Azeem Rafiq believes Yorkshire’s international cricket ban should be overturned after claiming the county club is moving in the “right direction” under chair Lord Kamlesh Patel.
Yorkshire were suspended in November from hosting international or major matches by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) for their “wholly unacceptable” handling of Rafiq’s racism claims.
Rafiq also gave evidence in an emotional DCMS hearing two months ago, and in a column for Wednesday’s Daily Mail, the former Yorkshire player said the county have shown positive progress since Lord Patel replaced Roger Hutton – enough, in Rafiq’s view, for Headingley to host international cricket once more.
“It has been a whirlwind since I appeared in front of MPs almost two months ago, and what Yorkshire and Lord Patel have done to bring change is definitely a step in the right direction,” Rafiq said.
“That is why I believe the time is right to say they should be given back the international cricket so vital to their very survival. The people of Yorkshire should be able to watch England in Test and white-ball games at Headingley this summer.
“The county had been very reluctant to implement any sort of change during my time at the club, and since then when I highlighted everything that had happened to me there. And that is why we were here in the first place.
“But if we are asking an institution to look at itself then we should recognise when it begins to show it is genuinely sorry and attempts to start putting things right. Yorkshire need to be supported and helped to move in that right direction. They do seem willing to do the right thing now. Hopefully their actions under new chair Lord Patel have shown that.”
Lord Patel also expressed his desire to see Yorkshire’s suspension lifted, suggesting the ECB could make a decision by the end of January.
The Yorkshire chair said in an op-ed on Tuesday: “It is my hope that Yorkshire can set a clear template for other clubs to use so that we as a sport can raise the standard of how we treat others, and how we measure our success.
“It is also my hope that the people of Yorkshire and our supporters across the UK can now start to feel a glimmer of pride – and, of course, that the ECB’s decision at the end of this month sees our beloved stadium again able to be a global stage for cricketing excellence.
“While we still have a long road and a lot of hard work ahead, the potential prize is great: a once in a generation opportunity not only to transform the game in Yorkshire, but also provide a model for learning and change – both in cricket and across the world of sport.”
Meanwhile, Rafiq also praised the appointment of Darren Gough as director of cricket, adding: “I’m encouraged by his involvement, not least because the game needs people like him back directly involved. Goughie will get things done.”
Report on cricket’s racism crisis to be published Friday
A parliamentary committee report on cricket’s racism crisis is due to be published on Friday.
The cross-party DCMS committee said it will set out its findings later this week following Rafiq’s hearing in November.
Yorkshire accepted in September last year there was “no question” Rafiq had faced racial harassment and bullying during his time at the club, as they published a summary of the findings and recommendations of an independent report which got under way almost a year earlier.
However, the county faced significant backlash for their decision not to publish the full report, or to take disciplinary action against any individuals based on the report.
On the same day the committee heard from Rafiq, it also heard from the current and former chairs of Yorkshire – Lord Patel and Roger Hutton – and from England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive Tom Harrison.
Rafiq said attempts to raise complaints about the discriminatory treatment he faced at Yorkshire fell on deaf ears, before an investigation was finally launched in October 2020.
Chief executive Mark Arthur resigned four days before Rafiq’s appearance before the committee, while Yorkshire announced on December 3 that director of cricket Martyn Moxon and head coach Andrew Gale were among 16 members of staff who had been dismissed.
Lord Patel said on November 8 that the county had settled a separate employment tribunal claim from Rafiq.
The Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC), which is looking at racism and discrimination within the game, said it was “inundated” with more than 2,000 responses in the fortnight after it opened a call for evidence on November 9.
On November 29, the ECB published a game-wide 12-point plan to tackle discrimination, with Harrison admitting the sport had been hit by an “earthquake” following the allegations of racism at county level from Rafiq and other players.
The plan includes a governance review of the ECB, which will consider whether the sport needs an independent regulator. The effectiveness of its oversight of Yorkshire’s handling of the Rafiq investigation was questioned by the DCMS committee.
The game-wide plan will also tackle dressing-room culture, attempt to remove any barriers that exist in the talent pathway and endeavour to make cricket a more inclusive environment for players and spectators.
Organisations have also been set targets for board diversity to include 30 per cent female or locally representative ethnicity by April. Compliance will be subject to a “comply or explain” provision.
ECB central funding could be withheld where equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) minimum standards are not met.