Yorkshire CCC racism crisis: Headingley sponsor Emerald and Yorkshire Tea cut ties with club over Azeem Rafiq affair

Yorkshire Tea and Headingley ground sponsor Emerald are the latest companies to announce they are cutting ties with Yorkshire County Cricket Club over the handling of racism towards Azeem Rafiq.

Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 5:56 pm
Updated Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 6:18 pm
Key sponsors are cutting ties with Yorkshire over the Azeem Rafiq situation.

The decisions follow widespread criticism of Yorkshire's handling of a report which found Mr Rafiq had been a victim of racial harassment and bullying while at the club and recent revelations that the investigation had dismissed him repeatedly being called a 'P****' as "banter".

Emerald Publishing, which took over naming rights for Headingley in 2017, said: "We have today taken the decision to remove our brand association with Yorkshire County Cricket Club and Headingley Stadium.

"We do not tolerate any form of racism or discriminatory behaviour and the damaging effects this has.

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"Our intention remains to continue a financial commitment to the stadium itself, which is also the home of Leeds Rhinos rugby, as we believe this supports the aims of diversity and inclusion in sport along with a range of charitable community endeavours.

"Emerald will however no longer sponsor Yorkshire County Cricket Club. We hope that YCCC will listen and respond with serious action to eradicate racism from the club and uphold the values we all expect."

Yorkshire Tea said: "We were upset to read about the experiences of Azeem Rafiq during his time at Yorkshire County Cricket Club. We wholeheartedly believe that cricket should be a sport for everyone, but his experiences and the way the panel report has been handled don't reflect that.

"Our current partnership with YCCC was naturally coming to an end but we have taken the decision to end it with immediate effect."

A third partner, David Lloyd Clubs, said: "We operate a zero tolerance policy towards bullying or discrimination of any type.

"The partnership between our Leeds club and Yorkshire County Cricket Club was at a local level and was put on hold a few weeks ago.

"In light of recent reports regarding the treatment of Azeem Rafiq, it will not be reinstated."

This was followed by a statement from Tetley's Beer, who said they would not be extending their current contractual arrangements with the club.

The company said: "As a brand we strive to be inclusive and to work with partners that share these values. We are deeply saddened by the ongoing conversation surrounding Yorkshire County Cricket Club following the recent investigation and report, and firmly believe further decisive action is required.

"As such, we have informed Yorkshire Country Cricket Club of our intention to not extend our official beer sponsorship with them beyond the end of the current contractual agreement.

"Discussions with the relevant parties remain ongoing given we have a valued 25-year relationship with Headingley Stadium and Leeds Rhinos, which also includes the recent addition of our brand sponsorship of Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

"We are proud of our investment in sport in Leeds through these partners and do not want the actions of one club to impact on others.

It follows shirt sponsor Anchor Butter announcing earlier this week that they would be not be supporting the club in future.

It comes as the club came under increasing political pressure over its handling of a report into allegations made by former player Azeem Rafiq.

The report has not been made public but a summary published in September said Mr Rafiq had been the victim of racial harassment and bullying. However, it said panel members had been unable to determine if the club was institutionally racist, as Mr Rafiq had alleged.

Yorkshire announced last week that no employee would face disciplinary action over the findings. A leaked version of the report published by ESPNcricinfo subsequently revealed that Mr Rafiq had repeatedly been called a 'P***' by a current player - but the panel had dismissed the incidents as 'banter'.

The ECB only received a full copy of the report in Rafiq’s account last week and has promised a “full regulatory process that is fair to all parties”.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the ECB said: “We are conscious about the length of time that Azeem has waited for resolution and the toll that must be taking on his well-being and that of his family. We are sorry that, as a sport, this has not yet been resolved.”

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