No Tests at Headingley as Yorkshire pay for ‘abhorrent’ handling of Rafiq claims

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Yorkshire have been suspended from hosting international and major matches as the England and Wales Cricket Board criticised the club’s “wholly unacceptable” handling of Azeem Rafiq’s racism claims.

On the day more sponsors deserted the beleaguered club, the ECB board convened to discuss what has fast become an escalating crisis and admitted the “abhorrent” matter is “causing serious damage” to the reputation of the game.

An ECB statement read: “As a governing body with duties to act for all in cricket, the ECB board reaffirmed its commitment to taking decisions in the best interests of the whole game.

“It also agreed that sanctions including, but not limited to, financial and future major match allocations may be considered at the conclusion of our investigations.

“In the meantime, YCCC are suspended from hosting international or major matches until it has clearly demonstrated that it can meet the standards expected of an international venue, ECB member and first-class county.”

In 2022, Yorkshire are due to hold the third of three Tests against New Zealand, starting on June 23, as well as a one-day international against South Africa on July 24.

Yorkshire batter Gary Ballance, meanwhile, who has admitted to using a “racial slur” against his former team-mate has been “suspended indefinitely” from England selection.

Gary Ballance File Photo
Gary Ballance, pictured here playing for England in 2015, will not be considered for selection (John Walton/PA)

“This position will be reviewed following the ECB regulatory investigation into his conduct,” the statement added.

On hearing the news, Rafiq tweeted: “I need a little time to reflect on what the ECB has said this evening and the actions they’re proposing to take. I will not be commenting further at this time.”

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, who are reported to have called an emergency board meeting for Friday to discuss the fall-out, are facing eight-figure losses following Thursday’s development.

Yorkshire’s 2019 accounts showed it had earned just under £10.5million from
international ticket and hospitality revenue, compared to just over £3m from
commercial income which would include sponsorship.

Earlier on Thursday, Rafiq revealed he is still receiving abuse for speaking out about the racism and bullying he suffered over two spells at Yorkshire.

Yorkshire County Cricket Club file photo
Yorkshire County Cricket Club file photo

Rafiq revealed he is still receiving abuse for speaking out about the racism and bullying he suffered over two spells at Yorkshire (PA)

He tweeted: “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.”

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.

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.

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 became the latest company to announce it was ending its sponsorship agreement “with immediate effect”.

Kit supplier Nike is also reported to have ended its association with the club.

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