England county cricket club Yorkshire has acknowledged that former player Azeem Rafiq was a victim of 'racial harassment and bullying'. It also said that it is not possible to determine conclusively about institutional racism within the club and have maintained they won't publish the full report.
Last year, Rafiq, a former England U-19 captain, made serious allegations over his time at Yorkshire, saying that the 'institutional racism' at the club almost made him take his own life. After this, the club commissioned an independent panel to investigate Rafiq's claims. An eight-page summary of an independent panel's findings and recommendations was finally published on Friday, just after the fifth Test between England and India was cancelled in Manchester due to Covid-19 scare in the tourist's camp.
"There is no question that Azeem Rafiq, during his first spell as a player at YCCC, was the victim of racial harassment. He was also subsequently the victim of bullying. On behalf of all at YCCC, I wish to extend my sincere, profound and unreserved apologies to Azeem and to his family," said Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton.
The report upheld just seven of the 43 allegations dating back to 2002, claiming there was insufficient evidence to prove any further claims. Those which were detailed include examples of racist language and jokes, bullying Rafiq over his weight and fitness, and a failure to fully investigate initial complaints made to the club.
Among the allegations that were not upheld from the investigation are claims from Rafiq that he was treated unfairly due to race during his second spell with Yorkshire from 2016 to 2018, and the panel also found no cricketing decisions were made due to his race or religion.
"There were a great many people at the club who cared deeply for Azeem and who worked extremely hard over a long period to develop and assist him, both personally and professionally, and who celebrated his successes and championed him at the club. And there were others that worked exceptionally hard with him on his cricket, particularly when he struggled for form," said Hutton.
A team from the law firm Squire Patton Boggs led the investigation. It conducted 29 interviews with 26 participants. However, the statement also revealed "many individuals" refused to participate in the process.
Yorkshire has received criticism for the length of time the process has taken, including Rafiq. But the club said, "Whilst the process took longer than was hoped, the panel took the view that it was more important to get it right than to do it quickly."
"I am confident the responsible way that the report has been received by the whole club, together with the clear and collective determination to enthusiastically embrace its recommendations, is an important moment in our journey to become more thoughtful, more inclusive, and to make sure that every aspect of the club fully lives up to the spirit of the great game of cricket," conclude Hutton.
Rafiq's spokesperson, in a statement, slammed the timing of the summary to be made public. "We note that Yorkshire County Cricket Club has confirmed Azeem was the victim of racism and bullying during his two spells at Headingley. However, we must highlight the atrocious way this process continues to be handled. Azeem was not given any notice of this morning's statement - he received a copy only a couple of minutes before the media."
"Azeem and his team are not in a position to properly understand the club's conclusions and how they reached them, because Yorkshire has not provided a copy of the report. This is clearly unacceptable and an abuse of process. What is clear is that Yorkshire County Cricket Club admits racism and bullying has taken place on many occasions, yet won't accept the obvious - that this is an institutional problem."