‘Made to feel like an outsider for being a Muslim’
LONDON: The England Cricket Board has banned Yorkshire county from hosting international matches for failing to act on former player Azeem Rafiq’s racial abuse charges, which were proved to be true in an independent inquiry, calling the club’s approach “abhorrent”.
England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) took the decision a day after Yorkshire player Gary Ballance admitted using a racial slur against his ex-teammate Rafiq.
“… YCCC are suspended from hosting international or major matches until it has clearly demonstrated that it can meet the standards expected of an international venue, ECB member and First Class County,” the ECB said in a statement after its board meeting.
The club ground Headingley is due to host the third Test against New Zealand in June next year, as well as an ODI against South Africa and the potential for knockout fixtures in the Hundred, as the host venue of Northern Superchargers. They were also scheduled to host an Ashes Test in 2023. All these games are now in jeopardy.
“It is clear to the Board that YCCC’s handling of the issues raised by Azeem Rafiq is wholly unacceptable and is causing serious damage to the reputation of the game. The ECB find this matter abhorrent and against the spirit of cricket and its values,” the statement added.
“There is no place for racism or any form of discrimination in cricket and where it is found, swift action must be taken. This matter must be dealt with robustly if the sport is to demonstrate its commitment to truly being a game for everyone.”
The ECB also banned Ballance from England selection for an indefinite period. Ballance has accepted his guilt of being responsible for some of the offensive and derogatory terms that Rafiq revealed he was subjected during his time playing for the county in northern England.
“Before any regulatory investigation is complete, the Board wishes to take immediate action in relation to Gary Ballance. While Mr Ballance has not been selected to play for England since 2017, he will be suspended indefinitely from selection. This position will be reviewed following the ECB regulatory investigation into his conduct.”
The ECB Board asked the ECB Executive to commission a review of Yorkshire CCC’s governance to consider whether the existing arrangements are fit for purpose.
The cricket club recently concluded that no employees would face any action over Rafiq’s claims of institutional racism, leading to major sponsors this week abandoning deals over the handling of the case.
“The ECB will therefore hold YCCC to account in relation to their handling of the matter. Sanctions including, but not limited to, financial and future major match allocations may be considered at the conclusion of our investigations.
“Given recent events, it is clear there are serious questions regarding the governance and management of YCCC. The club’s failure in relation to actions and responses to their own report represent a significant breach of its obligations to the game,” the cricket body said.
Azeem Rafiq, a former England under-19 captain, said in interviews last year that as a Muslim he was made to feel like an “outsider” during his time at Yorkshire from 2008-18 and that he was close to taking his own life.
Rafiq made 43 allegations relating to his time at Yorkshire, of which seven were upheld by an independent panel, which added there was “no question” he was subjected to racial harassment and bullying.
Ballance’s name was redacted in a summary of the independent report into Rafiq’s wide-ranging claims of institutional racism.
Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton has been called to appear before the select committee of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to give evidence on the matter, with Rafiq also invited to the session, which is set to be held on November 16.
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