Yorkshire racism crisis: All you need to know following Tuesday’s DCMS hearing

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Azeem Rafiq spoke to MPs on the DCMS committee on Tuesday (House of Commons/PA Media) (PA Media)
Azeem Rafiq spoke to MPs on the DCMS committee on Tuesday (House of Commons/PA Media) (PA Media)

Azeem Rafiq’s testimony to MPs and witness statement about the racism he experienced at Yorkshire have sent shockwaves through the sport.

Here the PA news agency summarises the day’s events and what could happen next.

What is the background to this?

Yorkshire took no disciplinary action following its investigation into Rafiq’s allegations (Danny Lawson/PA Media) (PA Wire)
Yorkshire took no disciplinary action following its investigation into Rafiq’s allegations (Danny Lawson/PA Media) (PA Wire)

Former Yorkshire player Rafiq gave interviews in the summer of 2020 alleging he was the victim of racial harassment and bullying during two spells at the club, the first between 2008 and 2014 and second between 2016 and 2018.

Yorkshire launched an investigation almost immediately but were criticised for the length of time the report took to complete and their failure to publish it. The summary findings of the investigation conducted on the county’s behalf and published in September this year found there was “no question” Rafiq did suffer racial harassment and bullying at Yorkshire, but concluded there was insufficient evidence of institutional racism at the club and in October announced no disciplinary action would be taken against any individuals in relation to the allegations.

On November 1, ESPNcricinfo reported that the investigation panel had dismissed the repeated use of the word ‘P**i’ by a team-mate towards Rafiq as “friendly banter” and not upheld that complaint. Yorkshire’s handling of the investigation received cross-party political criticism which led to Tuesday’s committee hearing.

What happened on Tuesday?

Rafiq gave evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, fighting back tears as he outlined the racism and bullying he faced.

He said racism had become “normalised” at Yorkshire and added: “You had people that were openly racist, and then you have the bystanders.”

In a witness statement to the Leeds Employment Tribunal which was published online by the committee after the hearing, further allegations against former colleagues at Yorkshire including Andrew Gale, Tim Bresnan, Gary Ballance Michael Vaughan and Matthew Hoggard were set out.

What have they said?

Michael Vaughan has denied making racially insensitive comments to some former Yorkshire team-mates (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)
Michael Vaughan has denied making racially insensitive comments to some former Yorkshire team-mates (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)

Gale, Bresnan and Hoggard have not commented since Rafiq’s appearance or the publication of the witness statement, although Hoggard was credited by Rafiq during the hearing for calling him up to apologise after watching an interview he gave in the summer of 2020.

Vaughan has denied making a racially insensitive comment towards Rafiq and a group of other players of Asian ethnicity in 2009. Ballance admitted in a statement released by Yorkshire earlier this month that he had used a “racial slur” towards Rafiq and added: “We both said things privately to each other which were not acceptable.”

What is the sport doing about it?

Yorkshire has opened an independent whistleblowing hotline, with their new chair Lord Patel vowing to take “further action” but saying the county are at “the start of a journey” to make the club a “template” for inclusion. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has set up a joint reporting service with the Professional Cricketers’ Association and is continuing its investigation into Yorkshire’s handling of Rafiq’s allegations. It has already suspended the county from hosting major international matches at Headingley.

Former players from other counties have also spoken out in recent days about the racism they faced, with Rafiq saying he hopes he can be a “voice for the voiceless”.

The ECB has also set up the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) which has opened its call for evidence. Its chair, Cindy Butts, says she wants to hold a mirror up to the sport and hear from anyone connected to the sport about their experiences of discrimination in any form.

Rafiq wants action now, though, and said: “To be honest, we’re sick and tired of these equity commissions and these inquiries, sick and tired of it. All we’re asking for is equality and to be treated fairly regardless of the colour of our skin or the religion we follow.”

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