Yorkshire CCC chair Lord Patel offers unreserved apology to Azeem Rafiq

The new Yorkshire CCC chair, Lord Patel, has apologised to Azeem Rafiq over the county’s handling of his racism and bullying allegations.

“Azeem is a whistleblower and should be praised as such, he should never have been put through this,” Patel said at a press conference. “We’re sorry for what you and your family have experienced and the way in which we’ve handled this.”

The club have been widely criticised, with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) suspending their right to host international matches and a number of sponsors walking away. Last week the former chair, Roger Hutton, stepped down along with two other board members.

“I thank Azeem for his bravery in speaking out. Let me be clear from the outset, racism or discrimination in any form is not banter.” That term was reportedly used in the county’s report into Rafiq’s allegations, including that a teammate had repeatedly used the P-word as a derogatory slur aimed towards him.

Patel also said Yorkshire had settled a separate employment tribunal with Rafiq. “Absolutely no restrictions have been placed on Azeem on what he can or cannot say about his experiences. The settlement does not involve a non-disclosure agreement.”

A specialist independent review of the county’s processes and procedures on diversity and inclusion has also been commissioned by Patel. The new chair has spoken to the ECB about the restoration of international cricket to Headingley but that Yorkshire still need to “address the root causes” that had led to the suspension.

Patel said he had not been fully able to digest Yorkshire’s report into Rafiq’s allegations, but added: “What I’ve seen so far does feel uncomfortable. It makes me feel the process wasn’t as well completed as it should have been.”

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Yorkshire will release the report to those who had a “legal interest” rather than simply publish it, he added – including the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Julian Knight MP, the chair of the digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) committee.

Rafiq issued a statement shortly after the press conference ended. “I want to thank my family, the public, politicians, the media and the many players and coaches who have supported me,” he wrote. “I also want to thank Lord Patel for making the offer and sorting this out within 72 hours of his appointment.”

“As Lord Patel said, this is just the start if we are to make cricket open to everyone, no matter their background,” the 30-year-old added. “Yorkshire CCC and the sport at large desperately need reform … I urge others who have suffered to come forward. There is strength in numbers and I will be right behind you.”

Rafiq also renewed calls for Yorkshire’s chief executive, Mark Arthur, and the director of cricket, Martyn Moxon, to step down. “I urge them to do the right thing and resign to make way for those who will do what is needed for the club’s future,” Rafiq said.

Patel was ambivalent on the future of either board member during the press conference. “Leadership is important in any of these circumstances,” he said. “But I need to look across the system and how people behaved, what made that happen and where we need to go next.”

The 61-year-old said he had spoken with Rafiq for more than six hours since his appointment as chair on Friday. “It was difficult and it was actually quite sad. It was tough for me, it was incredibly tough for him,” he said. “You did feel ‘why would we do this to any human being’?”

Patel has asked Rafiq to “sit on his shoulder” and “challenge him” on how he handles matters from this point onwards and added: “It would be a shame not to work together to seek his help to find a way forward.”

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