How can discredited ECB recommend sanctions against Yorkshire? Chris Waters comment

THE story that shocked me this week was not the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) report – we already knew that was going to be bad – but the revelation that England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) investigators had not even bothered to interview John Faragher, the former Essex chair, before charging him with using racist language.

Faragher, you will recall, was accused of using the phrase “n***** in the woodpile” at a board meeting in 2017, a charge he denied, and forced to resign in November 2021.

Although an independent inquiry into alleged racism at Essex led by Katharine Newton KC concluded, “on the balance of probabilities”, that Faragher did say the term, her interim report, which has yet to be published, expressed incredulity that Faragher was not even spoken to by the ECB, which she said was interested only in talking to those who supported the claims.

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Newton found that the ECB broke its own regulations by pressuring Essex to remove Faragher, including a threat to take women’s internationals away from Chelmsford.

Lord Kamlesh Patel, the former Yorkshire chairman. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.comLord Kamlesh Patel, the former Yorkshire chairman. Picture by Allan McKenzie/
Lord Kamlesh Patel, the former Yorkshire chairman. Picture by Allan McKenzie/

“It is apparent the ECB has adopted a very different investigatory process to mine,” the leading barrister wrote, adding that “it is unclear to me why the ECB has adopted this approach in circumstances where there is a dispute of evidence as to whether or not the comment was indeed made”.

This is the same ECB which, in an uncanny echo of Newton’s findings, failed to interview former Yorkshire players charged with using racist language to Azeem Rafiq, their former team-mate, players who said that they had no confidence in the fairness and transparency of the ECB probe.

It is the same ECB which failed to speak to other key figures in the Yorkshire case - mirroring the club’s initial investigation - and which was both judge and jury in its own trial, stripping Yorkshire of staging international cricket at the height of the crisis pending reforms implemented by its own agent of change, Lord Kamlesh Patel, who was parachuted in as chairman in late 2021.

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And it is the same ECB which, at a Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC) sanctions hearing in London on Tuesday, recommended that Yorkshire receive a £500,000 fine (£350,000 suspended) and significant points penalties across the three domestic competitions, based solely on guilty pleas made by the Patel regime.

Azeem Rafiq pictured at Headingley in 2018 (Picture by Allan McKenzie/ Rafiq pictured at Headingley in 2018 (Picture by Allan McKenzie/
Azeem Rafiq pictured at Headingley in 2018 (Picture by Allan McKenzie/

Those charges relate to the club’s mishandling of the initial report (there can be no doubt about that); an alleged deletion of documents concerning the case (what documents, and by who exactly?); a failure to take adequate action following receipt of allegations of racism/discrimination, including by spectators (disputed); and of allowing discriminatory language to take widespread hold (ditto).

In other words, on what basis is the ECB recommending this full sweep of sanctions against Yorkshire, and on what basis did Yorkshire plead guilty to charges brought by a discredited governing body that apparently has an agenda?

As with the Essex thing, it stinks. Truly, this is one of the most troubling and murky episodes in the history of sport.

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The ICEC report, which highlights how far that society has to go, let alone cricket, should not be confused with the Yorkshire story.

There is a crossover, quite clearly, and no doubt whatsoever that racist language was used by certain former Yorkshire players, who have admitted it.

But one thing does not somehow validate the other.

The ICEC report does not prove that Rafiq lost his career at Yorkshire to racism, for example, something shamefully accepted by Julian Knight and his cronies on the DCMS select committee, even though they held in their hands a report saying that was not the case.

Nor does it invalidate the claim made by Matthew Wood, the former Yorkshire player and Rafiq’s former personal development manager at the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA), that Rafiq told him that he would hit Yorkshire with the “race card” if they did not give him a new contract. Each case must be judged on its own merits – an essential tenet of a just and fair society.

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It is why the woman who kills her husband in cold blood because she fancies hooking up with the bloke next door should be treated more severely than the battered wife who, after years of abuse, plunges a kitchen knife into the ogre’s back. So much is obvious.

The recommended sanctions against Yorkshire are ridiculous.

There shouldn’t be a fine.

There shouldn’t be points deductions.

There shouldn’t be an attempt to pump yet more bullets into a dead body, especially as so many bodies have already been carried off to the graveyard and are no longer involved.

In a crisis characterised by corruption, by cover-ups, by chicanery, it is time to let a shattered institution recover and rebuild.