ECB suspends Yorkshire from hosting international matches over handling of Rafiq racism case

By Sports Desk November 04, 2021

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has suspended Yorkshire from hosting international and major matches in response to the club's "wholly unacceptable" handling of Azeem Rafiq's racism allegations.

Gary Ballance has also been indefinitely suspended from international selection after the former England batsman admitted he was responsible for some of the offensive and inappropriate language Rafiq was subjected to when they were Yorkshire team-mates.

An independent report into Rafiq's allegations of institutional racism at Yorkshire upheld that the spinner had been victim of "racial harassment and bullying".

It also emerged the independent panel had deemed repeated use of the "P***" word against Rafiq was "in the spirit of friendly banter", according to ESPNcricinfo.

Yorkshire last week stated that the club had carried out their own internal investigation following the findings of the report and concluded no conduct or action taken by any of its employees, players or executives that warranted disciplinary action.

The ECB board met on Thursday and has vowed to hold Yorkshire to account, ordering the club to deal with the matter "robustly", stating it is clear there are "serious questions" regarding the governance and management of the club.

The governing body stated Yorkshire's "failure in relation to actions and responses to their own report represent a significant breach of its obligations to the game."

England are scheduled to face New Zealand in a Test and an ODI against South Africa at Headingley next year, while the Leeds venue is also due to host an Ashes Test in 2023, but may lose all three.

An ECB statement said: "It is clear to the Board that YCCC's handling of the issues raised by Azeem Rafiq is wholly unacceptable and is causing serious damage to the reputation of the game. The ECB find this matter abhorrent and against the spirit of cricket and its values.

"There is no place for racism or any form of discrimination in cricket and where it is found, swift action must be taken. This matter must be dealt with robustly if the sport is to demonstrate its commitment to truly being a game for everyone.

"As a governing body with duties to act for all in cricket, the ECB Board reaffirmed its commitment to taking decisions in the best interests of the whole game."

The statement continued "It [the board] also agreed that sanctions including, but not limited to, financial and future major match allocations may be considered at the conclusion of our investigations.

"In the meantime, YCCC are suspended from hosting international or major matches until it has clearly demonstrated that it can meet the standards expected of an international venue, ECB member and First Class County.

"The ECB Board has asked the ECB Executive to commission a review of Yorkshire CCC's governance to consider whether the existing arrangements are fit for purpose.

"The regulatory processes already underway into the allegations brought by Azeem Rafiq will ultimately be determined by an independent tribunal (The Cricket Disciplinary Committee).

"Before any regulatory investigation is complete, the Board wishes to take immediate action in relation to Gary Ballance. While Mr Ballance has not been selected to play for England since 2017, he will be suspended indefinitely from selection. This position will be reviewed following the ECB regulatory investigation into his conduct."

Rafiq stated earlier on Thursday that cricket desperately needs "reform and cultural change".

"I'm not intending to say very much until the [Department for Culture, Media and Sport's] select committee hearing later this month. However, I wanted to stress this is not really about the words of certain individuals," he tweeted.

"This is about institutional racism and abject failures to act by numerous leaders at Yorkshire County Cricket Club and in the wider game. The sport I love and my club desperately need reform and cultural change."

Rafiq and Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton are due to appear in front of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's select committee to give evidence on November 16.

Publishing company Emerald and Nike are among the sponsors Yorkshire have lost due to their handling of the Rafiq case.

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