Yorkshire’s timing in releasing a statement accepting Azeem Rafiq had experienced racial harassment and bullying at the club “left a bad taste”, according to Shadow Digital Culture Media and Sport Secretary Jo Stevens.
Barely a quarter of an hour after England dramatically announced their fifth LV= Insurance Test against India at Emirates Old Trafford was off, Yorkshire conceded for the first time Rafiq had been the victim of racial abuse.
The club cited legal reasons for not releasing a full report, believed to be in excess of 100 pages compiled by an independent panel after a year-long investigation, but put out a summary of findings and recommendations on Friday.
Former England captain Nasser Hussain questioned whether Yorkshire had chosen a “good day to hide bad news” and although it is understood the county had been preparing to put out a statement prior to the international news breaking, Stevens was another to take a dim view of the situation.
“The timing of the statement left a bad taste coming as the cricketing world was focused on the unprecedented cancellation of England’s Test match with India,” the Labour MP said in a statement to the PA news agency.
Roger Hutton, the Yorkshire chair, offered “sincere, profound and unreserved apologies” to Rafiq and his family in the club’s statement, with seven of the 43 allegations made by the former off-spinner upheld.
While the rest were not upheld, some of those were because of a lack of evidence, including the central claim of institutional racism. Following Yorkshire’s release, Rafiq, who who represented the club from 2008 to 2014 then 2016 to 2018, labelled his former employers’ handling of the process “atrocious”.
DCMS chair Julian Knight accused the county of a “lack of genuine contrition” and demanded to know “what action will be taken” after the panel concluded there were three separate instances where former players used racist language before 2010 and an ex-coach “regularly used racist language” before 2012.
The panel also accepted that there was a failure by the club in August 2018 to follow up on allegations Rafiq made at that time. An enquiry was commissioned by Yorkshire last September, a month after the former England Under-19 captain said that institutional racism during his time at the club left him feeling suicidal.
The panel made a swathe of recommendations, including on policies, training, culture and recruitment, and Stevens is eager to find out how they will be implemented to avoid anyone else suffering the same mistreatment.
“It is absolutely right that Yorkshire has apologised unreservedly to Azeem Rafiq after he suffered racial harassment and bullying at the club,” Stevens added.
“It is also very concerning that the inquiry found that the club did not properly follow their own internal procedures following the initial allegations in 2018.
“Absent from their statement is any commitment as to when the recommendations of the investigation panel will be implemented. Yorkshire need to now demonstrate through actions as well as words that no employee of the club, player or otherwise, will be subjected to any form of discrimination in the future.”