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Azeem Rafiq has revealed he is still receiving abuse for speaking out about the racism and bullying he suffered over two spells at Yorkshire and said: “We wonder why people don’t come forward.”
Yorkshire’s handling of an investigation into his allegations has been heavily criticised within the sport and by politicians, with the club’s hierarchy having been called to appear before a parliamentary committee on November 16.
The club have lost sponsors over the affair, and are reported to have called an emergency board meeting for Friday to discuss the fallout. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) directors also met on Thursday afternoon.
On Wednesday night Gary Ballance admitted he had used racial slurs towards Rafiq when they were team-mates at Yorkshire.
Ballance claimed in a lengthy statement he had once enjoyed a deep friendship with Rafiq but that both men “said things privately to each other which were not acceptable” and offered remorse for his part of those exchanges.
The independent panel which looked at 43 allegations in total from Rafiq determined those racial slurs from Ballance were delivered “in the spirit of friendly banter” and did not uphold that allegation – a conclusion which has caused a wave of condemnation from prominent politicians and campaign groups and kicked off an exodus of Yorkshire’s commercial partners.
Rafiq says despite the week’s events, criticism is still coming his way.
He tweeted on Thursday: “We wonder why people don’t come forward. Even after everything that is out there, there seems to be personal attacks coming.
We wonder why people don’t come forward
Even after everything that is out there there seems to be personal attacks coming
What a sad state of affairs
— Azeem Rafiq (@AzeemRafiq30) November 4, 2021
“What a sad state of affairs.”
Rafiq will appear before MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee later this month and wrote in an earlier tweet on Thursday: “I wanted to stress this is not really about the words of certain individuals.
“This is about institutional racism and abject failures to act by numerous leaders at Yorkshire County Cricket Club and in the wider game. The sport I love and my club desperately need reform and cultural change.”
Yorkshire have been criticised for their failure to release the report of their investigation into Rafiq’s allegations. In September they published a summary of the findings of the report.
While county chairman Roger Hutton said at that time there was “no question” Rafiq had been the victim of racial harassment and bullying over the course of two spells at Yorkshire, the club announced last week that no individual would face disciplinary action as a consequence.
CLUB STATEMENT: The Yorkshire County Cricket Club is pleased to announce the actions it has taken since they received the Report prepared by the Independent Panel in August this year.
— Yorkshire CCC (@YorkshireCCC) October 28, 2021
Yorkshire shirt sponsor Anchor Butter severed ties with the club over their handling of the matter and Emerald Group Publishing has withdrawn its naming rights of Headingley Stadium among other tie-ins with the team.
Official kit supplier Nike is also reported to have cut ties with the club. Yorkshire only signed a four-year deal with the sportswear giant in March this year.
Yorkshire Tea has dissolved its association with immediate effect and Tetley’s Beer has confirmed it will back out at the end of its current deal, while Harrogate Spring Water has announced the immediate end of its sponsorship agreement.
The company said in a statement: “We were deeply concerned at the details that have emerged in recent days surrounding the treatment of Azeem Rafiq at Yorkshire County Cricket Club and the way in which the club’s current leadership have handled the important issues that have been raised.”
We have taken the decision to end our sponsorship agreement with Yorkshire County Cricket Club with immediate effect. ➡️ https://t.co/v19DHOxOGg
— HarrogateSpringWater (@HarrogateSpring) November 4, 2021
Leeds Beckett University said it was “pausing all currently planned activity” with Yorkshire with immediate effect, saying the club’s “public statements to date suggest that its approach to the handling of these accusations is inconsistent with our values and culture”.
A university spokesperson added in a statement sent to the PA news agency: “There is no current financial sponsorship arrangement between the university and the club and the university logo has been removed from the club website at our request.
“Our future relationship with YCCC will depend on what emerges from the ECB review and the evidence of meaningful change that the club commits to, to end racism. If it can do this, as we are seeking to do ourselves, then we would hope we can work together on a partnership that plays a positive role in our community in the future.”
Meanwhile, a prominent group of the county’s politicians – including former Labour leader Ed Miliband and Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves – wrote to the England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive Tom Harrison demanding “an immediate, comprehensive and independent inquiry into YCCC’s handling of the original allegations and the subsequent investigation”.