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New Yorkshire chair Lord Patel has apologised to Azeem Rafiq over the county’s handling of his racism and bullying allegations.
The county have been widely criticised, with the England and Wales Cricket Board’s suspension of their right to host international matches and other major games set to hit their finances hard, alongside sponsors walking away.
“Azeem is a whistleblower and should be praised as such, he should never have been put through this,” Patel said at a press conference.
“We’re sorry for what you and your family have experienced and the way in which we’ve handled this.
“I thank Azeem for his bravery in speaking out. Let me be clear from the outset, racism or discrimination in any form is not banter.”
Patel’s reference to “banter” came after that term was reportedly used in the county’s report into Rafiq’s allegations.
It was reported that a team-mate had repeatedly used the word p*** as a derogatory slur aimed towards Rafiq, but the allegation was not upheld on the basis that it was in the context of friendly exchanges between the two.
Patel also said Yorkshire had settled a separate employment tribunal with Rafiq.
Patel said: “Absolutely no restrictions have been placed on Azeem on what he can or cannot say about his experiences.
“The settlement does not involve a non-disclosure agreement.”
Patel said he was also commissioning a specialist independent review of the county’s processes and procedures on diversity and inclusion.
Patel said he had spoken to the ECB about the restoration of international cricket but that Yorkshire would have to “address the root causes” that had led to the suspension.
Patel said he had not been fully able to digest Yorkshire’s report into Rafiq’s allegations, but added: “What I’ve seen so far does feel uncomfortable. It makes me feel the process wasn’t as well completed as it should have been.”
Patel said he would release the report to those who had a “legal interest” rather than simply publish it.
This would include, he said, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee Julian Knight.
Asked about the future of senior leaders at Yorkshire, including chief executive Mark Arthur and director of cricket Martyn Moxon, he said: “Leadership is important in any of these circumstances.
“But I need to look across the system and how people behaved, what made that happen and where we need to go next.”
Patel was asked whether he was proud of Yorkshire.
“We’re going to be proud of it from this moment onwards because we’re going to accept that wrong decisions have been made,” he said.
Patel said he had spoken with Rafiq for six and a half hours since his appointment as chair on Friday.
“It was difficult and it was actually quite sad. It was tough for me, it was incredibly tough for him,” he said.
“You did feel ‘why would we do this to any human being’?”
Patel said he had asked Rafiq to “sit on his shoulder” and “challenge him” on how he handles matters from this point onwards and added: “It would be a shame not to work together to seek his help to find a way forward.”