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Azeem Rafiq: Yorkshire cricket racism scandal

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The English cricket team were recently the target of racism in a match against Yorkshire. The incident has caused outrage throughout England, with many commentators suggesting that it is time for change to happen in the country’s sporting culture.

Azeem RafiqIn 2012, Azeem Rafiq became Yorkshire’s youngest captain.

Cricket has been enmeshed in a controversy.

One of England’s most illustrious athletic teams is mired in a scandal, with one of its former players accusing them of being institutionally racist.

Azeem Rafiq, a 30-year-old former cricketer, claims he is on the verge of committing suicide after outlining racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, which has been roundly chastised for its reaction.

Sport explains how the issue developed and what may happen next.

Who is Azeem Rafiq, and what happened to him in Yorkshire, according to him?

Between 2008 and 2018, Rafiq spent the most of his professional cricket career with Yorkshire.

He was born in Pakistan and migrated to England when he was ten years old, where he led England junior teams. In 2012, he also captained Yorkshire.

However, after an initial interview with Wisdenexternal-link in September 2020, Rafiq informed ESPN Cricinfoexternal-link that “institutional prejudice” he faced while at the club drove him to consider suicide.

He told Sport that he hated “every second” of his career, and that one of his teammates used a racially derogatory slur because of his Pakistani ancestry.

What was Yorkshire’s retaliation?

Yorkshire began a formal inquiry into Rafiq’s accusations in September 2020, and chairman Roger Hutton said that the club will conduct a “wider assessment” of its “rules and culture.”

A complete independent inquiry has been commissioned by the law firm Squire Patton Boggs.

Rafiq made his first testimony to the commission on November 13, 2020, in which he revealed a variety of racist claims. Rafiq expressed his desire for “real change.”

Meanwhile, Rafiq filed a second employment tribunal, which was unsuccessful in reaching a conclusion.

What was the outcome of the inquiry and when did it end?

Yorkshire received the investigation’s results in August 2021 and first said that a statement would be released “in the following number of days.”

The England and Wales Cricket Board replied to Yorkshire two days later, requesting a copy of the results.

Yorkshire confirmed Rafiq was “the victim of improper behavior” the next day, despite the fact that the report’s conclusions had not yet been released, and gave him their “deep apologies.”

Yorkshire then issued their own summary of the report’s conclusions on September 10th, under fresh pressure from MPs, despite being highly chastised for doing so during the postponed fifth Test between England and India.

They stated Rafiq was a “victim of racial harassment and bullying,” with seven of the 43 complaints being substantiated, however the club said they couldn’t share the whole report due to legal concerns. They said there was insufficient evidence to show the club was racist on a systemic level.

Rafiq questioned the severity of the sanctions meted out to former players and a coach found guilty of using racist comments. He also questioned the investigation’s legitimacy.

Yorkshire were given until October 8 to deliver the entire report of the results to Rafiq and his legal team after an employment court ordered them to do so.

Yorkshire emailed Rafiq a substantially censored copy of the report five days later.

What occurred this week, specifically?

Yorkshire confirmed on October 28 that no one will face disciplinary action as a result of the study, notwithstanding the findings.

After conducting their own internal inquiry into the facts, the club said, “There is no behaviour or action committed by any of its staff, players, or executives that merits disciplinary action.”

The issue gained traction this week after ESPN Cricinfo published a report on Monday alleging that a discriminatory phrase concerning Rafiq’s Pakistani ancestry was used against him on a daily basis, but that the inquiry determined it was “friendly and good-natured banter.”

Julian Knight MP, the head of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee, responded by calling for the resignation of the Yorkshire board. Sajid Javid, the UK’s health secretary, has called for “heads to roll.”

“One of the most repulsive and terrible events in contemporary cricket history,” Knight said.

Nike, as well as some of Yorkshire’s sponsors, such as Emerald Publishing, Yorkshire Tea, Tetley’s beer, and leisure club owners David Lloyd, have either discontinued or said that they would not continue their agreements.

Rafiq’s old teammate Gary Ballance, an ex-England international, revealed on Wednesday that he was responsible for some of the racist abuse Rafiq faced while at Headingley.

Following a board meeting on Thursday, the ECB issued a forceful reaction. Yorkshire has been barred from hosting international matches unless it “clearly demonstrates that it can satisfy the anticipated standards.”

Is this example indicative of a broader issue with racism in cricket in England?

Rafiq responded to Ballance’s comments by saying it’s “not about individuals,” but rather “institutional racism and catastrophic failures” by Yorkshire and the bigger game’s authorities.

Yorkshire and cricket in general, he said, “desperately need reform and cultural transformation.”

This isn’t the first time this year that racism has surfaced in English cricket.

After prior racist and sexist comments surfaced before his England debut in June, bowler Ollie Robinson was handed an eight-game suspension.

Politicians have encouraged the European Central Bank (ECB), which is conducting its own inquiry after receiving the complete report after months of delay, to act.

So, what’s next?

Yorkshire has set an emergency board meeting for Friday, November 5th, however several members of the board are likely to leave before then.

Rafiq and top Yorkshire officials, including Hutton, chief executive Mark Arthur, and director of cricket Martyn Moxon, will be questioned by MPs later this month, and further information are anticipated to emerge.

They have been summoned to testify before the DCMS Select Committee on November 16th.

Witnesses who testify before select committees are shielded by parliamentary privilege, which means they are not subject to civil or criminal liability for what they say.

At the conclusion of its probe, the ECB indicated it might impose further punishments, including financial penalties and restrictions on future large match allocations.