Azeem Rafiq slams Yorkshire’s ‘atrocious’ handling of his racism allegations

Azeem Rafiq has slammed former club Yorkshire after they revealed only a summary of the report into institutional racism at the club following his allegations.

While Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton publicly apologised to Rafiq and accepted he had been a victim of racial harassment and bullying at the club, the former England U19 captain released a statement condemning their investigation process.

Rafiq was disappointed by the failure to release the full report of an inquiry that lasted a full year.

“We note that Yorkshire County Cricket Club has confirmed Azeem was the victim of racism and bullying during his two spells at Headingley,” Rafiq’s spokesperson said.

“However, we must highlight the atrocious way this process continues to be handled. Azeem was not given any notice of this morning's statement – he received a copy only a couple of minutes before the media.

“Azeem and his team are not in a position to properly understand the club's conclusions and how they reached them, because Yorkshire has not provided a copy of the report. This is clearly unacceptable and an abuse of process.

“What is clear is that Yorkshire County Cricket Club admits racism and bullying has taken place on many occasions, yet won't accept the obvious – that this is an institutional problem.”

Rafiq hit his former employer with 43 separate allegations in September last year.

Of those, seven were upheld by an independent panel. The rest were not upheld, although some of those were due to insufficient evidence.

Yorkshire have been under pressure to publish the full report after receiving it last month, but said, legally, they cannot.

Rafiq's spokesperson welcomed the intervention of Baroness Morgan, the former Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, after it was revealed she has written to the club demanding to see the full report.

Yorkshire could face possible sanctions from the ECB after publishing the summary, and the governing body's chairman Ian Watmore admitted his huge concern over the situation.

“It is very concerning that the independent panel has upheld a number of allegations and concluded that historically Azeem Rafiq was the victim of racial harassment and of bullying,” Watmore said. “It is clear that the game owes Azeem an apology and we are happy to offer that apology to him.

“There is simply no place for racism in cricket, and what Azeem experienced was unacceptable.

"The ECB has only seen the statement and summary report for the first time (on Friday), so we will now examine the contents in detail to decide what further action is required.”

The issue has reached government circles with MPs declaring Yorkshire must immediately publish the full report.

“It is concerning that YCCC was not initially willing to publish its findings and had to be pressed into doing so,” MP Julian Knight furiously said on Friday.

“Equally concerning is the lack of genuine contrition in YCCC's statement. We now know that among the allegations upheld was harassment on the grounds of race following incidents of racist language used by former players and it being 'regularly used' by a coach. We need to know what action will be taken against those individuals involved.

"It is critical is that YCCC acts on recommendations made by its investigators and is seen to do so with the utmost transparency and speed."

The allegations came to light last summer when Rafiq revealed his experiences at the club between 2008 and 2018, leading to an appointment of a law firm – Squire Patton Boggs – to investigate with an independent panel to review findings.

The report found the 30-year-old had not been provided with halal food on match days before his release in 2014 while there were three instances of racist language being used prior to 2010, amounting to racial harassment as well as a former coach ‘regularly’ using such language in 2012.

During his second spell at the club between 2016 and 2018, jokes regarding religion were made and left various individuals feeling uncomfortable, while bullying allegations surrounding Rafiq’s weight were upheld.

The report also revealed there was a failure by Yorkshire to follow up on allegations made by Rafiq in August 2018.

However, the report insisted there was insufficient evidence to suggest the club was institutionally racist.

In a statement, Hutton said: “There is no question that Azeem Rafiq, during his first spell as a player at YCCC, was the victim of racial harassment.

“He was also subsequently the victim of bullying. On behalf of all at YCCC, I wish to extend my sincere, profound and unreserved apologies to Azeem and to his family.”

While he acknowledged Rafiq was a victim of racist behaviour, Yorkshire’s chair suggested all moves made concerning the player’s selection and release were purely sporting decisions.

“There were a great many people at the club who cared deeply for Azeem and who worked extremely hard over a long period to develop and assist him, both personally and professionally, and who celebrated his successes and championed him at the club,” Hutton added.

“And there were others that worked exceptionally hard with him on his cricket, particularly when he struggled for form.”

Hutton also insisted that while the investigation process took time, it was important for it to be done thoroughly.

Rafiq refuted this statement though, and his spokesperson added: “We will provide a fuller statement in the coming days.”

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