The England and Wales Cricket Council stepped in to secure the publication of a report on racism in Yorkshire after Azeem Rafiq, whose abuse allegations prompted the investigation, called the process of “simulacrum”.
It emerged on Wednesday that there were no immediate plans to release the report, which was handed over to executives at Headingley last Saturday, prompting Rafiq to claim the club were “trying to bury him” and appeal to the governing body for help. The call was answered within hours as the ECB demanded that Yorkshire provide a release schedule and praised the player’s “considerable courage”.
It has been almost exactly a year since Rafiq, a former captain of both England’s Under-19s and Yorkshire’s Twenty20 squad, first spoke publicly about his experiences of racism at the club. They began their investigation after he spoke out again last September.
“Do I think there is institutional racism? This is at its peak in my opinion, ”he said. “It’s worse than ever. At the time, Roger Hutton, the President of Yorkshire, spoke of “reaching out to impartial external parties … to ensure full transparency”.
It is understood that the 100-page report confirms many of Rafiq’s claims – but when it will be made public, and to what extent it will be redacted, remains unclear. “We’ve waited a year for this report and they’re still trying to bury it,” Rafiq told ESPNcricinfo.
“The ECB’s own anti-discrimination code states that any alleged violations must be investigated and dealt with in a timely manner. Well, it’s been over a year and no one has been held responsible and nothing has changed. At some point, the ECB must act or, by passively accepting the situation, it becomes part of the problem. “
The timing for the report’s completion came awkwardly, just weeks away from the next stage of Rafiq’s legal complaint against Yorkshire, but more pressing with attention set to fall on the county as the third test enters. England and India starts at Headingley next Wednesday.
At the launch of its anti-discrimination code of conduct, which was adopted before the start of this season, ECB Managing Director Tom Harrison said the organization was “absolutely committed to our determination to eliminate all forms. discrimination and make the game more inclusive and diverse ”, and that the code“ sends a clear message that any discriminatory behavior will be addressed through disciplinary processes and sanctions ”.
It will be feared that the pace of Yorkshire’s response and the opacity of its actions echo this clear message. They also reportedly offered Rafiq a hefty financial settlement in exchange for signing a nondisclosure agreement, which he declined. Yorkshire did not respond to the Guardian’s request for comment on Wednesday.
Although Rafiq’s complaints predate the code’s introduction and relate to historical failures, some of the players and coaches named in the report remain active. “Nothing will be done if we leave it to the club,” Rafiq told ESPNcricinfo. “They wouldn’t have had an investigation if the media hadn’t forced them to. Now they will try to cover up the findings. They had their chance. It is time for the ECB and the politicians to intervene.
Within hours, the ECB effectively got involved, with President Ian Watmore demanding that Yorkshire hand over a copy of the report to the governing body. “We respect the independent process that underpins the review and the club’s legal responsibilities to all parties. We also understand the frustration with the time this investigation has taken, ”he said.
“Now that the club have a full copy of the report, we wrote to Yorkshire today to officially request a copy, as well as a publication schedule.
“It took considerable courage for Azeem Rafiq to speak out, and it is right that his experiences were thoroughly investigated. We now look forward to receiving a copy of the report promptly to enable us to fulfill our role as the ultimate regulator of the game. ”
Last November, after testifying for the first time before the panel appointed by Yorkshire to investigate his allegations and two panel members stepped down to act as witnesses instead, Rafiq’s lawyer said of his “serious concerns regarding the initial handling of Azeem’s complaint and the persons designated to be involved in this process”.
The next step in Rafiq’s legal complaint against Yorkshire, following an unsuccessful attempt at a mediated resolution, is a case management hearing scheduled for September, with a final hearing yet to be scheduled.