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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Simon Burnton

Azeem Rafiq and Yorkshire: timeline of a county cricket crisis

Azeem Rafiq poses for a portrait in Hyde Park in January 2022
Azeem Rafiq accused the ECB of attempting to discredit him. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Aug 2017: Azeem Rafiq claims to have complained to Yorkshire’s then assistant coach, Richard Pyrah, and via his agent to Martyn Moxon (the director of cricket), about bullying by Tim Bresnan. He says he was advised to ignore it.

Aug 2018: Rafiq first complains about racism at Yorkshire, and the club holds a formal meeting to discuss his concerns. No further action is taken. He is released at the end of the season.

Sept 2020: Rafiq speaks publicly for the first time about his experience of racism during his professional cricket career. Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton says the county will formally investigate the claims, appointing local law firm Squire Patton Boggs to lead the inquiry. An independent panel is created to review their findings, with a result expected within three months.

Dec 2020: Rafiq launches legal action against Yorkshire, claiming that he suffered “discrimination and harassment on the grounds of race”, and that his attempt to confront racism at the club caused further victimisation.

Aug 2021: The panel’s independent report on Rafiq’s complaints is completed, and provided to the club. Yorkshire issue an apology to Rafiq for “inappropriate behaviour”, but do not admit to institutional racism.

Sep 2021: A summary of the report is published, upholding seven of 43 allegations against Yorkshire. The club admits Rafiq was a victim of “racial harassment and bullying”. The full report is not published, or provided to Rafiq. Julian Knight, chair of the digital, culture, media and sport committee in parliament, calls for “the report and its full findings [to be] made public and open to scrutiny”.

Oct 2021: Rafiq is provided with a heavily redacted version of the report. Yorkshire announce that “no conduct or action taken by any of its employees, players or executives warrants disciplinary action”.

Nov 2021: Gary Ballance admits that he was one of those accused of using racist language by Rafiq, and says he “deeply regrets some of the language I used in my younger years”. Michael Vaughan confirms that he is accused in the report of making an insensitive comment but denies doing so, saying: “I will fight to the end to prove I am not that person.”

Roger Hutton resigns as Yorkshire chairman, and Mark Arthur as chief executive, after Emerald Publishing, Anchor Butter, Yorkshire Tea and Harrogate Water withdraw their sponsorship of the club and the England and Wales Cricket Board suspends them from hosting international cricket. Hutton is replaced by Lord Kamlesh Patel. They settle the employment tribunal case brought by Rafiq.

Rafiq gives emotional evidence to the DCMS committee, which the ECB chief executive, Tom Harrison, describes as “an earthquake”, saying: “Perhaps this has been the shock that is going to give us the opportunity to bring this game together once and for all.” He promises “wide-ranging action to tackle discrimination”.

Dec 2021: Yorkshire’s entire coaching team leaves the club. “Significant change is required at Yorkshire County Cricket Club and we are committed to taking whatever action is necessary to regain trust,” says Lord Patel.

Feb 2022: ECB lifts its ban on international matches at Headingley in response to “the hard work and actions taken by Yorkshire County Cricket Club towards putting the club on a new path”.

June 2022: The ECB charges Yorkshire and seven individuals – former England internationals Michael Vaughan, Tim Bresnan, Matthew Hoggard and Gary Ballance, the club’s former captain and head coach Andrew Gale, and coaches Pyrah and John Blain – with bringing the game into disrepute, their cases to be heard by the body’s Cricket Discipline Commission.

Gale withdraws his cooperation from what he describes as a “tainted” process. “I have no faith that a fair and just outcome will be the result if I engage in the process,” he says. “I believe that we are being put forward as scapegoats and I simply will not cooperate in that process.” Harrison stands down as ECB chief executive.

Nov 2022: The CDC hearings are delayed after Rafiq’s lawyer successfully argues that they should not be held behind closed doors.

Dec 2022: Rafiq returns to the DCMS, where he accuses the ECB of attempting to discredit him. “Thirteen months on from me opening my heart out, all that’s changed really is that me and my family have been driven out of the country,” he says.

Feb 2023: Bresnan, Hoggard, Pyrah and Blain join Gale in withdrawing cooperation from the CDC hearings. With Ballance admitting the charges against him, and Yorkshire coming to an agreement with the ECB after admitting four charges of bringing the game into disrepute, Vaughan is the only party charged to remain involved in the process.

March 2023: CDC hearings go ahead in London, with the verdict announced on Friday 31 March. Vaughan is cleared but Bresnan, Hoggard, Pyrah, Blain and Gale are found liable for a breach of ECB Directive 3.3 for their alleged use of racist and/or discriminatory language.

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