Yorkshire racism allegations: Timeline ahead of this week’s public Cricket Discipline Commission hearing | Cricket News

A timeline of the developments since Azeem Rafiq’s allegations of institutional racism at Yorkshire ahead of the Cricket Discipline Commission hearing in London this week.

September 2020 – Rafiq reveals ‘suicidal’ thoughts in first allegations

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Rafiq details some of his allegations of institutional racism and explains how the experiences ‘have stuck with him’

Former Yorkshire spinner Rafiq told ESPNcricinfo that “deep-rooted” racism at Yorkshire had left him “close to committing suicide”.

Speaking to Sky Sports News days later, Rafiq shared further details: “At my worst, I was right on the edge, stood on my balcony. I would regularly come home from training and cry all day. It was a very difficult time for me.

“We would be on nights out, I’d be speaking to someone and I’d have team-mates coming over and saying: ‘Don’t speak to him. He’s a p-word.’

Yorkshire swiftly launched an investigation, asking independent law firm Squire Patton Boggs to lead the review of Rafiq’s allegations, with then Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton describing the allegations as “hugely concerning”.

November 2020 – Rafiq says Asian players were called ‘elephant washers’

Rafiq revealed new details of the racism he faced at Yorkshire, saying non-white players were called “P***s” and “elephant washers” and told to “go back where you came from.”

He also highlighted a drinking culture at the club that was insensitive to Muslim attitudes towards alcohol.

Rafiq said: “I have spoken out about the racism I faced because I don’t want kids to go through what I did. I want to see kids starting off their journey in cricket in a culture of acceptance and respect, where they are judged on their talent and not on their culture and identity.

“I hope that the investigation will result in meaningful change at the (Yorkshire County Cricket Club) and in the sport.

“I am grateful for the outpouring of support and words of encouragement I have received, in particular from parents who have shared their concerns about how their kids have been treated and who want to see change.”

December 2020 – Rafiq submits legal claim against Yorkshire

With the investigation ongoing, Rafiq filed a legal claim against the county under the Equality Act, claiming he suffered “direct discrimination and harassment on the grounds of race, as well as victimisation and detriment as a result of his efforts to address racism at the club”.

Rafiq’s legal team said they were seeking “a declaration that the club acted unlawfully, as well as financial damages for the harm and detriment he suffered,” while also making recommendations “to ensure that changes are brought about at the club to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

The club responded by saying that they take the allegations “extremely seriously” but that it would be “inappropriate” to comment further while proceedings were ongoing.

June 2021 – No resolution reached as report is delayed

Yorkshire confirmed they had failed to “resolve the issues between the club and Azeem Rafiq” through the process of judicial mediation and that the case remained within the employment tribunal process.

A statement issued by Yorkshire said: “Having tried to find a way to resolve the issues between the club and Azeem Rafiq through the process of judicial mediation, the club is sorry to say that resolution did not prove possible.

“As the matter is still within the Employment Tribunal process, it would be inappropriate to comment further. We now expect the case to be listed for a private Case Management Conference.”

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Rafiq questioned Yorkshire’s response after the county said their former player was a ‘victim of inappropriate behaviour’ following his allegations of institutional racism

August 2021 – Yorkshire apologise but deny institutional racism

Rafiq accused Yorkshire of “fudging” his claims of institutional racism after the county apologised to him for being the “victim of inappropriate behaviour” but said they did not accept his claim of institutional racism.

Yorkshire said that “many of the allegations were not upheld and for others, there was insufficient evidence for the panel to make a determination”.

Rafiq was speaking a day after then ECB chair Ian Watmore called on Yorkshire to provide a copy of the investigation’s findings after the county had taken receipt of its report.

September 2021 – Summarised version of findings published

Yorkshire admitted Rafiq was the victim of “racial harassment” and “bullying” during his time at the club – but only seven of the 43 allegations made by Rafiq were upheld.

Yorkshire said it was not possible to determine conclusively that there was institutional racism within the club and maintained they did not intend to publish the full report.

Rafiq told Sky Sports News that he was “not happy” and would “fight on” with the hope of having the full report published, while the ECB said the independent panel’s findings were “very concerning” and would decide after examining the contents in more detail “what further action is required”.

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Nasser Hussain said Rafiq ‘deserved his own day’, after Yorkshire revealed details of their investigation on the same day that the final Test between England and India was cancelled

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport demanded “action” and condemned Yorkshire for showing a “lack of genuine contrition”, while also demanding that Rafiq see a full copy of the report.

The timing of the release of the report was described as “atrocious” by a spokesperson for Rafiq, with it coming on the same morning that England’s fifth Test with India was called off for Covid-19 reasons hours before play was due to start.

October 2021 – No disciplinary action to be taken by Yorkshire

Yorkshire announced it would take no disciplinary action against any of its employees, players or executives following the report, a decision Rafiq described as “inconceivable”. He accused Yorkshire of protecting its members of staff, writing on Twitter that the club was “embarrassing”, and accusing it of giving a “green light” to racism.

Rafiq, who had by this point received a heavily redacted version of the report, said he was still awaiting the full version, and called on the ECB to “sort this before I do”.

November 2021 – Report details leak, Yorkshire face widespread backlash

ESPNcricinfo revealed further details of the report into Rafiq’s claims, which includes the admission of one senior player that he used the word “P***” in reference to Rafiq. Yorkshire concluded the incidents in question amounted to “friendly banter”.

Former England international Gary Ballance would later release a statement in which he admitted he used a racial slur towards Rafiq during their time together at Yorkshire.

Health secretary Sajid Javid said “heads should roll” at the county, while prime minister Boris Johnson called for the England and Wales Cricket Board to investigate “thoroughly and quickly”.

Garry Ballance (PA Images)
Garry Ballance admitted using racially discriminatory language toward Rafiq

The ECB promised it would conduct a full regulatory process as “quickly as possible”, and apologised for not resolving the issue sooner, saying it was “conscious about the length of time that Azeem has waited for resolution and the toll that must be taking on his wellbeing and that of his family”.

Emerald Group Publishing, Yorkshire Tea and Anchor Butter all ended their association with Yorkshire over the handling of Rafiq’s allegations.

November 2021 – Yorkshire lose international status

The ECB suspended Yorkshire from hosting international or major matches, with the county told that ban would remain in place “until it has clearly demonstrated that it can meet the standards expected of an international venue, ECB member and first-class county”.

Ballance was “suspended indefinitely” from England selection, while there were a raft of resignations from Yorkshire with Hutton and chief-executive Mark Arthur among those to depart. Director of cricket Martyn Moxon was later signed off with a “stress-related illness”.

A general view of the ground from above after sponsorship signage was removed from Headingley, home of Yorkshire County Cricket Club
Yorkshire was banned from hosting international matches but that suspension has now been lifted

Lord Kamlesh Patel was appointed as Hutton’s replacement and later apologised to Rafiq for the club’s handling of the allegations.

Adil Rashid joined Rana Naved-ul-Hasan in backing Rafiq’s claim that Michael Vaughan had said there “too are many of you lot, we need to do something about it” relating to players of Asian backgrounds. Vaughan continues to deny that claim to this day.

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Sky Sports footage from 2009 shows Vaughan shaking hands with team-mates Rafiq and Rashid – the match where he allegedly made a racist remark. Vaughan denies the allegation

November 2021 – Rafiq gives evidence to DCMS

Protected by parliamentary privilege, Rafiq fought back tears as he appeared before MPs to reveal all aspects of his wide-ranging allegations of institutional racism at Yorkshire, without fear of legal reprisal.

Rafiq spoke of a “toxic” dressing room atmosphere, in which he was “constantly” subjected to racial slurs.

He said there had been racism in the England dressing room, accusing Ballance of using the term ‘Kevin’ to describe “anyone of colour”. He also alleged that Alex Hales had named his dog after the racial slur. Hales would later deny the claim.

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Rafiq tells MPs about the names and racial slurs used in the Yorkshire and England dressing rooms (Warning: video contains offensive and upsetting content)

Rafiq also described how he had been pinned down and forced to drink alcohol at his local cricket club as a 15-year-old, and concluded that he had lost his career due to racism.

Rafiq accused former England head coach David Lloyd of attempting to smear him. Lloyd would later release a public apology, before stepping down from his role as a pundit for Sky Sports.

Former Yorkshire chairman Hutton told MPs that he was asked by the county’s former chief executive Arthur to abandon the investigation. Hutton added that he had wanted to remove Arthur and Moxon from their posts.

Rafiq issued an apology later that month after it was revealed he sent anti-Semitic messages to a fellow player more than a decade earlier. Rafiq met a Holocaust survivor in an attempt to further educate himself.

November 2021 – ECB publishes action plan after all-game meeting

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison vowed to address racism within the sport, following a meeting of cricket’s leading decision-makers, including the chairs of all 18 first-class counties.

A week after the meeting, the ECB published a 12-point, game-wide action plan to tackle racism and all forms of discrimination.

Key points included a review of dressing-room culture, diversity training for all those involved in the sport, a governance review, a drive to remove barriers to playing top-level cricket, and examining how stadia can be made more welcoming to people from diverse backgrounds.

December 2021 – Gough appointed after Moxon and Gale depart

Moxon and head coach Andrew Gale left Yorkshire along with the county’s entire coaching team, with Lord Patel saying: “Significant change is required at Yorkshire County Cricket Club and we are committed to taking whatever action is necessary to regain trust.”

The following week former Yorkshire captain Darren Gough was appointed as the club’s managing director of cricket, initially on an interim basis until the end of the 2022 season, with Ottis Gibson named head coach.

Darren Gough
Darren Gough is now Yorkshire’s permanent director of cricket

January 2022 – Report warns of funding cut unless cricket ‘cleans up its act’

Following the November hearing, the DCMS committee published a report warning that racism in cricket is “deep-seated” and that public money should be withheld from the sport unless it can “clean up its act”.

It went on to call on the ECB to develop a set of key indicators and provide quarterly updates to the committee on its progress, or else face a cut to government funding.

Commenting on the report, Rafiq said: “The DCMS committee has listened and taken sensible action.”

Rafiq also said he felt that Yorkshire were moving in the “right direction” under Lord Patel’s leadership.

February 2022 – Yorkshire allowed to host internationals once again

The ECB lifted Yorkshire’s international cricket ban, subject to conditions regarding the running of the county which were later met.

Headingley went on to host the England men’s Test match against New Zealand in June and a one-day international against South Africa in July.

June 2022 – Yorkshire and seven individuals charged by ECB

Charges were brought against Yorkshire and seven individuals over allegations of racism at the club, and the handling of those allegations, with Rafiq saying he was now a step nearer to “closure”.

The seven individuals were later revealed to be Vaughan, Ballance, Gale, Matthew Hoggard, Tim Bresnan, John Blain and Richard Pyrah.

Rafiq – who also called for the Cricket Discipline Commission hearing to be held in public – said: “This has been another gruelling but unfortunately necessary process. It has been a long two years since I went public about my experiences, but I hope this all means that no young player ever goes through such pain and alienation again.”

December 2022 – Rafiq hits out as ECB: ‘I have been driven out of the country’

Rafiq told MPs that he had not received any support from the ECB since he first gave evidence of the racism he faced at Yorkshire and that he had been forced to leave the UK because of the abuse he had received.

He said some of the abuse included a man defecating outside his parents’ house.

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Rafiq told a DCMS select committee that the only thing to change in the 13 months since he first gave harrowing evidence of the racism he faced in cricket is that he’s been driven out of the country.

Rafiq told the DCMS committee: “I haven’t felt supported at all. In the last couple of months, I have received 24/7 security, but I have been forced to leave. Providing of security has been good but there was no protection at times.

“I have felt even the ECB has been involved in the leaking and planting of stories about me. I have felt that when there has been any chance to discredit my experiences, I felt like even the ECB has tried to do that. For me, I don’t think it’s about individuals. The structural problems within cricket are a lot bigger.

“If I was to look at 13 months on from me opening my heart out, all that’s changed really is that me and my family have been driven out of the country. And that’s a sad element of it.”

January/February 2023 – Hearing set for March; number of charged individuals withdraw

The hearing into allegations of racism at Yorkshire – which will be chaired by the Cricket Discipline Commission – was set for March.

Yorkshire’s admittance of four amended racism charges means they will not attend and nor will Ballance, after the former England batter and now Zimbabwe international admitted his charge of using racially discriminatory language.

Richard Pyrah, Yorkshire, county cricket
Richard Pyrah says Rafiq’s allegations of racism at Yorkshire have been ‘badly handled’ and ‘not appropriately challenged’

Vaughan is the only charged individual set to appear at the public hearing with Hoggard, Pyrah, Blain and Bresnan joining Gale in withdrawing their co-operation from the process.

Gale had withdrawn the previous year, calling the process “tainted” while Pyrah wrote in February that Rafiq’s allegations of racism were “badly handled” and “not appropriately challenged”.

Former Yorkshire bowling coach Pyrah said he had “lost a very promising professional coaching career”.

Yorkshire also revealed that documents relating to allegations of racism against the club were deleted during the tenure of a previous regime.

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