Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton has resigned with immediate effect over the club’s handling of the Azeem Rafiq case, calling on the executive board to follow suit and taking a swipe at the England and Wales Cricket Board on the way out.
In a week that has seen Headingley stripped of its right to host international cricket, a mass exodus of the club’s sponsors and political pressure mount via a series of interventions from Westminster, Hutton has decided he must go.
Hutton issued a full apology to Rafiq, who left the club almost two years before he joined the board in April 2020, and made it clear he was frustrated at the manner in which the former player’s disturbing accounts of institutional racism and discrimination were treated.
I take responsibility for failing to persuade them to take appropriate and timely action. I now call for those executive members of the board to resign, to make way for a new path for the club I love so much.
Outgoing Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton
As well as expressing frustration at the way key powerbrokers at Yorkshire responded to the situation, he drew aim at the ECB, who he claims refused his appeal for assistance in an independent inquiry.
The eventual panel report upheld some of Rafiq’s claims of racial harassment and bullying, but determined that the repeated use of the offensive term “P***” had been delivered “in the spirit of friendly banter”. Yorkshire recently concluded that no employees of the club would face any disciplinary action.
Hutton, who was this week called to appear at a parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee on November 16, wrote in a statement: “Today I announce my resignation as chairman of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, with immediate effect.
ECB Board statement on Yorkshire County Cricket Club
— England and Wales Cricket Board (@ECB_cricket) November 4, 2021
“I have never met Azeem and was not at the club during the period he was employed. I know, however, that when someone makes claims as serious as his, they need to be investigated and changes need to be made.
“I would like to take this opportunity to apologise unreservedly to Azeem. The club should have recognised at the time the serious allegations of racism. I am sorry that we could not persuade executive members of the board to recognise the gravity of the situation and show care and contrition.
“I want to be clear that when I was made aware of Azeem Rafiq’s allegations, I immediately reached out to the ECB to ask for their help and intervention to support a robust inquiry. I was saddened when they declined to help as I felt it was a matter of great importance for the game as a whole.
“It is a matter of record that I have continually expressed my frustration at the ECB’s reluctance to act. There has been a constant unwillingness from the executive members of the board and senior management at the club to apologise, and to accept that there was racism, and to look forward. For much of my time at the club, I experienced a culture that refuses to accept change or challenge.
British sport has so much to be proud of. And it should never, ever, tolerate racism. https://t.co/s7QQi9X6gy
— Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) November 4, 2021
“During my time as chairman, I take responsibility for failing to persuade them to take appropriate and timely action. I now call for those executive members of the board to resign, to make way for a new path for the club I love so much.”
Former England batsman Gary Ballance issued a lengthy statement admitting that he was guilty of using a “racial slur” against Rafiq, during a long and deep friendship in which he claims both men said inappropriate things to each other.
Ashes-winning England captain Michael Vaughan penned a column for the Daily Telegraph on Thursday night revealing he had also been named in the independent report but denying specific allegations against him.
England captain Eoin Morgan is unfazed at his side’s T20 World Cup campaign being overshadowed by the affair, insisting serious matters “need to be met head-on”.
Morgan’s side’s campaign out in the Gulf – where they have won all four matches to all but secure a semi-final spot – has slipped under the radar but Morgan insisted affairs of this significance need to be tackled immediately.
Ahead of England’s final Super 12s game against South Africa on Saturday, Morgan said: “If matters are of an extreme or serious nature like these are, they need to be met head-on. For us as a team, that’s exactly what we want to see.
“Yes, we want to see the sport in a great light but equally if there’s an issue as serious as this we want it dealt with as well.
“We firmly believe that there is no place in our sport for any type of discrimination, and I think the actions of the ECB board to Yorkshire have indicated how serious they are about dealing with issues like this.”