Revealed - Full letter from sacked Yorkshire CCC staff over Azeem Rafiq affair that led to all 14 losing their jobs

Yorkshire chairman Lord Kamlesh Patel. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire.Yorkshire chairman Lord Kamlesh Patel. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire.
Yorkshire chairman Lord Kamlesh Patel. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire.
THE cry-for-help letter to the former Yorkshire board - signed by 14 people and published in full by The Yorkshire Post today – was inspired after a member of the cricket staff broke down at a meeting at Headingley in August 2021 as the racism crisis neared its peak.

Fed-up with the club’s reaction firstly to Azeem Rafiq’s allegations, which were widely contested throughout the organisation despite the subsequent apology issued by former chairman Roger Hutton, who joined two years after Rafiq left in 2018, and also by a lack of communication from the board towards its staff during perhaps the biggest crisis to have hit English cricket, they decided then that enough was enough.

They wrote a collective letter to Hutton and the board, drafted over six weeks, in a desperate attempt to outline their concerns and to put their side of the story.

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Within four months they had all been sacked, given neither chance to do so by the previous regime or by Lord Kamlesh Patel, the incoming chairman, who said that their dismissals were “in the best interests of the club”.

Azeem Rafiq pictured during this year's Headingley Test match. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.comAzeem Rafiq pictured during this year's Headingley Test match. Picture by Allan McKenzie/
Azeem Rafiq pictured during this year's Headingley Test match. Picture by Allan McKenzie/

“Without making important changes to how we are run, we cannot move on from the past to become a culture which is progressive and inclusive,” said Patel.

“We want to make Yorkshire County Cricket Club a place for everyone, from all backgrounds.

"To do this, we need to rebuild our culture and instil positive values in everyone associated with Yorkshire.”

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Patel’s decision to sack the 14 signatories – including the British Asian lead physiotherapist Kunwar Bansil, who said that he was “never aware of any racism” at Yorkshire – along with director of cricket Martyn Moxon and HR manager Liz Neto, was subsequently loudly cheered by Julian Knight MP, the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee.

Andrew Gale, the former Yorkshire first-team coach and twice County Championship-winning captain, who was unfairly dismissed by the club. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.comAndrew Gale, the former Yorkshire first-team coach and twice County Championship-winning captain, who was unfairly dismissed by the club. Picture by Allan McKenzie/
Andrew Gale, the former Yorkshire first-team coach and twice County Championship-winning captain, who was unfairly dismissed by the club. Picture by Allan McKenzie/

“We welcome the announcement by Yorkshire County Cricket Club on the departure of its entire coaching staff,” said Knight after extracts from the staff letter, which accused Rafiq of being on a “one-man mission to bring down the club”, appeared in the Daily Telegraph.

“The experience of Azeem Rafiq at YCCC demanded no less.”

Three weeks earlier, Knight and his committee did not disclose key details at the DCMS hearing from the independent investigation report which Yorkshire commissioned, also declining to publish that report despite the protection of parliamentary privilege.

This included the central finding that Rafiq did not lose his career at Yorkshire to racism – he was specifically asked that very question by John Nicolson MP, with Rafiq’s affirmative reply allowed to go unchallenged – and also allegations that Rafiq himself made racially-insensitive comments towards batsman Gary Ballance, who admitted using racial slurs towards him in unsavoury back-and-forth put-downs between former close friends.

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The staff letter, which others at the club have told The Yorkshire Post that they would willingly have signed had they known about it or been asked to do so, including players, went through several drafts. Some signatories are said to have wanted to focus more on the character and conduct of Rafiq whereas others preferred the eventual version.

In particular, the letter was an attempt to defend Moxon, who The Yorkshire Post understands was actually cleared of any wrongdoing before he was then sacked – and on sick leave to boot – and also the then chief executive Mark Arthur, another respected figure.

Although Moxon and Arthur were on the board at the time, they were recused from the process, with Hutton, the new man, leading the response. Internally, there was huge disquiet at Hutton’s handling of the matter and what was perceived to be a conflict between public and private pronouncements.

Of the letter’s signatories, Dr Mark Nesti, the club psychologist, told The Yorkshire Post recently that he stood by its contents and said Rafiq, in his opinion, had deliberately set out to “destroy the club or certainly wreck it”.

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Andrew Gale, the former head coach, said that he refuted “each and every allegation” raised against him by Rafiq and that he had gone out of his way to help the former spinner, a common refrain among the sacked staff.

“I refuse to have my life defined by unsubstantiated allegations by an embittered former colleague and by a YCCC/ECB witch hunt,” said Gale.

Along with other signatories who have settled with Yorkshire, after it was ruled that they were unfairly dismissed, Gale is understood to have signed an NDA (non-disclosure agreement).

When Patel swept to office - illegally under club rules - he contrastingly said it was quite wrong for the previous regime to have asked Rafiq to sign an NDA, waiving that stipulation on abruptly settling to the tune of £200,000 an employment tribunal claim by Rafiq which the previous board thought it would have won.

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The case of Wayne Morton, the long-serving head of sports science and medicine and several of his subcontracted staff who also signed the letter, remains ongoing with the High Court.

In response to this story in The Yorkshire Post, the club today reiterated its stance with regards to the sacked staff, adding that it cannot comment on any particular case or individual situation for legal reasons.

This is the letter written by 14 members of Yorkshire CCC staff addressed to the then club’s board over the Azeem Rafiq situation, which led to all signatories losing their jobs.

Following several meetings of the support staff with regard to the above ex-player (Azeem Rafiq) and the handling of this case by the Club, we have taken the unprecedented step of writing to you (the Board) to express our feelings as a group.

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This letter constitutes our collective views and concerns that we would like you to be aware of. It is an appeal for some clarity on the Club’s position and hopefully to move forward collectively and re-unite the Club as a whole and individually.

We acknowledge that significant time, effort and no doubt expense has gone into the investigation of these allegations and the preparation of the statement and summary of the investigation’s findings.

Sadly, despite this, Azeem, his solicitors and various members of the media continue to make defamatory comments about the Club, as well as targeting individual members of staff and the roles that they fulfil.

If the plan was for Azeem’s claims to run out of steam and for him to “gradually fade away”, it would appear that the opposite is true and he now has a pedestal for his accusations.

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The 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.

Indeed, we find it surprising that at no point throughout this investigation anybody from the Board has approached us to find out more about the character of Azeem.

Azeem is a complex character. He had, and demanded, very significant and constant staff support whilst at the Club, both physically and mentally. He became an under-performer on the field, he was problematic in the dressing room and a complete liability off the field.

There are endless episodes of Azeem’s bad behaviour, well-known to the Club, which reflect on him as a person well before he decided to accuse the Club, staff and players of any wrongdoing. We find it difficult to comprehend how this part of Azeem’s character has not been released or at least used by the Club in its defence.

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Why was a strong rebuttal of Azeem’s claims NOT given at the outset of this case?

The reputational damage that this is doing to the Club and all the staff associated with it is deeply upsetting and its reflection on us as individuals is of equal concern.

The allegations and subsequent external criticism levelled at the Club and individuals is having a profound effect on us all physically, emotionally and psychologically and could well impact on us in our respective professional fields in the future.

Whilst we hope that there are valid reasons for the Board’s strategy in dealing with this issue in this way, it is not clear what that strategy is, as it has not been formally communicated to any of us.

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It is of great disappointment that at no time has there been any statement from the Board in support of the current staff or players for that matter. This needs to be addressed immediately.

Every day we proudly wear the badge. There is a deep level of care, loyalty and respect amongst the current staff and players. We carry out our work with a sense of responsibility and duty as guardians of the Club and custodians of its values, to a level that goes way beyond a “normal job”.

We are a team in every sense of that word, united as one and bound by the White Rose values (values incidentally which Azeem did not share during his time at the Club).

His one-man mission to bring down the Club and with it, people of genuine integrity, is extremely hurtful. The criticism aimed at and the subsequent pain felt by both our Director of Cricket and Chief Executive is not only misdirected but is also grossly unfair.

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We see no support from the Board to protect these two individuals. They are part of our team. Unfair criticism of their behaviour is felt by us all. We do not support any level of criticism or blame being attached to any current members of staff.

We have devoted an unreasonable amount of time and resource in trying to deal with these claims, whilst simultaneously trying to run all things Cricket.

We have tried to support each other through what has been an extremely challenging period. It has been an enormous drain and distraction, affecting the productivity, mental well-being and, worryingly, the morale of all the staff.

This situation has now been ongoing for over a year. We have been living and working with this issue hanging over us for an entire season and we are now approaching preparations for 2022 season.

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We do not want this to hamper us anymore and we would like to take a united approach to bring us closer together as a Club and ensure we have full support from the Board bottom to top.

This is no longer about Azeem Rafiq now. This is about the Club and the many people that represent it. We urge the Board and the Club to now support and represent its staff.

Hopefully you will view this letter in the spirit that it has been written. We would also be more than willing to meet as a group if you felt that would be valuable.

Yours sincerely, Kunwar Bansil (Lead Physiotherapist), Richard Damms (Academy Coach), Ian Dews (Second Team Coach), Phil Dicks (Lead Performance Analyst), Ian Fisher (Head S&C), Andrew Gale (Club Head Coach), Paul Grayson (Batting Coach), Chris Liversidge (Academy Physiotherapist), Dr Nigel Mayers (Club Medical Officer), Peter Miller (Second Team Physiotherapist), Wayne Morton (Head of Sports Science and Medicine), Dr Mark Nesti (Club Sports Psychologist), Richard Pyrah (Bowling Coach), Peter Sim (First Team S&C).