Halifax MP among group of politicians calling for independent inquiry' into Yorkshire County Cricket Club amid Azeem Rafiq racism scandal

Halifax MP is among more than 30 Yorkshire politicians have written to the England and Wales Cricket Board calling for an “immediate independent inquiry” into Yorkshire Cricket Club’s reported handling of racist remarks made towards Azeem Rafiq.

By Ian Hirst
Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 2:52 pm
Halifax MP Holly Lynch
Halifax MP Holly Lynch

Yorkshire’s two Metro Mayors, Dan Jarvis and Tracy Brabin, along with a large regional cross-party group of MPs, have called for the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to urgently investigate Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC) over its treatment of cricketer Azeem Rafiq.

It follows reports that YCCC attempted to dismiss repeated racist abuse directed at Mr Rafiq, as ‘banter’.

The letter, signed by 34 Yorkshire MPs and the Mayors, calls for the ECB to launch an immediate and comprehensive new investigation into YCCC’s handling of the original allegations, with consequences for both the players responsible, and board members who failed to address this blatant racism.

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South Yorkshire Mayor and Barnsley Central MP, Dan Jarvis, who coordinated the letter, said: “The disgraceful treatment of Azeem Rafiq has brought Yorkshire County Cricket Club into disrepute. It’s appalling that anyone has to suffer racist abuse in the workplace, and then for that abuse to be repeatedly dismissed as ‘banter’ is utterly unacceptable.

The English Cricket Board needs to act urgently to rectify these failures, eradicate the scourge of racism from cricket and restore the reputation of cricket in Yorkshire.

Azeem Rafiq has been courageous in speaking out and has my full support. There is no place for racism anywhere.”

Halifax MP, Holly Lynch, who signed the letter, said: “Yorkshire’s MPs have been appalled at what has unfolded at Yorkshire Country Cricket Club. For such blatant racism to be disregarded as ‘banter’ points to incredibly serious systemic failures to recognise and root out racism.

The whole of the county and all of our communities should be able to take pride in the regional cricket team but this sorry episode has undermined that.

MPs are now ensuring that Parliament and national bodies intervene to ensure those responsible are held to account.”

Signatories to the letter include West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin, as well as MPs on both sides of the House, such as Conservative Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake and his Penistone and Stocksbridge colleague Miriam Cates, as well as Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and Deputy Speaker Dame Rosie Winterton.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid called for “heads [to] roll” at the club and that if the ECB did not take action, “it’s not fit for purpose”.

A report previously found Mr Rafiq had been a victim of racial harassment and bullying after upholding seven out of 43 allegations he made.

Despite a “full apology” being issued, Yorkshire said last week it did not believe any club employee, player or executive had acted in a way that “warrants disciplinary action”.

The report has not been made public, but earlier this week, ESPNcricinfo published details from the report, stating a current senior player at the club had admitted to regularly using the term ‘P***’ when talking to Mr Rafiq.

It said the panel had not only deemed the remarks - which the player admitted had reduced Mr Rafiq to tears at one point - as intended to be “good-natured banter” but they also accused Mr Rafiq himself of using racist language himself by referring to a player of Zimbabwean heritage as ‘Zimbo from Zimbabwe’.

However, ‘Zimbo’ is commonly understood to be a demonym - with its general usage similar to non-offensive terms such as ‘Brit’ or ‘Aussie’.