Report into Azeem Rafiq scandal finds racism is endemic in English cricket

Public money should be withheld unless game domestic cleans up its act, politicians say

Yorkshire whistleblower Azeem Rafiq lifted the lid on the culture of racism within English cricket. PA.

Racism remains deep seated and endemic in English cricket and the domestic game must be cleaned up, a new parliamentary report has said.

The digital, culture, media and sport committee released more findings into the Azeem Rafiq racism scandal surrounding Yorkshire Cricket Club.

It recommended that public money into cricket should be withheld unless concrete actions are taken to rid the game of racial discrimination.

Rafiq blew the whistle on the abuse he suffered at the county across two spells between 2008 and 2018.

His testimony in parliament led to Yorkshire's loss of sponsors and the right to host international matches at its Headingley ground.

He believes cricket is still living “in a lot of denial” about the problem it faces with racism.

Rafiq is impressed by the changes brought about at Yorkshire by its new chair, Lord Kamlesh Patel, since his appointment in November but is less convinced about how serious the wider game is about tackling the issue.

“I see Yorkshire trying to do the right thing, but I do feel like the game as a whole is still living in a lot of denial,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“I think the ECB needs to do more. I would say putting an action plan on a document, we’ve seen all that before. We need to see more action.”

DCMS committee chair Julian Knight told the PA news agency that “the jury is out” on the England and Wales Cricket Board and its chief executive Tom Harrison.

In addition to a limit on funding, Mr Knight says his committee will push for independent regulation of the sport if it is dissatisfied with the progress the ECB is making on the issue.

The ECB is considering its role as a regulator as part of a governance review, and Rafiq believes it is wrong that the governing body should serve as promoter and regulator of the sport.

He added: “I don’t think the ECB can be the regulators as well as the promoters of the game moving forward, as shown by my situation.

“Doing both of them just gets really confusing and it’s just not good practice.”

ECB chief Harrison says he welcomes parliamentary scrutiny and wants cricket to become the “exemplar” for others to follow.

The governing body produced a 12-point plan to tackle discrimination in the sport, which came after Rafiq set out harrowing detail to the committee in November of the racial abuse he suffered.

The select committee has asked the ECB to provide it with quarterly updates on its progress and appear before it early this year.

An official for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “There is no place for discrimination in society and we want to see clear and sustained evidence of cultural change in the sport.

“We will now consider the report’s recommendations and continue to hold the ECB and Yorkshire to account and take further action if necessary.”

The report praised Lord Patel’s efforts in changing the culture at Yorkshire since his appointment in November.

However, the committee wants to hear from him early this year and will be asking about the role that the Colin Graves Trust continues to play.

Lord Patel’s predecessor, Roger Hutton, told the committee in November he had wanted to remove former chief executive Mark Arthur and director of cricket Martyn Moxon over how they responded to the findings of an independent investigation into Rafiq’s complaints of racial harassment and bullying.

However, Mr Hutton claimed he was prevented from doing so by the trustees.

Mr Knight said until there was clarity around the role of the Trust, he did not think Yorkshire should have their rights to host international matches restored.

“I would question very closely the position of the Graves Trust within Yorkshire, or whether or not it should continue to have the influence and power that it does,” he said.

Lord Patel has warned the failure to reinstate international fixtures at Headingley would lead to a “financial crisis” at Yorkshire.

Updated: January 14th 2022, 2:57 PM