Yorkshire County Cricket Club has pulled in three major sponsorships from South Asian and South Asian majority-run businesses mere months after the community expressed disappointment towards the club for allowing racist abuse towards Azeem Rafiq during his ten-year career at the organisation.
Following an almost year-long dispute, Mr Rafiq settled his racial harassment and discrimination complaint against his former employer, Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC), with an alleged six-figure pay out and an apology from the recently-appointed chair of the club, Lord Kamlesh Patel in November 2021.
Mr Rafiq played for the club for a decade between 2008 and 2018. In 2020, he gave two bombshell TV interviews about the racist abuse he suffered whilst at the club and submitted a legal claim in December of that year.
With the award-winning female Muslim insolvency lawyer and partner of Chadwick Lawrence, Asma Iqbal at his helm, Mr Rafiq was successful in his claim and many individuals were sacked in relation to the scandal, with the club promising a change in culture for all its sports talent and employees.
Since the settlement, YCCC has been seen hard at work trying to repair its damaged reputation and pulling in new financial backers after a number of sponsors cut ties with the club last autumn.
Principal sponsor Emerald Group Publishing alongside Nike, Anchor Butter, Yorkshire Tea, Tetley’s Beer, Harrogate Spring Water, David Lloyds Clubs and Bagnalls all distanced themselves from the club when the outcome was announced.
In a bid to save the club from financial crisis, the sports club pulled together a string of new sponsors including Clean Slate Studioz, an Indian film production and distribution company owned by Bollywood film star, Anushka Sharma’s brother Karnesh Ssharma and one of the UK’s largest independent ceramic tiles and natural stone importers, Al-Murad, founded by Murad Ali Patel and his wife Rokaya in 1985.
KrimpTerm, a “one-stop-shop” for auto, electronic, and industrial consumables, whose board of directors is made up of people mostly from the South Asian community, has also been announced as a sponsor following a four-year partnership.
As part of the new sponsorship, the main pavilion at Headingley will be known as the Clean Slate Pavilion and the name will appear on the club kit of Yorkshire and the Northern Diamonds.
When speaking about the partnership at the launch in Leeds last month, Mr Ssharma did not mention the fact that the club had been embroiled in controversy and instead focused on the fact that its “inclusivity and diversity” mantra aligns with that of YCCC.
“The Azeem Rafiq scandal had a widespread impact on communities in Yorkshire and many within our business were deeply hurt by it. However, since Lord Patel took over as Chair of the Club in November, we have been heartened to see widespread change that is needed to make cricket an inclusive game for all.” – Murad Ali Patel
Speaking on the partnership, Mr Ssharma said: “We’re incredibly proud to partner with Yorkshire and to be the first Indian company to have their name prominently featured within a UK sports ground. Clean Slate puts inclusivity and diversity at the fore of its entertainment roster, and we truly believe that our entertainment vision and values align with that of Yorkshire County Cricket Club moving forward.”
However, the founder of Al-Murad, Murad Ali Patel, did acknowledge the fact that the South Asian community were “deeply hurt” by the actions of YCCC toward Mr Rafiq but his company was “heartened” to see that the club has introduced “widespread change to make cricket an inclusive game for all.”
He said: “The Azeem Rafiq scandal had a widespread impact on communities in Yorkshire and many within our business were deeply hurt by it. However, since Lord Patel took over as Chair of the Club in November, we have been heartened to see widespread change that is needed to make cricket an inclusive game for all.
“It is crucially important that every boy and girl from any background, faith and community has an equitable chance to shine and succeed at YCCC and in the wider game.
“Some important changes have been made resulting in the ECB confirming the re-introduction of international cricket at Headingley, which is welcome news.
“We are one of the leading Asian businesses in the UK with our HQ in Yorkshire and are proud to come on board as an official community partner of YCCC. We hope that through our involvement the pace of recovery will further accelerate in the Club’s culture and in the hearts and minds of everyone associated with it.
“As part of an initial three-year community partnership, we particularly welcome the changes in accessing the Pathway programmes, which historically were seen as a major blockage for talent to be identified from Yorkshire’s South Asian Community.”
“Our ambition is to help make the Headingley venue a beacon for equality and inclusivity in Yorkshire and the sport in general. We are looking forward to a great partnership with the club.”
KrimpTerm Directors Darshan Patel and Anand Shah said they are “proud to be associated with YCCC” and that they support the club for the way it nurtures young and diverse talent.
In a joint statement, they said: “KrimpTerm has been closely involved with Yorkshire County Cricket Club for past four years supporting county age cricket from under 9s to under 15s, both boys and girls.
“We are proud to be associated with Yorkshire County Cricket Club which has a fantastic pathway system offering opportunities to a diverse group of young players and making a significant impact in local communities through a range of programs run by Yorkshire Cricket Foundation. We look forward to strengthening our partnership further in coming years.”
A spokesperson for Yorkshire County Cricket Club, said: “The club is extremely proud of its three fantastic new partners who are united in our vision of cricket being a game for everyone.
“The significant support from KrimpTerm and Al-Murad will help the Club to find more young talent from diverse communities, removing financial barriers to create more opportunities for all.
“Clean Slate has female empowerment at the heart of its purpose and will help to remove financial barriers for young females playing cricket in Yorkshire, along with supporting the Northern Diamonds.
“Cricket should be a game for everyone and this significant support from our new partners will help us to achieve this in Yorkshire.”
It seems the same community who felt let down by YCCC’s actions towards Mr Rafiq, are now stepping up to help shape the club’s future. With leading sponsorships from South Asian business owners and Lord Patel at the helm, the club seems to be taking steps in the right direction.