Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton admitted that the process, which began in September, had taken longer than expected but said that the independent investigation is out of the club’s control.
Dozens of witnesses have been interviewed after Azeem Rafiq, the former Yorkshire off-spinner and T20 captain, claimed that he was close to committing suicide due to the racism he experienced at the club, for whom he played in two separate spells between 2008 and 2018.
Rafiq made his remarks during an interview in August, claiming that Yorkshire are “institutionally racist” and that the problem is “at its peak” and “worse than it’s ever been”.
Rafiq, 30, recently complained through his legal representatives that the investigation – run by the Leeds-based law firm Squire Patton Boggs, and conducted by a panel that features prominent members of the British-Asian community – is dragging its feet.
Yorkshire have incurred close to £90,000 in legal costs because of it – during a financial year in which they lost around £125,000 – while Rafiq has also launched a separate employment tribunal claim against the club, with a hearing scheduled for mid-June.
Updating members at the annual meeting, which was held remotely on Zoom and did not feature live questions, Hutton reflected on a difficult year for Yorkshire on several fronts – notably the Rafiq issue.
“We got challenged by Azeem Rafiq as to whether we were institutionally racist,” he said. “Everyone knows there is no place for racism in life, let alone in sport, and Yorkshire is not the only organisation to have been challenged about whether it is racist or not.
“Yorkshire has been challenged, cricket has been challenged, and there is scarcely an institution in society that is not challenged. That challenge is fair and right to meet, and we take it incredibly seriously.
“We were brave enough to commission an independent investigation. That has been difficult for everyone involved throughout the whole period, and I’m so grateful for everyone’s support through what has been a difficult period. It has undoubtedly gone on longer than we thought.
“We are not in control of how long it takes, but my best information is that the report should be made available towards the end of April or, worst-case, early May.”
In response to a question from a member on the subject, Hutton added simply: “We do take the allegations very seriously. No club is perfect, and it is undoubted that there will be challenges for the club coming out of that report.
“We look forward to them, and when we hear them we will endeavour to listen to them and move forward in a positive way.”
The Rafiq affair, which has found echoes in the institutional racism claim levelled at the England and Wales Cricket Board by former umpires Ismail Dawood, the ex-Yorkshire wicketkeeper, and John Holder, has cast a shadow over Yorkshire cricket for almost eight months.
It continues to bubble away in the background as the club today begins preparations for the coming season with two simultaneous pre-season friendlies, against Middlesex at Merchant Taylors’ School and against Durham at Emerald Headingley.
The Middlesex match will have a first-team feel, not least because the Northwood venue has an outdoor training marquee that can be used should it rain. Former England batsman Gary Ballance is set to return to action there after he missed last summer’s truncated campaign through illness.
A younger, more inexperienced squad will take on Durham in Leeds, with both fixtures played behind closed doors.
Yorkshire first-team coach Andrew Gale said of the double-header: “It’s not going to be a first team and a second team as such, but we will lean more towards it being a first-team game down at Middlesex just because they’ve got a (training) marquee.
“I think it will also be good to get the group of players together away from Headingley because we’ve obviously not had a pre-season tour this time.
“With them being in training bubbles of five, they have gone through periods where they haven’t seen a great deal of each other.”
Commenting on Ballance’s return, Gale added: “Gary’s in a good place. He’s actually had what is called a mallet finger - it’s basically a small dislocation, and he’s been wearing a splint for three weeks, and this will be his first week without it.”
Squad v Middlesex: Kohler-Cadmore, Fraine, Ballance, Brook, Loten, Tattersall, Waite, Willey, Fisher, Patterson, Coad, Shutt, Poysden.
Squad v Durham: Wharton, Revis, Hill, Luxton, Vagadia, Duke, Birkhead, Booth, Mukherjee, Pillans, Wizniewski, Sullivan.
Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you’ll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click HERE to subscribe.