'Totally unacceptable': Leeds Council leader responds to racism allegations surrounding Yorkshire County Cricket Club

The leader of Leeds City Council has condemned the response from Yorkshire County Cricket Club as “totally unacceptable” following racism allegations from a former player.
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It follows claims this week that the club had dismissed racial taunts from former teammates of Azeem Rafiq as “banter”, which drew condemnation this week from politicians and sports figures from around the country.

The leader of Leeds City Council and the council’s executive member with responsibility for sport have now spoken out, adding that inaction from Yorkshire has damaged the club’s relationship with the region’s south Asian community.

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Leeds City Council leader, James Lewis.Leeds City Council leader, James Lewis.
Leeds City Council leader, James Lewis.
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“I know the reported lack of action by the club against individuals who were found to have used racist language is offensive to so many people in Leeds.

“The club urgently needs to address the organisation and culture factors that allowed this to happen and the cricket authorities need to intervene and make sure these issues never happen again.”

Meanwhile, the council’s executive member for public health and active lifestyles Salma Arif, said: “Cricket is a much loved game amongst the Pakistani and the wider South Asian community in Leeds, but the way Yorkshire County Cricket Club have handled Azeem Rafiq’s allegations is damaging to the community’s relationship with them.

“They now need to reach out to our communities and start to rebuild the trust that has very clearly been lost.”

Headingley Stadium. Picture: PA.Headingley Stadium. Picture: PA.
Headingley Stadium. Picture: PA.
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Yorkshire CCC conducted a report into allegations of institutional racism made by Rafiq in 2020.

The club recently released a summary of a report’s findings, which did not uphold Rafiq’s central allegations that the club was institutionally racist, or that his race played a part in his release from the club in 2018.

In a statement released last week, Yorkshire added: “The club has carried out their own internal investigation following the findings in the report after which they are able to report that they have come to the conclusion that there is no conduct or action taken by any of its employees, players or executives that warrants disciplinary action.

“None of this diminishes the importance of the findings or that fact that there is much the Club can learn from the Report.

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"It was important for Azeem to raise the issues and without him doing so we would not have the Panel’s recommendations which are an important part of the Clubs continuing journey.”

But, according to sports news website ESPNcricinfo, one of Rafiq’s then-teammates escaped sanctions after calling him a racial slur. It was alleged by the website that the term was used as part of friendly “banter” between the two players.

This has since been met with a wave of condemnation by politicians and cricketing figures, and Rafiq has now been called to give evidence to a Parliamentary select committee at a hearing on November 16.

Yorkshire CCC has been approached to respond to Coun Lewis and Coun Arif’s comments.

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