Yorkshire diminish pride of an entire county with shambolic handling of Azeem Rafiq case – James Whaling

Yorkshire are under increasing pressure to act after more troubling developments from the report into alleged institutional racism at the club

Yorkshire's handling of the Azeem Rafiq case has been shambolic
Yorkshire’s handling of the Azeem Rafiq case has been shambolic

If there’s one thing people from Yorkshire love more than anything else, it’s telling other people they’re from Yorkshire.

Yes, some love telling you they’re from their own specific town or city. Others love telling you they’re a northerner. Or that they’re English or British.

But we all love telling you we’re from God’s country.

When we move away, we take Yorkshire teabags with us, then we invariably move back to Yorkshire.

We even devised our own day on August 1 every year where we tell everyone we’re from Yorkshire that little bit more than we do every other day.

Rafiq has been horribly let down by Yorkshire


Getty Images)

We gave the world football. We gave the world the most vital component of a Sunday roast. We gave the world Pulp and the Arctic Monkeys, the Brownlee brothers and the Chuckle Brothers.

And we gave the world the most successful county cricket club in history.

Cricket is embroidered in the very fabric of Yorkshire. At school, we play football in the winter and cricket in the summer. If you’re hard enough or daft enough, you give rugby league a go.

But cricket is uniquely entrenched in all four corners of our historic county, unlike anywhere else in the country.

The white rose on the chest of Yorkshire players is emblematic of the pride we feel. And that’s what makes the club’s shambolic handling of the Azeem Rafiq racism case all the more galling.

Yorkshire have got this horribly wrong from the very start.

They got it horribly wrong when they failed to sufficiently act on complaints made by Rafiq, who had two spells at Headingley between 2008 and 2018, that he had been the subject of racial abuse.

They got it horribly wrong when they dithered for months on end over releasing findings from the report.

They got it horribly wrong when they labelled the racial harassment suffered by Rafiq simply as “inappropriate behaviour”.

Azeem Rafiq played for Yorkshire across two spells between 2008 and 2018


Richard Sellers/Getty Images)

They got it horribly wrong when they arrogantly announced they were “pleased” to confirm no current employees would face any action. This despite several senior officials remaining from Rafiq’s time with the club.

This abhorrent episode – the gravest crisis in Yorkshire’s proud 158-year history – took a troubling turn earlier this week when it emerged one of Rafiq’s former teammates – now confirmed to be England international Gary Ballance – had repeatedly referred to Rafiq as a ‘P***’.

He’d joked that bearded Asian gentlemen were Rafiq’s uncles. He’d joked that Rafiq’s father was the owner of corner shops.

And those tasked with finding conclusions and recommendations from the report into alleged institutional racism at Yorkshire had passed these exchanges off as ‘friendly banter’.

Ballance has admitted his comments were unacceptable, stating he “deeply regrets” the language used.

But really, this isn’t about Gary Ballance. Or any other individual. Rafiq himself has said as much.

“This is about institutional racism and abject failures to act by numerous leaders at Yorkshire County Cricket Club and in the wider game,” he tweeted on Thursday morning.

“The sport I love and my club desperately need reform and cultural change.”

Yorkshire are now under unrelenting pressure to begin to do the right thing.

Numerous MPs have shared their disgust, the most high-profile of whom, Health Secretary Sajiv Javid, calling for “heads to roll” at Headingley.

Rafiq (right) and Ballance (left) were team-mates at Yorkshire


Sarah Ansell/Getty Images)

Rafiq has been called to give evidence before a Parliamentary select committee from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, where he will be able to publicly name those he accuses of racism.

Sponsors are deserting the club at a pace. Among them Emerald, the title sponsors of Headingley, who have removed their name from the stadium.

Long-standing partners Yorkshire Tea and Tetley’s have also withdrawn their funding.

A portion of the club’s own members are trying to garner enough support to force an Extraordinary General Meeting.

The ECB are finally in possession of the full report which they are currently analysing. Yorkshire could face fines, points deductions, relegation and even lose international matches scheduled to be held at Headingley, if it’s deemed punishments are necessary.

It all points to a very uncertain future for this pillar of English sport.

The club will recover. It must learn from this incomprehensible episode and move forward with fresh faces at the helm to be able to thrive again in the future.

But, right now, they have made it harder for its supporters and inhabitants of the county to boast that they are from Yorkshire.

And that is unforgivable.

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