’s taken, and been the victim of, he deserved ‘this is your day’.”

Hussain called on the ECB to take action against Yorkshire, highlighting how the governing body dealt with Ollie Robinson following the emergence of offensive tweets he posted in 2012 as a teenager. The seamer received an eight-match ban, five of them suspended, after historic social media posts that emerged during his Test debut in June.

Hussain added: “You can’t haul Ollie Robinson up for historic tweets and not do something about one of your great cricket clubs, Yorkshire Cricket Club, something needs to be done.

“Legally they can’t name names, how do you make change? There’s still a long way, a lot of legs, but I thought Azeem deserved his own day.”