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Friday, December 3, 2021

‘Yorkshire racism has fractured game’

ART GALLERY

Joe Root has been part of the Yorkshire first-team squad since 2009

England Test captain Joe Root says the racism scandal at his county side Yorkshire has “fractured our game and torn lives apart”.

A report found former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq was a victim of “racial harassment and bullying” but the club said they would not discipline anyone.

“I just want the sport to be a place where everyone is enjoying it for the beautiful game it is and feels equal and safe,” said Root.

“We need to educate, unify and reset.”

Root, who made his Yorkshire second-team debut in 2007 before playing for the first team in 2009, added: “I want to see change and actions that will see Yorkshire County Cricket Club rise from this with a culture that harnesses a diverse environment with trust across all communities that support cricket in the county.

“I will reach out to YCCC new chair Lord Patel to offer support, however I’m able.”

When asked if he had seen any racism at Yorkshire, Root said: “Not that I can recall… but it’s clear things have happened at the club.”

Rafiq, who was born in Pakistan and moved to England aged 10, played the majority of his career at Yorkshire, between 2008 and 2018.

He captained England teams at youth level and also captained Yorkshire in 2012.

However, in September 2020, following an initial interview with Wisden, Rafiq told ESPN Cricinfo “institutional racism” encountered while at the club left him close to taking his own life.

He told BBC Sport he dreaded “every second” of his career and that a team-mate used a racially offensive term linked to his Pakistani heritage.

Yorkshire launched a formal investigation into Rafiq’s allegations in September 2020 and the then chairman Roger Hutton said the club would be carrying out a “wider review” of their “policies and culture”.

In August 2021, three days after Yorkshire received the findings of the independent report carried out by law firm Squire Patton Boggs, they admitted Rafiq was “the victim of inappropriate behaviour” – something Rafiq said was downplaying racism – and offered him their “profound apologies”.

The report summary said Rafiq was the “victim of racial harassment and bullying”, with seven of the 43 allegations upheld, although the club said they could not release the full report for legal reasons. They said there had been insufficient evidence to conclude the club were institutionally racist.

Rafiq questioned what punishments had been handed out to former players and a coach who had been found guilty of using racist language. He also questioned the validity of the investigation.

Root, who was talking at England’s Ashes preparation camp in Queensland, Australia, added: “It hurts knowing this has happened at YCCC so close to home.

“It’s my club that I care passionately about it. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting.

“There is no debate about racism, no one side or other. It is simply intolerable.”

Ex-Pakistan seamer Rana Naved-ul-Hasan was the second first-team player to allege racism at Yorkshire, saying “systematic taunting” occurred at the club.

Former Yorkshire academy players Irfan Amjad and Tabassum Bhatti have since shared their experiences of suffering racism while at the club.

Senior Yorkshire officials and Rafiq will give evidence at a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee hearing on 16 November. Former Yorkshire chairman Hutton will be questioned by MPs, along with chief executive Mark Arthur.

Last Friday, Hutton was one of several board members to resign over the club’s response to racism experienced by Rafiq.

On Monday, new chair Lord Patel said Rafiq “should be praised” for his bravery and “should never have been put through” Yorkshire’s racism scandal.

On Tuesday, Yorkshire announced that head coach Andrew Gale had been suspended as part of an investigation into a tweet he sent in 2010, and that director of cricket Martyn Moxon was absent from work because of a stress-related illness.

Root, who will lead England in the first Ashes Test on 8 December, added: “We have to find a way to move forward and make sure this never happens again. In my opinion, this is a societal issue and needs addressing further afield than just cricket.

“That being said, we, as a sport, all have to do more. How can we all help shape things moving forward positively? What can everyone from myself, the ECB, counties, players, officials and others in the sport do to improve the state of the game?

“I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I think we need to educate more and earlier; we must call it out straight away and have our eyes and ears open more.

“Inclusivity, diversity and anti-discrimination is something over the past few years the England teams I have been involved in have spent a lot of time talking about and are very passionate about improving and making a big difference.

“It’s a big part of our culture, and we want to celebrate our diversity. We are representing England, and in that, we are representing the multicultural society we live in. We want all the fans to be able to enjoy what we do on the field and feel proud about who’s representing them.”

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