Andrew Gale breaks silence on Azeem Rafiq affair and Yorkshire CCC dismissal
Gale was one of 14 people sacked by the club in December for signing a letter to the Yorkshire board in which coaches and backroom staff accused Azeem Rafiq of being on “a one-man mission to bring down the club”.
Now Gale has chosen to speak out instead of answering a charge of bringing the game into disrepute by the England and Wales Cricket Board because he does not believe he will get a fair hearing.
The former County Championship-winning captain, who led Yorkshire to back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015 before moving into the role of first-team coach, was one of several sacked staff whose claims of unfair dismissal were last month ruled to be “well founded” in a consent judgement by Leeds Employment Tribunal.
In a statement issued to The Yorkshire Post, Gale, 38, whose tribunal hearing starts on October 31, laid bare his pain and trauma in a withering attack on Rafiq and the Yorkshire hierarchy.
In a nutshell, Gale denied “each and every allegation” raised by Rafiq that he ever used racist language or bullied the player.
He said he was “originally stunned” and is now “angry” after going out of his way to help the former spinner.
“I played a large part in Azeem’s return to Yorkshire in his second spell as a player and in addition to my usual duties as captain and coach, I also helped him obtain a playing role in Australia when I was there playing cricket,” said Gale.
“We trained with each other regularly and he had dinner with my family on a number of occasions.”
Gale described Rafiq as “a complex character” who “required a lot of management” but said he “wasn’t afraid to challenge selection decisions or raise issues he had”.
He added that Rafiq’s “confidence to speak his mind with people in authority made his allegations two years after he left for the second time even more bewildering”.
Gale, who said that Rafiq “never raised issues with me directly”, said: “He originally left YCCC (in 2014) confirming he had enjoyed his time at the club and the opportunities that were afforded to him.
“He didn’t express concerns about returning to YCCC (in 2016) and was keen to return.”
Gale said that Rafiq “seemed to have an issue with colleagues who captained the club”, referring, in part, to Gary Ballance, the former close friend and team-mate with whom Rafiq fell out.
Ballance, who captained Yorkshire in 2017/2018, the final two years of Rafiq’s second spell, admitted using racial slurs in the context of two close friends indulging in a form of “friendly verbal attack” on nights out in their younger days and said he “deeply regretted” the language used.
Ballance has not played since those facts emerged last November and caused the whole crisis to explode, with the former England batsman still struggling with his mental health.
He is one of several individuals to have been charged by the ECB along with Gale and the former England captain Michael Vaughan, who has temporarily stepped down from his role on Test Match Special.
“It became clear that Azeem and his good friend Gary Ballance had a close relationship in which they used insulting language towards one another,” said Gale.
“That language was never used by them in my presence.”
After an independent investigation last year upheld seven of 43 allegations made by Rafiq (although the player later denied that he presented them in that form), Gale said that none of the allegations that referred to him were upheld and that he was assured by Roger Hutton, the previous Yorkshire chairman, that the findings “had no adverse effect on my job”.
Gale added that “YCCC senior management were disappointed that any allegations were upheld”.
Referring to the letter that ultimately led to his dismissal from the club, Gale said: “Despite being head coach, I, and many of the other staff members (employees and contractors) were in the dark as to how the club was tackling Azeem’s (employment tribunal) proceedings.
“We did not understand the club’s strategy and we were frustrated that Azeem appeared to be able to make sweeping generalisations about the club and its staff without any challenge whatsoever.
“Everyone at the club was stunned by his allegations. The media had already branded the club and the staff as racists and from our perspective little was being done to change that view. It felt unjust and unfair.
“Such was the level of frustration that on 14 October 2021, 14 of us wrote to Roger Hutton asking for more feedback and clarity on the club’s approach. We invited a meeting with Roger Hutton and his response was to confirm that he would meet with us. That meeting was due to take place on 5 November 2021, but Roger Hutton resigned that morning. Lord Patel was then appointed as chairman.”
Gale said he was “never invited to meet Lord Patel”, who quickly settled Rafiq’s employment tribunal claim to the reported tune of around £200,000.
Gale said that “he (Lord Patel) has never spoken to me or communicated with me”, adding that he was “astounded” that he took the decision to sack him and other staff members “without meeting me”.
Gale added that he has “asked for the particulars of that (Rafiq) settlement to be disclosed to me as I suspect it was a term of the settlement that I and other members of staff were to be dismissed”.
Sixteen staff members were dismissed in total, including director of cricket Martyn Moxon, and Gale said: “There were no disciplinary hearings, no verbal or documentary evidence was put before the individuals, there were no conversations with the individuals and the only communication received was an email. There was no right to appeal.
“To this day, I am still unclear as to the exact evidence upon which the club relied upon to dismiss me save that it appears to rely solely on the previous evidence of Azeem.”
Gale further claimed that details of the sackings were leaked to the press before any dismissals had taken place, saying it could “only have been known by the club”, and that the letter that precipitated the sackings was effectively “a request for information and communication” from the club.
“It should have been treated as a grievance letter,” he said. “Nothing contained within it justified summary dismissal six weeks after it was provided to YCCC.
“The timing and manner in which my dismissal took place caused immense upset for my young family just before Christmas.”
Shortly before Gale’s dismissal, Rafiq’s claims were heard at a meeting of the DCMS select committee.
Gale criticised its chairman, Julian Knight MP, for appearing to prejudice the case in advance.
“I haven’t met anybody who wasn’t astounded to hear that the chairman of the DCMS, Julian Knight MP, made a public announcement the week before the hearing to confirm that he had already decided that there was ‘endemic racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club’ and that he couldn’t think of any reason why ‘the Board should remain in post’,” said Gale.
“The DCMS committee accepted every word that Azeem said when briefly interviewed. Nothing he said was challenged and Azeem’s witness statement from his employment tribunal case against YCCC was disclosed to the public under the protection of Parliamentary privilege.”
In response to the racism crisis, the ECB launched its own investigation. Gale sent them his transcript from the Yorkshire investigation conducted by law firm Squire Patton Boggs and answered some initial questions put to him in writing.
“I offered to meet with the ECB and to travel anywhere in England where they wanted to meet,” he said.
“When I chased up a meeting date I was informed that the ECB had chosen not to interview me but they clearly spent considerable amounts of time interviewing Azeem.
“Indeed, Azeem has now generated new allegations against others which were not raised previously. He lays the blame for not raising them earlier at the door of his legal representatives.
“I haven’t had a single phone call from the ECB. My request for details of the interviewing panel and what the exact nature of the investigation was not answered. Accordingly, I do not share the ECB‘s view that it has conducted a ‘thorough and complex’ investigation.
“There appears to be no corroborative evidence before the ECB from existing YCCC players or former players to back up Azeem’s perception of how he was treated during his two spells with the club.
“Joe Root has already stated he did not witness any racist conduct at YCCC. I do not know if the ECB has actually approached any or all of my former teammates from 2008 to 2018 but no evidence from them has been presented to me.”
Gale claimed that the ECB told him his name would not be publicly released after charges were laid earlier this month, alleging that a subsequent exclusive story in The Cricketer could only have come from the ECB, Rafiq or the club.
He said that Yorkshire would “no doubt plead guilty to any charges levelled against it by the ECB and seek to shift all and any blame on to its former staff”, adding that the club had not apologised to any of the sacked staff after the Leeds Employment Tribunal consent judgement and had even given last week’s rail strike as a reason for postponing judicial mediation.
“The Judicial Mediation would have been a great opportunity for the club to reach a settlement with all the staff who were unfairly dismissed,” said Gale.
“We shall now let the employment tribunal consider any additional victimisation claims and the remedy that is due to us at the hearing on 31 October 2022, that being 10 months since we last received any income from the club.”
Commenting on the ECB hearings slated for September and October, and his decision not to participate, Gale said: “Having reflected on the matters above I am today informing the ECB that I will not be attending the disciplinary hearing as I have no faith in that process.
“I have cooperated with the previous investigations. In each case the only evidence relied on has been Azeem’s. On two occasions, I have been informed that no allegations were upheld against me, and I had no case to answer.
“Bearing in mind that I don’t consider the ECB investigation to be anywhere near as thorough as the SPB (Yorkshire) investigation, particularly based on the fact that I have not been interviewed; in short, I have no faith that a fair and just outcome will be the result if I engage in the process.”
Gale went on: “It would appear that the ECB needs to find somebody guilty of something in order to substantiate Yorkshire’s undoubted ‘guilty’ plea.
“Lord Patel has embraced the entirely false allegation that YCCC was an institutionally racist organisation. Even if that were true, which is denied, his ‘clear out’ of staff was only limited to the coaching and medical staff, and utterly ignored the players and the other departments within YCCC.
“Indeed, the latest ECB investigation has only resulted in a small number of people being charged. I believe that we are being put forward as scapegoats and I simply will not cooperate in that process.”
Gale added: “Lord Patel saw fit to place Azeem on a pedestal and immediately lost face as Azeem’s anti-Semitic language came into the public domain. Having taken that stance I am sure that Lord Patel feels obliged to carry on with a crusade against the former staff as to acknowledge his own errors would no doubt make his own position as chairman untenable.
“I would remind the reader that Lord Patel didn’t work at YCCC during any of the time period in question and other than Azeem, has no personal evidence to justify his strategic approach of blaming some of the staff. By championing one member of staff, he has done a disservice to 16 families.”
Gale said his career in professional cricket was “destroyed” by his sacking. He has since set up a joinery business.
“My income was cut off and my temporary coaching role with Hobart Hurricanes was retracted,” he said.
“I applied for a number of jobs in cricket but have become a persona non grata as a result of the club’s actions. Applications for alternative roles didn’t even generate an interview opportunity. “My coaching qualifications that I worked so hard for are of no use now. To make matters worse the club has written to my solicitors informing them that in light of my decision to issue proceedings the club intends to terminate its contractual arrangement with my coaching company, notwithstanding that ProCoach employs a number of people and has provided a fantastic coaching system for young cricketers throughout the region for years.
“The club’s treatment of me after 20 years is beyond disappointing. I have started a joinery business with my cousin, and I’m now dedicated to that business.”
Gale continued: “With a very heavy heart and despite the emotional effects on my wife and my young family, I have mentally moved on. I will always be unhappy with how my career ended but I refuse to have my life defined by unsubstantiated allegations by an embittered former colleague and by a YCCC/ECB witch hunt. Similarly, I refuse to act or be perceived as a perpetual victim despite the fact my treatment from the club was abhorrent…
“I am moving on with my life and I have my friends’ and my family’s full support in doing that. I enjoyed my career at YCCC and was proud to play for the county, captain the county, lift the County Championship trophy and coach the first team. I would like to say thank you to the Yorkshire fans who supported me and the team during that time and I respect the opinion of others who believe I could have achieved more in terms of results. I can assure everyone that I always did my very best.
“I hope this statement makes my position clear. I have kept my own counsel for the last seven months despite all the criticism that’s been directed at me and my former colleagues and in the light of the toll this has taken on my family. I have received personal abuse and we have had reason to leave our home on occasions.
“I was unfairly dismissed, and I will allow the employment tribunal to determine what compensation I am entitled to. Even a maximum award will not compensate me for the loss I have suffered and will continue to suffer but I will accept what is awarded to me. I also accept that people who read this statement are entitled to believe me or not as they see fit.”
Gale said he would be bound by the findings of the employment tribunal and said he hoped the club “will cease its attempts to publicly blame and financially ruin the staff who worked so hard for the organisation”.
“I hope the club will apologise for its actions and provide each and every person who was dismissed or had their contract terminated with reasonable compensation and, as it did with Azeem, reimburse all legal costs incurred without requiring a gagging clause in any agreement. I have invited the club to adopt that approach on a number of occasions to date without success.
“I will not be making any further public comment or conducting any interviews or engaging with the media before the Employment Tribunal hearing on the 31 October 2022.”
The Yorkshire Post has contacted Rafiq’s representatives and Yorkshire CCC for comment.