Protests and death threats stoke Yorkshire cricket’s racism scandal

The continuing racism scandal at Yorkshire County Cricket Club intensified this weekend with protests outside the ground on Saturday and claims staff have received death threats.

The club was plunged into turmoil last week after a report carried out into a culture of racism described the use of the p-slur against former Yorkshire captain Azeem Rafiq as “banter” that, it said, warranted no further action.

A protest outside the stadium in Headingley on Saturday saw cricket fans, including Rafiq’s young son, his sister and his father, call for the release of Yorkshire CCC’s full report and an end to racism in cricket.

As heavy rain lashed down on the gathered protesters, Rafiq’s father held a homemade sign that read “Racism is not banter”. Addressing the crowd, Leeds University lecturer Dr Abdul-Bashid Shaikh said: “We call upon Yorkshire CCC to do the right thing and acknowledge that racism exists and it has fallen short of the standards we expect from such a prestigious club.” He called for Yorkshire to take “concrete steps” to eliminate institutional racism.

Mohammed Patel, a human rights lawyer who organised the protest, told the Observer: “Yorkshire County Cricket Club failed in their duty. No doubt about it. To drag an ex-player through everything that he has endured, to the brink of him thinking of taking his own life, there’s no excuse for that. That’s why everyone is here today.” Rafiq, who played for Yorkshire for two spells between 2008 and 2018, has said he was left feeling suicidal after his treatment by fellow players and a failure to investigate complaints of racism by the Yorkshire CCC board.

On Thursday night the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) suspended all internationals and other big games at Yorkshire’s ground and the club’s main sponsors withdrew their support after a public backlash.

The former England batsman Mark Ramprakash called for Yorkshire CCC to be “dragged into 2021” after what he said was a “disappointing” reaction to accusations of racism.

Ramprakash told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday: “The attitudes of the board show… a lack of contrition and a lack of understanding of the gravity of what happened. That is what is so disappointing.” A source at the club said that extra security has now been brought in to protect staff working at the cricket ground after some of them received death threats. It is not suggested any of the protesters were involved.Staff said Friday’s Yorkshire CCC board meeting was held over Zoom, instead of in person, for security reasons and that the majority of staff have been told to work from home if possible for the foreseeable future.

The club also took down the staff directory from its website on Friday. The events come in the face of anger from cricket fans in Yorkshire over what many see as blatant attempts by the club to sweep the problem of systemic racism under the carpet.

Azeem Rafiq, pictured in 2018
Azeem Rafiq, pictured in 2018, said he felt suicidal after treatment by fellow players and Yorkshire CCC’s failure to investigate his accusations of racism. Photograph: Allan McKenzie/Rex

The report, which took 12 months to complete and remains unpublished, upheld seven of Rafiq’s 43 allegations and accepted he had faced “racial harassment and bullying”. Yorkshire announced last week that no current employees would face action as a result. Rafiq will give evidence to parliament’s digital, culture, media and sport select committee on 16 November. A second player, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, has said he too had experienced “systematic taunting” and racism at Yorkshire and an additional investigation at the club is now taking place into claims by another unnamed Asian player that he suffered racism and was urinated on by another player.

The club’s chairman, Roger Hutton, who was appointed in April 2020, stood down on Friday along with two other board members. In interviews, he accused the ECB of failing to act and not providing necessary support to Yorkshire while it attempted to investigate the racism claims.

The ECB has now launched its own investigation to decide whether further sanctions need to be taken.

On Friday evening it emerged the Equality and Human Rights Commission had also made contact with Yorkshire requesting access to the full independent report into Rafiq’s claims and was considering whether or not to pursue action against the club.

Hutton has been replaced by Kamlesh Patel, who said there was “much work to do” to redress the damage caused by the botched investigation. After his appointment, Lord Patel spoke out about how he had experienced “loads” of racism growing up in Bradford and playing cricket, particularly the use of the p-slur.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan strongly denies making racist comments
Former England captain Michael Vaughan has been accused of making racist comments, an allegation he strongly denies. Photograph: Visionhaus/Getty Images

“When I was a boy I developed into a very fast runner,” he said in an interview with ESPNcricinfo. “Do you know why? Because gangs of skinheads used to delight in what they called ‘Paki-bashing’ and you either learned to run or you took a beating.

“So that word – the ‘Paki’ word – has real meaning for me. I don’t need to be told it’s not banter.”Having trained as a social worker, Patel chairs Social Work England and is a former chair of the Mental Health Act Commission.

Large sponsors such as Nike, Emerald group and Yorkshire Tea withdrew their support for the club with immediate effect. Tetley’s brewery and David Lloyd Clubs said they would not renew their contracts with Yorkshire, while Leeds Beckett University, which teaches at the ground, pulled its branding from Yorkshire CCC’s website.

Ripples from the allegations have hit Michael Vaughan, who was removed by the BBC from Radio 5 live’s The Tuffers and Vaughan Cricket Showon Monday after two cricketers said they heard the former England captain make racist comments while playing for Yorkshire in 2009.

The decision came after Vaughan, who has worked as an expert summariser and analyst on Test Match Special for 12 years, was accused of telling three players of Asian descent that there were “too many of you lot, we need to do something about it” before a county match in Nottingham.

Yorkshire CCC did not respond to requests for comment. Vaughan strongly denies allegations of racism.

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