Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton resigns and calls on executive board to follow

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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.

As well as expressing frustration at the way key powerbrokers at Yorkshire – notably chief executive Mark Arthur and director of cricket Martyn Moxon – responded to the situation, he took aim at the ECB which 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, but a board meeting is taking place on Friday which could yield further developments.

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.

“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.

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“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.”

In response to Hutton’s words, the ECB made the following statement: “Yorkshire CCC did reach out to us at the beginning of the investigation with a request that we partner with them on exploring Azeem’s allegations of racism and bullying against the club.

“Our role is to operate as a regulator across the entire game. We must act independently of any club investigations, should we ever be required to intervene as regulator – either during or after. The reason why our governance is structured in this manner, is perfectly demonstrated in the way that these issues have played-out at Yorkshire County Cricket Club.”

Headingley had been due to stage a Test against New Zealand and a one-day international versus South Africa next summer, as well as an Ashes encounter in 2023, but Yorkshire have seen their hosting status suspended by the ECB until they can “meet the standards expected of an international venue, ECB member and first-class county”.

The club’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.

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.”

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