No clean slate yet as shadow of Yorkshire racism scandal hangs over Headingley

·2-min read
The words ‘Clean Slate’ are plastered all over Headingley’s pavilion (PA)
The words ‘Clean Slate’ are plastered all over Headingley’s pavilion (PA)

The words ‘Clean Slate’ are plastered all over Headingley’s pavilion for tomorrow’s Third Test between England and New Zealand.

The Indian media firm is undoubtedly a very conveniently-named new sponsor, because that is exactly the position Yorkshire would like to project after cricket’s crisis club’s annus horribilis.

But the dark clouds of Yorkshire’s racism reckoning, which were sparked by shocking testimony from their former player Azeem Rafiq and have now spread way beyond the Broad Acres, still hang low. You only have to glance at the news over the last week to know that.

Last week, the club and seven individuals were charged with bringing the game into disrepute (racist comments, essentially). Their hearings will be in the autumn, by which point the scandal will be more than two years old.

Even this morning, four former Yorkshire chairmen, including Colin Graves, continued to launch broadsides at the ECB, saying they are not fit to handle the crisis. The handling has seen fault on all sides.

All the while there is an exodus of players, too, with England all-rounder David Willey providing a parting shot on the day he rejoined Northamptonshire. Tom Kohler-Cadmore has since followed, although good news arrived today, as Harry Brook committed until 2027. Yorkshire can consider themselves extremely lucky to be hosting this Test.

They have already had an international season, which included England’s only Test win last summer, since the scandal started, and they wereinitially stripped of this game.

But they jumped through a few ECB hoops and — rightly or wrongly — secured the fixture, and a one-day international against South Africa next month, that will keep them solvent.

Rafiq did not want Yorkshire to lose this fixture (he remains so much more conciliatory than those who oppose him), understanding the existential nature of the crisis.

The value of Yorkshire CCC is evident in the England team. They have produced three of England’s top five in this Test (including Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, greats across the formats), as well as Brook, the youngster who will come in if one of them is injured.

There is, though, plenty more pain to come. Yorkshire have got just about everything wrong from start to finish. From the old regime’s mishandling of Rafiq’s initial allegations to the new regime’s sacking, en bloc, of 16 backroom staff that is proving so divisive and so costly.

The PR efforts throughout have been utterly inept, and remain so. Lord Patel, the new chair, is a good man, and a busy one, too, but speaking out about what is happening at the club before such an important week would have been helpful.

Much has changed at Headingley, but a clean slate? Not yet.

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