Yorkshire's chief exec to quit as Rafiq race row fallout continues

Yorkshire chief executive is set to QUIT in wake of race storm after Azeem Rafiq called for him to go as crisis-hit club faces fresh racism allegations from former Asian players

  • Mark Arthur, chief executive of Yorkshire CCC, set to stand down after race row 
  • Other senior figures are understood to be facing renewed pressure to quit roles
  • Embattled club faced fresh allegations of racism from Asian cricketers last night
  • Azeem Rafiq, 30, in six-figure settlement with ex-employer at tribunal this week
  • Yorkshire Cricket Club has been panned for handling of Rafiq’s racist allegations
  • Batsman Gary Ballance and a number of other star cricketers have been accused

The chief executive of Yorkshire County Cricket Club is set to stand down in the latest fallout from the race row as the embattled team faced fresh racism allegations from Asian cricketers. 

Mark Arthur had been given no assurances of his job security by new chairman Lord Patel and faced direct calls for his sacking by Azeem Rafiq, the ex-Yorkshire cricketer at the centre of the race row. 

The chief executive’s expected departure is viewed as the opening of the floodgates with several other senior figures, including coach Andrew Gale, facing renewed pressure to quit as Patel’s era of ‘truth and reconciliation’ gets underway. 

Arthur’s anticipated exit, alongside the resignation of ex-chairman Roger Hutton, is understood to be costing the prestigious cricket club around £1million in pay-offs and legal disputes, reports the Telegraph.

Yesterday, Yorkshire CCC settled with Rafiq on a six-figure compensation fee at an employment tribunal after the bowler accused the club of institutional racism and bullying.  

It comes as a new wave of ex-players came forward to share their experiences of racial discrimination at the historic Yorkshire club after Patel urged more whistleblowers to come forward using a new hotline.

Former Nottinghamshire batsman Bilal Shafayat, 37, and ex-academy players Tabassum Bhatti and Irfan Amjad were among the players who went public with their allegations. 

Yorkshire has previously said it was ‘essential’ victims of discrimination feel able to come forward.

Mark Arthur, chief executive of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, is set to stand down as the embattled club faces fresh allegations of racism from Asian cricketers

Azeem Rafiq, 30, (pictured) settled a six-figure fee with Yorkshire CCC at an employment tribunal this week after accusing the club of institutional racism and bullying

Arthur’s anticipated exit, alongside the resignation of ex-chairman Roger Hutton (pictured), is understood to be costing the historic cricket club around £1million in pay-offs and legal disputes

Yorkshire has been widely panned for its handling of racist allegations against Gary Balance and a number of other star players from 2008 to 2018. 

The club has also faced a swift exodus of sponsors, with firms such as Nike and Tetley’s distancing themselves and sparking a huge financial hit to the club. 

Speaking of his own experiences, Shafayat took to social media to say he was told of how he was racially abused by a ‘fast bowler’ when he played against Yorkshire.

He said he was called ‘a smelly curry eater’, told he smelled ‘of curry’ and was called ‘a little s***’. 

2008-2018: Azeem Rafiq spends 10 years at Yorkshire CCC, becoming their youngest-ever captain and first of Asian origin in 2012.

September 2020: Yorkshire launch investigation as Rafiq reveals that ‘deep-rooted’ racism at the club left him ‘close to committing suicide’. Accusations included people saying there was ‘too many of you lot’ referring to Rafiq and Asian teammates.

December 2020: Rafiq files legal claim against the county, claiming he suffered ‘direct discrimination and harassment on the grounds of race, as well as victimisation and detriment as a result of his efforts to address racism at the club’.

June 2021: Report is delayed and Rafiq’s lawyer says the pushbacks ‘create a lack of faith in the entire process’. 

August 2021: Yorkshire issue ‘profound apologies’ to Rafiq as report finds he was ‘the victim of inappropriate behaviour’. But they do not accept the claim of institutional racism – Rafiq accuses the county of ‘fudging’ his claims and promised he was ‘not going away’.

September 2021: ECB are ‘very concerned’ with the summary of the panel’s findings, with Yorkshire admitting Rafiq was the victim of ‘racial harassment and bullying’. 

But just seven of the 43 allegations made are upheld, with Yorkshire saying they do not intend to publish a full report.

October 2021: Yorkshire say they will not take disciplinary action against any of its employees following the report. Rafiq writes on Twitter that the club is ’embarrassing’, saying it gives a ‘green light’ to racism.

Last week: Details of the report are published by ESPNcricinfo, including a senior player’s admission that he repeatedly used the word ‘P***’ in reference to Rafiq, which was deemed ‘banter’. 

Last week: MailOnline reveals the player was Rafiq’s former Yorkshire team-mate, England batsman Gary Ballance. Sponsors Anchor Butter, Yorkshire Tea and Emerald all cut ties with the club.

What’s next?: Rafiq, Yorkshire now ex-chairman Roger Hutton and director of cricket Martyn Moxon will give evidence to the DCMS committee on November 16. Yorkshire are facing commercial pressure with sponsors ending association, while legal claims are still not resolved.

Tabassum Bhatti, alleged he was urinated on and faced a torrent of racist abuse after signing with Yorkshire as a 14-year-old schoolboy in 1998.

Bhatti told ITV News that racist ‘banter’ was seen as ‘the norm’ and criticised the club’s lack of action in tackling discrimination over the last 20 years. 

Meanwhile, Yorkshire has said it will investigate claims from ex-academy player Irfan Amjad, who said he was left suicidal by the racist abuse he received when he was a teenager.

He claimed his Pakistani heritage was referenced when a member of staff criticised his batting style in an interview with the BBC. Those claims are understood to have first been raised with the club in September 2020. 

Yesterday it emerged Yorkshire was expected to release the report into allegations of racial abuse at the club as early as Wednesday.

The Telegraph reported two other ex-England internationals, who declined to be named, hired legal teams in anticipation of the findings.

England and Yorkshire players Michael Vaughan and Gary Ballance were named last week as among those accused of racial discrimination by Rafiq.

Rafiq, 30, made more than 40 allegations of racial discrimination and bullying by his employer, seven of which have already been upheld by the club’s investigation.

Lord Patel praised Rafiq as a ‘whistleblower’ and said he ‘should be praised as such’.

He continued: ‘Azeem is a whistleblower and should be praised as such, he should never have been put through this,’ Patel said at a press conference.

‘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.’ 

Lord Patel’s reference to ‘banter’ came after that term was reportedly used in the county’s report into Rafiq’s allegations.

It was reported a team-mate had repeatedly used the word p*** but the claim was not upheld on the basis it was in the context of friendly exchanges between the two. 

A damning investigation led by the club is also said to have revealed how a Muslim girl playing with Yorkshire’s youth team was denied the opportunity to wear tracksuit bottoms despite the kit being against her religious beliefs.

A separate inquiry, which appears to have been carried out independently of the Rafiq race probe, also uncovered internal jokes were made about Ramadan.

Speaking after the tribunal result,  Lord Patel said: ‘Absolutely no restrictions have been placed on Azeem on what he can or cannot say about his experiences.

‘The settlement does not involve a non-disclosure agreement.’

He said he was also commissioning a specialist independent review of the county’s processes and procedures on diversity and inclusion.

He said he spoke to the ECB about the restoration of international cricket but Yorkshire would have to ‘address the root causes’ that led to the suspension.

Lord Patel said he had not been fully able to digest Yorkshire’s report into Rafiq’s allegations.

But he added: ‘What I’ve seen so far does feel uncomfortable. It makes me feel the process wasn’t as well completed as it should have been.’

Lord Patel said he would release the report to those who had a ‘legal interest’ rather than simply publish it.

The England and Wales Cricket Board suspended Headingley from hosting international matches until it sees considerable changes. 

Meanwhile, several advertisers ripped up their contracts with Yorkshire CCC, with around £3million in sponsorship lost.

There was also a threat of an estimated £3.5million from international ticket and hospitality sales to follow after the ECB temporarily suspended Headingley.

Those combined figures represent more than 50 per cent of Yorkshire’s projected income for the year.

The Government ‘stands ready to step in and take action’ if Yorkshire County Cricket Club and the ECB fail to take ‘real action’ following Azeem Rafiq’s allegations of racism and bullying, a minister has said.

Conservative frontbencher Chris Philp said the Government has made calls for new Yorkshire chairman Lord Patel and the ECB to ‘fully investigate to eradicate racism where it exists and tackle the culture that can support it’.

He added he understood the Equality and Human Rights Commission has requested information about the incidents involving former player Mr Rafiq.

Mr Philp added in the Commons: ‘The investigations I’ve referred to need to be thorough, they need to be transparent and they need to be public – that is necessary to restore the public’s belief in cricket and beyond.

‘Parliament is watching, the Government is watching and the country is watching.

‘We expect real action and the Government stands ready to step in and take action if they do not put their own house in order.’

Gary Ballance: The Zimbabwean-born Harrow-educated English batsman at the centre of the Yorkshire CCC racism scandal

Born in Zimbabwe, where his parents were tobacco farmers, Gary Ballance moved to England during his school years.

Having been schooled at two boarding schools in Zimbabwe, where he was part of the country’s youth cricket set-up, he moved to England in 2006.   

After moving to England, Ballance, who has British roots through his grandparents, one of whom flew for the RAF during World War II, attended the prestigious Harrow School.

While at the public school in North West London he was a cricketing team mate of current Glamorgan batsman Sam Northeast.

Playing for Harrow, a young Ballance showed his cricketing pedigree by scoring a century against Eton College at Lord’s.

He signed for Derbyshire for the 2006 season, playing exclusively in their second XI. He was noted down at the time in cricketing bible Wisden as a ‘real prospect’.

After another season in the second XI, he moved to Yorkshire, where he signed an academy contract which allowed him to study at Leeds Metropolitan University – though he dropped out after a year.  

In 2008 he made his debut for Yorkshire, where he was a room mate of current England Test team captain Joe Root.

He broke into the Yorkshire first team in 2011 and impressed, leading to a selection for the England Lions squad for a limited-overs tour of Australia in February 2013.   

He was the most prolific batsman in Division One in the 2013 season and, after also impressing with the Lions, debuted for England’s Test team against Ireland, in Dublin, in September 2013.

But Ballance, a left handed batsman, failed to impress, getting caught behind without having scored a run. 

Despite his unimpressive debut, he was picked as part of the England side for the 2013-2014 Ashes series against Australia, which England lost 5-0.

Ballance was only selected for the fifth and final test, scoring 25 runs across two innings. 

While he was earning plaudits on the pitch, particularly at county level, Ballance’s life off the pitch was called into question.

He was snapped topless and glassy-eyed in a nightclub in 2014 hours after England were beaten by India – at that point England’s ninth successive test match without a victory.

Then 24, the batsman was carried out of the bar in Nottingham after telling incredulous fans: ‘I’m not a cricketer tonight. I’m just a drunken b*****d.’  

Back on the pitch though, Ballance was impressing. For England, it took him just ten Tests, and 17 innings, to reach 1000 Test runs – the third quickest in English cricketing history.

At the time he averaged 67.93, with four hundreds and five fifties.   

But things turned quickly at the end of 2015, with Ballance having a difficult tour against New Zealand.

And he was dropped after being dismissed for just 14 as England were bowled out for just 103 and suffered a humiliating 405 run defeat to Australia in the second test of the 2015 Ashes series.

He was recalled in 2016 due to Nick Compton’s poor form, and hit a good patch with runs against Pakistan.

But difficult tests against Bangladesh saw him slip out of the England set up once more.  

Ballance was later recalled to play in the first test against South Africa at Lord’s after his form recovered for Yorkshire.

He played the first two tests before a broken thumb ruled him out of the next two matches.  Ballance has not played for England since 2017.

Without the pressure of international cricket, Ballance has continued to impress at County level. 

He is the only player to have finished in the top six run-scorers in the top flight of the County Championship in each of its last three seasons. 

However Ballance missed the entire 2020 domestic season, because of a series of reasons, including suffering from anxiety early in the season, followed by his wife testing positive for Covid-19.

He subsequently missed the start of the 2021 season after a concussion in nets practice. 

Earlier this year, Ballance told Sportsmail how the arrival of his newborn son was keeping his mind off a possible England recall – having impressed with the bat.

He said: ‘Playing for England was brilliant. I loved it. I’d love to have the opportunity again. But I feel you need to be in a good place physically and mentally to play Test cricket. If you’re not, then you can struggle.’

Last year he revealed that after cricket he hoped to return to his family’s farm in Zimbabwe.  

He told the Telegraph and Argus: ‘They always tell you that you’ve got to look forward to the future.

‘Obviously I’ve still got family in Zimbabwe.

‘My dad’s out there, my brother and my mum, and they’ve been looking to buy some cows. Hopefully we can get a good number of cows and I can get a bit of an income for when I retire.

‘My dad’s only just started it up, so I think it’s in single figures at the moment. 

‘Hopefully after a few years we’ll get it up to triple figures. You’ve got to think outside of the box!’

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