LEEDS, United Kingdom, Nov 8, 2021 (AFP) – New Yorkshire chairman Kamlesh Patel praised Azeem Rafiq for speaking out over racist abuse on Monday as he revealed the county had settled an employment case with their former player.
Pakistan-born Rafiq has accused Yorkshire of failing to deal adequately with racist abuse he suffered while playing for the county, saying he had been driven to thoughts of suicide.
Rafiq filed a legal claim against the club for direct discrimination in December last year after the county had started their own investigation into his allegations.
Yorkshire apologised to the 30-year-old in September but subsequently said they would take no disciplinary action against any of their staff.
The club’s handling of its own investigation into Rafiq’s case was widely criticised, with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) suspending Yorkshire’s right to host international matches and sponsors, including Nike, walking away.
Patel’s appointment was announced last week following the resignation of his predecessor, Roger Hutton.
“Azeem is a whistleblower and should be praised as such, he should never have been put through this,” Patel told a press conference at Yorkshire’s Headingley headquarters in Leeds.
“We’re sorry for what you and your family have experienced and the way in which we’ve handled this.
“I thank Azeem for his bravery in speaking out. Let me be clear from the outset, racism or discrimination in any form is not banter.”
Patel’s reference to “banter” came after that word was said to have been used in the county’s report to describe a racist term directed at Rafiq.
The new chairman insisted “no restrictions” had been placed on what former spinner Rafiq could say about his experiences as “the settlement does not involve a non-disclosure agreement”.
Meanwhile, England cricketer Moeen Ali, said he expected more cases of racism to emerge from within the sport even though he had not been subjected to discrimination personally.
“I won’t be surprised if more do come out,” said Moeen, in a video call from the UAE, where England face New Zealand in a T20 World Cup semi-final on Wednesday.
“What Azeem has done he is not doing it for any personal gain,” the all-rounder, one of Britain’s most high-profile Asian sportsmen, added: I think he wants change and that’s what he’s pushing for.”
Patel, a lawmaker in Britain’s unelected House of Lords, added he was also commissioning a specialist independent review of the county’s procedures on diversity and inclusion.
He also condemned death threats received by some club staff after details of Rafiq’s treatment became public, with Patel — who has spent much of his life in the Yorkshire city of Bradford — saying the county was his “home”.
Patel added he would release the report to those who had a “legal interest” rather than simply make it public.
This would include a parliamentary committee that is expected to hear testimony from Rafiq and several senior Yorkshire figures on November 16.
Patel said he had spoken with Rafiq for six-and-a-half hours since his appointment as chairman on Friday.
“It was difficult and it was actually quite sad,” he explained. “It was tough for me, it was incredibly tough for him.
“You did feel ‘why would we do this to any human being’?”
Following the press conference, Rafiq released a statement saying Patel had made a “good start” but repeated his call for Yorkshire chief executive Mark Arthur and director of cricket Martyn Moxon to resign.
“They have consistently failed to take responsibility for what happened on their watch and must go,” Rafiq said.
“I urge them to do the right thing and resign to make way for those who will do what is needed for the club’s future.”