A Rose by Any Other Name

Lessons to be Learnt from Yorkshire Cricket’s Handling of Race Discrimination Claims

Last month the rumbling disquiet over Yorkshire Cricket Club’s management of player and staff accusations of discrimination and abuse came to a dramatic head.  The negative publicity around Yorkshire Cricket Club sparked again when a series of announcements were made last month withdrawing sponsorship and advertising from the organisation and siting the inability to tackle the ongoing case by taking matters into their own hands and voting with their removal of marketing investments.

The matter then piqued when the man at the centre of the story, former Yorkshire County Cricket captain Azeem Rafiq appeared in person on a live feed broadcast whilst attending a meeting with the Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) committee.  His statements were damning, disturbing and delivered in a manner that presented a man determined to follow through on his previously dismissed whistleblowing case.

Azeem’s recalling of being forced to drink alcohol whilst pinned down, continual derogatory references to character, prominent members of the Yorkshire set up frequently using names such as Kevin and Steve as shorthand to undermine and disrespect players from diverse ethnic backgrounds to a complete disregard for a personal tragedy with the loss of his own baby son who was stillborn.

The accumulation of events drove the player to thoughts of taking his own life, with an internal investigation conducted by his club that took an age to deliver an inconclusive outcome.  The lawyers leading the investigation on behalf of Yorkshire Cricket Club were reported by Mr Rafiq as stating he simply didn’t have a case leaving him initially distraught.

To Azeem’s credit he did not go quietly, and it would appear his actions were entirely justifiable with 36 calls to a whistleblowing hotline, set up by the cricket club’s new Chairman Lord Patel.  Azeem was very far from being alone in receiving this appalling treatment.  He has also received a great deal of support from the wider sporting community for highlighting a problem that has proven to go beyond this particular county club.

With Lord Patel now taking the lead in addressing what appears to be an institutionally racist culture, the club is finally taking steps to recover its reputation however the case will, no doubt, live long in the memory, especially for those affected and it will take considerable effort to repair the relationships damaged by the affair.

What Lessons Can We Learn?

Rather than adopt a schadenfreude approach by sneering at the mistakes made by the club we should be mindful that we can all take some degree of learning from this awful experience for Azeem Rafiq and others.

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