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The Yorkshire Racism Affair

by Tractor

In writing this I am conscious that some readers may have a much more in-depth knowledge than mine and if you are one of them, please forgive me and maybe just conclude that this blog isn’t really being written with you in mind.

Rather, this is for anyone who is not at all familiar with the story of Azeem Rafiq, his allegations of racism and bullying against Yorkshire CCC and the club’s woeful response. Yes, someone wanting to find out could do their own Googling but what’s the harm in a little collation of information?

Rafiq played for Yorkshire in two stints, from 2008-2014 and 2016-2018. He first raised his complaints of racism and bullying in 2018 and it has taken until now (well, last month) for Yorkshire to complete their internal investigation and release the findings. The investigation upheld seven out of 43 allegations, a surprisingly low number given Rafiq’s strength of feeling that YCCC is institutionally racist.

The investigation found that halal meals had not been provided when Rafiq was playing junior cricket; that three incidents of racist language by players took place; that a coach regularly used racist language before 2012; that jokes about religion were made on numerous occasions; that the club did not initially investigate Rafiq’s allegations of racism as its policy said it should have done. In addition, Rafiq experienced bullying by another player in reference to his weight and the club should have done more to deal with complaints of racism and anti-social behaviour.

These are all unpleasant and wrong in their own respects but one can’t help but feel that Yorkshire has managed to let itself off the hook big time. For the investigation to be lacking sufficient evidence to prove or disprove the allegation of institutionalised racism, when there were 36 other items under investigation, seems weak. Clearly at this stage things got into the legal framework of burdens of proof yadda yadda yadda while Yorkshire stands there with its fingers in its ears shouting “la la la I can’t hear you we’re not really racist.”

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Yorkshire delayed the publication of the report for months. Literally the government, which a) supposedly has enough on its plate and b) is pretty much useless in every respect at this moment in time, scored possibly its only success in the last 18 months (or longer, depending on your political persuasion) by publicly calling on Yorkshire to release the report on 8th September via the Select Committee for the Department of Media, Culture and Sport. I know, it’s hardly Dishy Rishi getting involved or whatever, but by 10th September the findings of the report were out.

On the same day the Old Trafford Test got mysteriously cancelled by India’s need to get ready for the IPL. I mean Covid. Or whatever excuse was cooked up. Yorkshire’s timing can hardly have been coincidental; even if they’d planned it ahead of time, the publication would have been overshadowed by the start of a final Test that everyone was actually looking forward to as the closing piece in a highly entertaining series.

Not exactly the actions of a club wanting to hold up their hands and admit their pretty appalling failures. Not exactly the actions of a club wanting to make amends and start building relationships with a highly diverse potential fanbase and some of the most active grass roots players in England.

We know the ECB was tearing its hair out over this: while the Hundred was busy trying to attract British Asian supporters (not just ‘women and children’ which is the ‘acceptable’ way of interpreting ‘new audiences’ – see my previous posts for my thoughts on this), Yorkshire has been busy ignoring (at best) its dense populations of British Asians who are engaged in cricket, as both players and spectators.

Yorkshire claims it cannot publish the full report because of privacy and defamation laws. That is, to protect those who have been named within it. Even Rafiq has only been provided with a redacted copy, and only on 13th October, even after an employment judge ruled that he should receive the uncensored version. Likewise the ECB was quick to comment that it had not been provided with the report on 10th September and nothing has suggested otherwise thus far.

Many cricket fans are saddened to have learned that George Dobell has already/is soon to part ways with ESPN Cricinfo but he was dogged in drawing attention to Rafiq’s situation and Yorkshire’s attempts to hide. ESPN Cricinfo journalists have continued to address the story and a fair set of questions to YCCC is posed here https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/azeem-rafiq-racism-report-ten-questions-for-yorkshire-1277271 .

My feeling is that the more people talk about this situation and Yorkshire’s defensive response, the better chance we have of actually eradicating racism, whether individual or institutional, from cricket and that is something that everyone in the game should be actively working towards.

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