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Monday, June 27, 2022

Azeem Rafiq hopes ECB hearing will bring a “sense of closure” to him and his family

Ex-cricketer Azeem Rafiq hopes he is nearing a point of closure with the YCCC racism row following an announcement by ECB that several individuals have been charged for allegedly breaking its code of conduct.

The cricketer involved in the Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC) racism row has said he hopes the hearing into racism against the club and associated individuals by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will bring him closure two years after he first made his initial allegations.

Azeem Rafiq’s statement comes after the ECB announced today that YCCC and seven individuals have been charged for allegedly breaching its code of conduct following its investigation into racism in Yorkshire.

The ECB has chosen not to name the individuals who will face a disciplinary hearing in September or October.

Mr Rafiq, who had played at the club for a decade between 2008 and 2018, first spoke up about the abuse he suffered whilst playing for Yorkshire in 2020, giving two bombshell TV interviews before submitting a legal claim in December of that year.

After almost two years of litigation between Mr Rafiq and the club, Yorkshire settled out of court with a six-figure payout and an official apology made by the recently-appointed chair of the club, Lord Kamlesh Patel, to Mr Rafiq in November 2021.

Before the settlement in September, Yorkshire published a summary of the findings of its internal investigation. They accepted Mr Rafiq had been the victim of racial harassment and bullying but upheld only seven of 43 allegations.

The following month Yorkshire said no individuals would face disciplinary action arising from the investigation. However, by December, 16 members of staff including director of cricket Martyn Moxon, head coach Andrew Gale and all coaching staff left the club.

Following the apology by YCCC, Mr Rafiq gave harrowing evidence about his experiences in cricket at a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee meeting where he made fresh claims of racial discrimination concerning former England internationals Matthew Hoggard, Tim Bresnan, Alex Hales and Gary Ballance. He also accused former teammate, Michael Vaughan, of making racially-charged comments.

Mr Ballance says he has apologised to Mr Rafiq for using a racial slur, although Mr Rafiq says he hasn’t received one from him directly. Mr Hoggard has apologised to Mr Rafiq, alongside Mr Bresnan, but Mr Bresnan denies making racist comments. Mr Hale has categorically denied making comments and so has Mr Vaughan.

Lord Kamlesh Patel was appointed chair of YCCC following the litigation.

An independent panel of the Cricket Discipline Commission will hear in the autumn about the alleged breaches of the ECB’s code of conduct, and if found guilty, will outline suitable penalties for the club and individuals.

The statement released by ECB earlier today, reads: “Yorkshire County Cricket Club and several individuals have today been charged following an ECB investigation into racism and other allegations at the Club and its handling of those allegations.

“The ECB’s investigation has been thorough and complex, with the allegations covering a significant period of time and a number of witnesses and other individuals coming forward to share their own experiences and allegations. The ECB is grateful to all those who have taken the time to speak with the investigating team.

“In matters of this nature, our normal practice is not to identify individuals charged at this stage. This decision is taken on a case-by-case basis. It is however standard practice for the CDC disciplinary panel to publish its decisions and written reasons in full following the hearing.

“We currently expect the hearing to take place in September or October 2022.”

Following the ECB’s announcement, the ex-cricketer says he welcomes the announcement by the ECB and that he hopes the hearing will take publicly. Mr Rafiq, said: “I welcome today’s announcement by the ECB and hope we can move to the hearing quickly.

“This has been another gruelling but unfortunately necessary process. It has been a long two years since I went public about my experiences, but I hope this all means that no young player ever goes through such pain and alienation again.

“My preference would be for this hearing to take place publicly, but I am hopeful that we are at least nearing a point where there will be some sense of closure for my family and me.”

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