Investigation into Azeem Rafiq’s claims of racism at Yorkshire CCC to take three months

THE INVESTIGATION into former Yorkshire Twenty20 captain Azeem Rafiq’s claim of institutional racism at the club is expected to be completed within the next three months.

Friday, 2nd October 2020, 4:56 pm
Azeem Rafiq, pictured playing for Yorkshire Vikings against Durham at Headingley in 2017. Picture: Richard Sellers/Getty Images.

The process is under way after two new members were added to the independent panel examining the allegations, which Rafiq claimed drove him to the brink of suicide.

Rehana Azib, a barrister and employment law specialist, and Helen Hyde, former personnel director at Waitrose, have been added to what is now a five-strong panel – officially a sub-committee appointed by the Yorkshire board.

The panel is chaired by Dr Samir Pathak, a former England Universities wicketkeeper/batsman and trustee of the MCC Foundation, and includes Gulfraz Riaz, chair of the National Asian Cricket Council, and Stephen Willis, chief financial officer of Durham University and senior independent director of Yorkshire CCC.

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Hanif Malik, non-executive director of Yorkshire CCC, has stood down after Rafiq objected to his presence on the panel, claiming that he had previously outlined his concerns to him and the Yorkshire management but no action was taken.

The panel will speak to a number of past and present players, along with staff, in a bid to get to the bottom of allegations which cast a shadow over Yorkshire’s season.

Rafiq, the former off-spin bowler who left the club in 2018, claimed in a recent interview that he had played under a captain who was “openly racist” and gave various examples of what he said was institutional racism at the club.

The 29-year-old has since expressed reservations as to whether potential witnesses will back him up for fear of damaging their own situation within the sport, calling for witness anonymity to ensure that there are “no repercussions”.

Yorkshire are promising nothing less and pledge that the allegations will be investigated “thoroughly and with urgency”.

They insist they are “committed to sharing the findings of the investigation and recommendations of the panel”.

As well as addressing the specific complaints made by Rafiq, which relate to a number of alleged on-and-off field incidents, the investigation will conduct a review of the club’s internal policies and culture with regards to discriminatory conduct.

Yorkshire say they welcome such a move as they defend themselves against accusations which they believe fly in the face of their efforts to engage with cultures and ethnicities in the local community and beyond, as well as what they consider to be their support of Rafiq during his time at the club.

It is understood that there are various sub-plots to the story.

Commenting on the new appointments to the investigatory panel, Dr Samir Pathak, a liver and pancreas surgeon, said: “Rehana and Helen both have a broad background of considerable expertise and experience on which the panel can draw during the course of the investigation.

“We remain committed to conducting a fair and impartial process, and both Rehana and Helen’s extensive knowledge of the legal implications of these types of grievance procedures will be of great benefit to our review of the findings of the investigation.

“All organisations need to be diverse and inclusive, there is no space for inequality in sport or society and it is the responsibility of this committee to ensure that the investigation is conducted fairly and impartially.”

Rehana Azib remarked: “This is an important and significant time for both Mr Rafiq and Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

“It is essential that the allegations are investigated fully, objectively and rigorously.

“I look forward to working with the other members of the panel to ensure that the investigation is conducted comprehensively and fairly, and that any recommendations that may arise out of it are transparent, effective and properly implemented.”

Helen Hyde commented: “As a cricket fan of longstanding, the sport is close to my heart, but so is the notion that it must be a sport of inclusion and fairness.

“I look forward to working with the other panel members to ensure that the findings of the investigation are dealt with quickly and decisively.”

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Thank you, James Mitchinson. Editor.