The England and Wales Cricket Board has intervened to ensure the publication of a report into racism at Yorkshire after Azeem Rafiq, whose allegations of abuse prompted the investigation, described the process as “a sham”.
It emerged on Wednesday that there were no immediate plans to publish the report, which was delivered to executives at Headingley last Saturday, prompting Rafiq to claim the club was “trying to bury it” and appeal to the governing body for assistance. The call was answered within hours as the ECB demanded that Yorkshire deliver a timeline for publication and praised the player’s “considerable courage”.
It is almost exactly a year since Rafiq, a former captain both of England’s Under-19s and Yorkshire’s Twenty20 side, first spoke publicly about his experiences of racism at the club. They started their investigation after he spoke out again last September.
“Do I think there is institutional racism? It’s at its peak in my opinion,” he said. “It’s worse than it’s ever been.” At the time Roger Hutton, the Yorkshire chairman, spoke of “approaching impartial external parties … to ensure complete transparency”.
It is understood that the 100-page report upholds many of Rafiq’s allegations – but when it will be made public, and how much of it will be redacted, remains uncertain. “We’ve waited a year for this report and they are still trying to bury it,” Rafiq told ESPNcricinfo.
“The ECB’s own anti-discrimination code states that any alleged breach must be investigated and dealt with in a ‘timely’ fashion. Well, it’s been more than a year and no one has been held accountable and nothing has changed. At some stage the ECB need to act or, by passively accepting the situation, they are part of the problem.”
The timing of the report’s completion has fallen awkwardly, coming only weeks before the next stage of Rafiq’s legal complaint against Yorkshire but more pressingly with attention about to fall on the county as the third Test between England and India starts at Headingley next Wednesday.
At the launch of its Anti-Discrimination Code of Conduct, which was brought in before the start of this season, the ECB’s chief executive, Tom Harrison, said the organisation was “absolutely committed in our resolve to stamp out any form of discrimination and to make the game more inclusive and diverse”, and that the code “sends a clear message that any discriminatory behaviour will be dealt with through disciplinary processes and sanctions”.
There will be concern that the pace of Yorkshire’s response, and the opacity of its actions, does not echo that clear message. They are also reported to have offered Rafiq a considerable financial settlement in exchange for him signing a non-disclosure agreement, which he refused. Yorkshire did not respond to the Guardian’s request for comment on Wednesday.
Though Rafiq’s complaints predate the code’s introduction and relate to historic failures, some of the players and coaches named in the report remain active. “Nothing will get done if we leave it to the club,” Rafiq told ESPNcricinfo. “They wouldn’t have had an enquiry if the media hadn’t forced them into it. Now they’ll try to cover up the conclusions. They’ve had their chance. It’s time for the ECB and politicians to step in.”
Within hours the ECB did indeed become involved, with the chairman, Ian Watmore, demanding that Yorkshire deliver a copy of the report to the governing body. “We respect the independent process behind the review, and the club’s legal responsibilities to all parties. We also understand the frustration at the length of time this investigation has taken,” he said.
“Now that the club has a full copy of the report, we have today written to Yorkshire to formally request a copy, together with a timeline for publication.
“It has taken considerable courage for Azeem Rafiq to speak out, and it is right that his experiences should have been thoroughly investigated. We now look forward to receiving a copy of the report promptly to enable us to fulfil our role as the ultimate regulator of the game.”
Last November, after he first gave evidence to the panel appointed by Yorkshire to investigate his allegations, and two members of the panel stood down to act instead as witnesses, Rafiq’s lawyer spoke of her “serious concerns about the initial handling of Azeem’s complaint and the people appointed to be involved in that process”.
The next stage of Rafiq’s legal complaint against Yorkshire, following a failed attempt at resolution through judicial mediation, is a case-management hearing arranged for September, with a final hearing yet to be scheduled.