Azeem Rafiq should be “praised” for his bravery and “should never have been put through” the Yorkshire County Cricket Club racism scandal, says the club’s new chair Lord Patel.
Lord Patel said Yorkshire has settled the employment tribunal with Rafiq.
A report found former player Rafiq was a victim of “racial harassment and bullying” at Yorkshire but the club said it would not discipline anyone.
“Azeem is a whistleblower and should be praised as such,” Patel said.
“He should never have been put through this.
“We’re sorry for what you and your family have experienced and the way in which we’ve handled this.
“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.”
The scandal has engulfed cricket over the past week and has led to the resignation of senior figures at Yorkshire, the club being suspended from hosting international matches and a host of sponsors ending their deals.
In September, a year after Rafiq went public with his allegations, Yorkshire released its own summary findings of the report and subsequently said no-one would be disciplined.
But the investigation was criticised after it reportedly found a racist term about Rafiq’s Pakistani heritage was regularly used towards him while at the club and concluded it was “friendly and good-natured banter”.
Patel, a former England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) member who was appointed on Friday after the resignation of Roger Hutton, said the investigation was “flawed” and promised “seismic change” at the club.
“What I’ve seen so far does feel uncomfortable,” said Patel, who also revealed he has spoken to Rafiq at length and asked him to be involved in future decisions at the club.
“It makes me feel the process wasn’t as well completed as it should have been.”
Speaking at a press conference following his appointment, Patel said he had taken immediate steps in response to the scandal. These are:
- Settling the employment tribunal with Rafiq, which does not include a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), as the club previously requested.
- Setting up an independent whistleblowing hotline for other victims of discrimination to come forward.
- Commissioning a review of processes and procedures on diversity and inclusion at Yorkshire.
- Sharing the full report into Rafiq’s allegations with parties who have a “legal interest”, including Rafiq’s lawyers, the ECB and MPs.
In a statement, Rafiq thanked Patel for ending the legal proceedings.
Rafiq filed a claim against Yorkshire last December, separate to the Yorkshire report, “claiming direct discrimination and harassment on the grounds of race, as well as victimisation and detriment as a result of trying to address racism at the club”.
“It should not have taken the rest of the club a year to realise I would not be silenced through an NDA,” he said.
“I spoke out because I wanted to create change at the club. I brought a legal claim because the club refused to acknowledge the problem and create change.
“For the first time I can remember, I have hope that this might happen – but I will be watching and continuing to campaign to ensure that it does.”
Patel also condemned death threats some Yorkshire staff have received and spoke at length about Yorkshire being his “home”.
He said he had not yet been able to read the Rafiq report in its entirety.
“Clearly there’s a problem. I’ve been appointed to see if this club is institutionally racist and how we can address that,” Patel said.
“Part of my role will be to examine and be clear about what errors have been made in the handling of Azeem Rafiq’s complaints, both in terms of the investigation and the actions declared following that and how we can learn from that it.
“I am determined to make this club the beating heart of English cricket again.
“After 158 years, we are ready to change, accept the past and are ready to become a club people can trust to do the right thing.”
Rafiq report timeline
2 September 2020: Following an initial interview with Wisden, ESPN Cricinfo publish an article with Rafiq in which he claims “institutional racism” at Yorkshire County Cricket Club left him close to taking his own life.
3 September 2020: Yorkshire says it has launched a “formal investigation” into the claims made by Rafiq and chairman Roger Hutton says the club would be carrying out a “wider review” of its “policies and culture”
5 September 2020: Yorkshire asks an independent law firm to investigate racism allegations against the club by Rafiq.
13 November 2020: Rafiq says he hopes to bring about “meaningful change” after giving his first statement to the inquiry.
15 December 2020: Rafiq files a legal claim against Yorkshire “claiming direct discrimination and harassment on the grounds of race, as well as victimisation and detriment as a result of trying to address racism at the club”.
2 February 2021: Yorkshire threatens a lifetime ban for anyone found to have made threats against Rafiq or his family and legal team, after ESPN Cricinfo shows the club messages sent to Rafiq’s legal firm.
17 June 2021: An employment tribunal case between Rafiq and his former club Yorkshire fails to find a resolution. The independent investigation into his racism allegations remains ongoing.
19 August 2021: Yorkshire, yet to release the findings of the report at this stage, admits Rafiq was “the victim of inappropriate behaviour” and offer him “profound apologies”.
Rafiq accuses Yorkshire of downplaying racism by calling him the victim of “inappropriate behaviour”.
8 September 2021: MPs tell Yorkshire to publish the findings of the report “immediately”.
10 September 2021: Yorkshire releases the findings of the report, which says Rafiq was the “victim of racial harassment and bullying” and seven of the 43 allegations made by the player were upheld by an independent panel.
According to Hutton, the report said there was “insufficient evidence to conclude that Yorkshire County Cricket Club is institutionally racist”.
Yorkshire released a summary of the panel’s report and recommendations, but said the full report could not be released for legal reasons “in relation to privacy law and defamation”.
8 October 2021: Yorkshire misses a deadline to send the full report to Rafiq and his legal team after BBC Sport understands an employment judge ordered the club to release it in full by Friday, 8 October.
13 October 2021: Rafiq then receives a heavily redacted version, while the ECB says it is still awaiting the full report.
28 October 2021: Yorkshire says it carried out its own internal investigation after the findings in the report and concluded that “there is no conduct or action taken by any of its employees, players or executives that warrants disciplinary action”.
2 November 2021: The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee calls on Hutton to appear before it to answer questions about Yorkshire’s handling of a report into Rafiq’s allegations of racism.
MP Knight, chair of the DCMS select committee, calls on the board of Yorkshire County Cricket Club to resign after a leaked report emerges apparently containing details of the investigation into the treatment of Rafiq.
A story published by ESPN says the report had concluded that a racially offensive term used towards Rafiq was regarded as “banter”.
Knight makes his comments after health secretary Javid calls for “heads to roll” at Yorkshire and said if the ECB did not take action “it’s not fit for purpose”. He further states in a Twitter post that the term allegedly used to describe Rafiq was “not banter”.
The ECB announces it will conduct a “full” investigation into the situation.
3 November 2021: The date of the DCMS hearing is scheduled for 16 November and Rafiq is called to give evidence in person, along with senior Yorkshire officials.
Several sponsors, including primary sponsor Emerald Publishing and Yorkshire Tea, end their partnerships with Yorkshire County Cricket Club.
Current Yorkshire batter Gary Ballance releases a lengthy statement expressing regret for using a racial slur against former team-mate Rafiq.
4 November 2021: The ECB board suspends Yorkshire from hosting international matches.
Kit supplier Nike ends a four-year deal, announced in March 2021.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan says he was named in the report but “totally denies any allegation of racism”.
5 November 2021: Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton resigns over the club’s response and apologises “unreservedly” to Rafiq. Two further board members also quit and a fourth will step down in the near future. Lord Kamlesh Patel of Bradford is appointed as a director and chair of the club.
Former Yorkshire player Rana Naved-ul-Hasan says he heard an alleged racist comment made by Vaughan to a group of Asian players.
8 November 2021: Speaking for the first time since his appointment, Lord Patel apologises to Rafiq and says the club has settled the employment tribunal with its former player.