Yorkshire CCC crisis: Azeem Rafiq says staff letter shows depth of club's problems with addressing racism

Former Yorkshire CCC player Azeem Rafiq has said the emergence of a letter sent by some club staff criticising its board for not standing up to what they described as a “one-man mission to bring down the club” highlights the depth of the organisation’s problems with addressing racism.

The Daily Telegraph reported that a letter sent by a group of staff last month to the board said they considered Mr Rafiq to have been “problematic in the dressing room” and as someone who did not share “White Rose values”.

It reportedly said: “Staff who knew Azeem well felt that an initial apology to him and an acceptance that he was a victim was not the correct approach and misrepresented entirely what kind of individual he was whilst at the club.”

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The letter was sent around a month after Yorkshire published a summary of report findings which had upheld seven out of 43 allegations made by Mr Rafiq and confirmed he had been the victim of racial harassment and bullying but did not make a determination on his central allegation that the club was institutionally racist.

Responding to the Telegraph report on the letter, Mr Rafiq said on Twitter: “Thanks for continuing to prove me right - that the club is institutionally racist and showing why everyone needs to go.”

Last week, resigning chairman Roger Hutton told The Yorkshire Post that while he and other non-executives had wanted the club to “accept the findings, acknowledge there had been racism within the club, show contrition and move forward”, others inside the club seemed “keen to deny the allegations, to avoid apologising and not to move forward, but rather to actually consider the perceived failings in Azeem Rafiq’s character as some form of mitigation or defence to the actions that had been taken”.

Mr Hutton said he had considered the latter approach to be “completely wrong”.

He said: “I’ve never met Azeem Rafiq, I don’t know much about his personality. But whatever that personality is, that doesn’t mean you should be the subject of bullying, it doesn’t mean you should be subject to racist behaviour.”

Yorkshire CCC has been engulfed in a crisis surrounding its handling of racism.

His replacement as chairman Lord Kamlesh Patel confirmed reports that a “troubling” letter had been received by the Yorkshire board a month ago. Lord Patel said the note was “further evidence of the wider issues the club has faced”.

In a statement to the Telegraph, Lord Patel said: "It is also important to acknowledge that our poor handling of this issue includes communications with staff. Part of our duty of care towards them will be to talk to all at the Club about their experiences to understand internal perspectives. We must be mindful of the toll the past 18 months has taken."

On Monday, Lord Patel said he had settled a long-running employment tribunal between the club and Mr Rafiq.

He said Mr Rafiq should have been treated as a whistleblower and also announced he would be launching a fresh investigation into whether the club was institutionally racist.

Azeem Rafiq playing for Yorkshire in 2017. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

He told a press conference: "Clearly there is a problem, and I have been appointed to see if this club is institutionally racist and how we can address that.

“There is a clear and urgent need for seismic change, starting from within.”

The Telegraph has also separately reported further leaked extracts of the report into Mr Rafiq’s case.

It said the report had said Yorkshire bosses missed a chance to settle “amicably” with Azeem Rafiq when they failed to pursue three separate warnings of racism in 2018.

In response to that story, Mr Rafiq said on Twitter: “I tried very hard for it never to get to a ‘car crash’ but no one was prepared to listen.”

Meanwhile, a member of Mr Rafiq’s legal team said his case was always focused on “securing a meaningful change of culture” rather than damaging Yorkshire CCC.

Asma Iqbal, a partner at Yorkshire law firm Chadwick Lawrence, worked with barristers at Doughty Street Chambers in London on Mr Rafiq’s case.

She said: “This case was never about damaging YCCC but about securing a meaningful change of culture at the club and eradicating racism at all levels.

"I’m hopeful that Lord Patel will uphold his promise to bring about significant changes. It has been my pleasure to work with Azeem Rafiq, his courage in speaking out is inspirational and I hope others will share his platform for change.

“Whilst this was somewhat of a personal undertaking for me, I’m grateful for the support of my colleagues and the team at Doughty Street Chambers in bringing about a satisfactory conclusion for Azeem.”

Executives to give evidence in Parliament

Former Yorkshire CCC chairman Roger Hutton will give evidence to MPs about the club’s racism crisis alongside current chief executive Mark Arthur - days after he called for the latter man to resign.

Details of the witnesses attending next Tuesday’s hearing of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport Committee have been published.

MPs on the committee will hear first from former player Azeem Rafiq about his time at the club and the investigation which found he had been subjected to racial harrassment and bullying.

This will be followed by evidence given by Mr Hutton and Mr Arthur, who will also be joined by the club’s Director of Medical Services Wayne Morton to face questions about the club’s handling of the case.

The role of the English and Wales Cricket Board in the crisis, its process for dealing with complaints and the wider implications for cricket will then be considered with CEO Tom Harrison and Chair Barry O’Brie giving evidence.

The ECB has suspended Yorkshire CCC for hosting international matches over the crisis but Mr Hutton has been critical of the governing body’s refusal to provide support to the club at the start of the investigation process.

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