Yorkshire CCC hit with £90k Azeem Rafiq legal bill

YORKSHIRE have spent almost £90,000 investigating the controversial claims by their former player Azeem Rafiq that they are institutionally racist.

The sum underlines how seriously Yorkshire have taken the allegations after establishing an independent panel to review the evidence.

Yorkshire have incurred what they described as “significant legal costs to date” after detailing the exact outlay of £86,800 as an exceptional item in their latest accounts.

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It comes as they announced a total loss of £124,922 for the financial year.

Former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

Although Yorkshire do not make direct reference in their annual report and accounts for 2020 to Rafiq, who turns 30 today and who played for them between 2008 and 2018, chairman Roger Hutton writes: “2020 was the year in which societies across the world were challenged to confront racism, improve inclusion and challenge the status quo.

“This summer, the club faced some serious allegations from a former player as to how it has operated historically.

“We are clear that there is no room for racism in our society, our sport or our club and as a consequence we set up an independent investigation to examine the specific allegations made and also consider if the club’s policies and processes are sufficiently robust.

“I will not pretend that this has been an easy or smooth process but I am confident it has been the right course of action.

“Very few organisations have held themselves to account in this way and it has been a difficult and distressing time for all involved with the investigation, but it is hugely important for the future of the club and for the communities we strive to engage with.

“Yorkshire County Cricket Club has a long and proud history in this wonderful game of cricket and it is determined to be at the vanguard of meaningful change and inclusion.

“The club had already established a diversity committee headed by Hanif Malik OBE 18 months before I was involved, and has done some fantastic work with diverse communities across the county, but there is always more we can and must do.

“It is critical for the club to ensure we appeal to all ages, genders and ethnic minorities. Yorkshire is an incredible county crammed with talent and passion and the more of it that YCCC can attract and harness the better.”

Rafiq, the former Yorkshire Twenty20 and England U-19 captain, said during an interview in August that he was close to committing suicide due to the racism he experienced at the club.

Yorkshire launched a formal investigation into his allegations in September which was then delayed when Rafiq’s legal team objected to certain panel members, including Hanif Malik.

Only last Thursday, Rafiq’s legal representatives issued a press release stating that trust in cricket is being “seriously undermined” and that Yorkshire risks “legitimising racism” if the investigation into its “toxic culture” is not published by April, suggesting it is impacting on a separate employment tribunal launched by Rafiq against Yorkshire earlier this month.

Yorkshire say the investigation is too important to rush – dozens of witnesses have been interviewed in recent weeks – and it is understood that the club has submitted a considerable dossier of evidence to assist investigators.

Yorkshire have expressed confidence that the investigation’s findings will be delivered before the next phase of the tribunal process, scheduled for mid-June.

Rafiq is claiming direct discrimination by Yorkshire on the grounds of race and a failure to properly investigate and address concerns about bullying and differential treatment. He is also claiming harassment, victimisation and detriment.

Meanwhile, Roger Hutton, who was appointed Yorkshire chairman last April, has had a baptism of fire in his role to say the least. It has done little to dampen his bonhomie, though, Hutton also writing in the annual report to members during a year devastated by the coronarivus that “I think we all, from time to time, have felt a little like Brian Close at Old Trafford as Michael Holding whistled down bouncer after bouncer from the far end”.

“I am extremely proud of the courage and resilience with which the club has faced these challenges, and I truly believe we have emerged stronger and with renewed vigour from the experience,” he added, saying that 2020 should be remembered for “the outstanding loyalty and support of the best members of any cricket club in the world”.

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