Yorkshire have accepted there was “no question” Azeem Rafiq was the victim of racial harassment and bullying during his first spell at the county.
Last summer Rafiq made serious allegations about his time at the club, forcing Yorkshire to appoint lawyers to launch an investigation with an independent panel also put in place to oversee it. A summary of the panel’s findings and recommendations was finally published on Friday.
A statement from county chair Roger Hutton said: “There is no question that Azeem Rafiq, during his first spell as a player at YCCC, was the victim of racial harassment. He was also subsequently the victim of bullying. On behalf of all at YCCC, I wish to extend my sincere, profound and unreserved apologies to Azeem and to his family.”
Yorkshire said Rafiq had made in excess of 40 allegations, seven of which were upheld in the report. Those that had not been were, in some cases, due to “insufficient evidence”, Hutton said.
The report had found Rafiq, whose first spell at Yorkshire was between 2008 and 2014, had not been provided with halal food at matches, something which has now been rectified. It found there were three instances of racist language being used prior to 2010 which amounted to harassment on the grounds of race.
The report said that in 2012 a former coach “regularly used” racist language. During his second spell between 2016 and 2018, jokes around religion were made which left individuals feeling uncomfortable, it found.
Also in that time frame, a reference was made to Rafiq’s weight and fitness which amounted to bullying. The report also accepted that there was a failure by the club in August 2018 to follow up on allegations Rafiq made at that time.
The final allegation to be upheld was that on a number of occasions prior to 2018 the club could have done more to make Muslims feel more welcome within their stadiums and should have dealt better with complaints of racism and anti-social behaviour within those stadiums.
Crucially though, the report found there was insufficient evidence to conclude that the club was institutionally racist.
It also found that all decisions made concerning Rafiq’s selection and ultimate release from the club were entirely based on cricketing reasons.
Hutton said: “There were a great many people at the club who cared deeply for Azeem and who worked extremely hard over a long period to develop and assist him, both personally and professionally, and who celebrated his successes and championed him at the club.
“And there were others that worked exceptionally hard with him on his cricket, particularly when he struggled for form.”
Yorkshire said the investigation team from the law firm Squire Patton Boggs had looked at 43 allegations in all and conducted 29 interviews with 26 witnesses.
However, it did concede that “many individuals” declined to participate, which impacted on the investigation team’s ability to make findings one way or the other.
Yorkshire have been widely criticised for the length of time the process has taken –including by Rafiq himself – but the county said: “Whilst the process took longer than was hoped, the panel took the view that it was more important to get it right than to do it quickly.”
Hutton said it was “a matter of sincere regret” that the work of so many to make the club inclusive to those from ethnically diverse backgrounds was at risk of being overshadowed by “the behaviour and remarks of a few people”.
“I am confident the responsible way that the report has been received by the whole club, together with the clear and collective determination to enthusiastically embrace its recommendations, is an important moment in our journey to become more thoughtful, more inclusive and to make sure
that every aspect of the club fully lives up to the spirit of the great game of cricket,” Hutton said.