But Lord Kamlesh Patel warned that there is ‘no quick-fix’ due to the complex problems at the club in the wake of Azeem Rafiq’s explosive testimony to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee yesterday.
Over the course of what could go down as a watershed day for the sport, ex-internationals Matthew Hoggard, Tim Bresnan, Alex Hales and Gary Ballance were all subject to fresh claims of racial discrimination that paint a torrid picture of how Rafiq’s dream career turned into a battle against depression.
Former chairman Roger Hutton, when asked by the DCMS if he thought the club was ‘instituionally racist’, said: “I fear that it falls within the definition (of institutional racism).”
In a statement released through Yorkshire CCC, Lord Patel said: “This is an incredibly difficult day for all associated with Yorkshire County Cricket Club.
“The emotion of Azeem Rafiq’s compelling testimony at the Select Committee today was plain to see, and his experiences are harrowing and upsetting.
“Azeem’s courage in speaking up should be praised, and nobody should underestimate how difficult it would have been to relive all of this in public.
“His wish to bring a ‘voice to the voiceless’ should be an inspiration to provoke real change in the sport.
“I repeat our apology to Azeem for what he has gone through, it should never have happened and that is something that the club has to recognise.
“It is becoming ever clearer since I joined this club that what happened with the investigation into Azeem’s allegations was fundamentally flawed and unacceptable. The processes and subsequent actions taken by the club have rightly been criticised.
“There is no quick fix to the clear problems which have been identified, and the issues are complex, not least the charge of institutional racism which must be addressed head on. Azeem noted that this is not about individuals, but rather the structure and processes of the club, and we need to tackle this.
“It is clear that we have good people at Yorkshire County Cricket Club and that gives me hope that we can. I am struck by the concept of ‘White Rose’ values and what that means: I want to say firmly that our values at this club cannot be in any way rooted in racism, discrimination or abuse of any kind.
“I agree with Azeem that we are only at the start of a journey, which will take time. At the heart of this is listening, and going through our past – including the Fletcher Report – as well as examining our culture and taking positive steps to build to a better future, such as the progression from grass roots to the professional game. We need to own the issues collectively as a club, and cannot hide from what has been spotlighted.
“As well as the set-up of the independent whistleblowing hotline, we are committed to taking further action in response, and will communicate these steps transparently.
“In his testimony, Azeem said that, despite the treatment he received, ‘Yorkshire is still my club’.
“I want to make this Cricket Club a source of pride once again, righting the wrongs of the past and making sure that we are an inclusive home for aspiring players of the future.”
In the published written statement from his now-settled employment tribunal with Yorkshire, Rafiq said that Bresnan’s treatment of him led to “suicidal thoughts” in 2017, with a later apology from Bresnan described by Rafiq as “lip service”.
The 30-year-old claimed Ballance’s derogatory use of the term ‘Kevin’ as a blanket term for all people of colour was “an open secret in the England dressing room”.
Ballance has previously admitted using a “racial slur” against Rafiq over the course of a deep friendship but the latter rejected that assertion. Instead he says Ballance coined an unwanted and offensive nickname and would “constantly talk down to me and make racist jokes, designed to undermine me and make me feel small”. Examples involved references to corner shops, Sheikhs and being related to other Asian men.
Ballance is accused of repeatedly calling Rafiq ‘P***’, an allegation that was also levelled individually at Hoggard, Bresnan and Gale.
Bresnan last night apologised to Rafiq but catergorically denied the accusation he made frequent racist comments.
Rafiq added: “From 2017 onwards, when Andrew Gale, Tim Bresnan and Gary Ballance either coached and/or captained the team, I became the constant target of their racist comments and alleged banter and bullying culture.”
Rafiq said that he told director of cricket Martyn Moxon in August 2017 about the bullying and racism he faced and that “nothing was done”.
“As director of cricket, Martyn was responsible for my professional development at the club,” he said. “I felt very let down by him and felt I was not being provided the same opportunities and support as white British players.”
Gale was last week suspended pending an investigation into an historic tweet and Moxon is signed off with stress.