Yorkshire cricket chief quits after Joe Root responds to racism crisis

Mark Arthur bowed to mounting pressure at club

Mark Arthur has resigned as chief executive of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, bowing to mounting pressure on a day in which England captain Joe Root joined the calls for lasting change at the club.

Mr Arthur’s position grew increasingly shaky as the fall-out from former player Azeem Rafiq’s allegations of institutional racism escalated in recent days. He finally departed on Thursday evening.

His exit follows that of chairman Roger Hutton, who tendered his resignation last week, claiming frustration at the club’s handling of the case, and called for Mr Arthur and director of cricket Martyn Moxon to follow.

Rafiq has repeatedly lobbied for the pair to go and some senior politicians have recently echoed those sentiments.

Mr Moxon has been signed off with a stress-related illness, while head coach Andrew Gale is on suspension pending an investigation into an offensive, but unrelated, historic tweet.

Rafiq had earlier repated his calls for mass departures at Headingley, tweeting: “EVERYONE must go.”

Root entered the discussion from England’s Ashes preparation camp on the Gold Coast in Australia.

He said the episode had “fractured our game and torn lives apart”, and offered to assist Mr Hutton’s successor, Lord Kamlesh Patel, in leading the club to a better future.

But Root’s subsequent suggestion that he could not remember witnessing any examples of racism during his entire playing career at Yorkshire appeared to go down badly with his former teammate.

Taking to his Twitter feed shortly after Root’s appearance in the media, Rafiq wrote: “Disappointed is not even the feeling. Incredibly hurt. But uncomfortable truths are hard to accept it seems.”

Root’s written statement read: “In my capacity as England captain and as a senior player at Yorkshire, I feel compelled to address the current situation that has consumed the sport and YCCC.

“I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting. There is no debate about racism, no one side or other. It is simply intolerable. These events have fractured our game and torn lives apart.

"I want to see change and actions that will see YCCC rise from this with a culture that harnesses a diverse environment with trust across all communities that support cricket in the county.”

Some of the biggest names during Root’s time with Yorkshire have had claims made against them.

His friend and mentor Michael Vaughan completely denies making an offensive comment to a group of Asian teammates more than a decade ago.

And Root's former flatmate Gary Ballance has admitted to using a “racial slur” against Rafiq during a close friendship.

Asked if he had experienced examples of racism, and later if he recognised a culture of institutional racism at the White Rose, Root said: “Not that I can recall, no. I think when I look back now, I can’t.

“I can only speak from my personal experiences. But it is clear things have happened at the club and we have to make sure we eradicate it.

"We look to find ways to make sure this never happens again in the sport and, beyond that, in society.”

A host of sponsors have severed ties with the club over the past fortnight but Root has not been tempted to take his own powerful brand, as English cricket’s figurehead, elsewhere.

“It’s obviously deeply hurtful that it’s happened at a club that I’m so close to,” he said.

“But in terms of my position, if you’re not at the club how can you make any change? How can you help move things forward? That’s my position on things and we’ll see how that happens in the future.”

Mr Patel said of Mr Arthur’s exit: “This is an important moment for the club, which is ready to move forward with new leadership, which will be vital in driving the change we urgently need.

"We know there is still much work to be done and more difficult decisions to be made. We need to rebuild the trust of the fans, the cricketing world and the public.”

Mr Arthur made no mention of Rafiq, the investigation and independent report into his claims or commercial backlash in his parting words.

Instead he offered a bullet-point list of the “many highlights” of his “eight fantastic years” at the club.

“I would like to thank the members for their support over this period and wish the club all the very best in the years to come,” he said.

Mr Arthur is one of six people called to give evidence to Parliament's digital, culture, media and sport select committee on Tuesday, a session covered by privilege that will begin with Rafiq’s testimony.

Hutton, Yorkshire’s director of medical services Wayne Morton, English Cricket Board chief executive Tom Harrison and the governing body’s interim chair Barry O’Brien will also appear.

Updated: November 11th 2021, 8:44 PM