Yorkshire Cricket County Club denies claims of institutional racism
Categories: Latest News
Tuesday September 21 2021
In response to allegations of racial abuse and bullying made by former Yorkshire Cricket County Club (YCCC) player Azeem Rafiq, the club issued a statement as part of their investigation into Rafiq’s claims, admitting that Rafiq was indeed subjected to racial harassment and bullying during his time at the club. YCCC, on the other hand, has refused to publish the complete inquiry report, raising concerns that it is attempting to conceal the existence of more deeply ingrained institutional racism within the club.
Following Rafiq’s accusations about the racism and Islamophobia he encountered at YCCC, the club released a summary report highlighting instances of racist language used, including by one of his former coaches. On other occasions, jokes around religion were made, and the club sought to make no accommodation for his religious needs, such as the non-provision of halal food facilities. As a result, the club failed to protect Rafiq against discrimination and later against victimisation in accordance with the 2010 Equality Act. This case underscores the culture that exists within the grounds of the club and the persisting abuse that had made Rafiq feel both ostracised and belittled.
Indeed, even though Rafiq often complained about racism and Islamophobia to key members of the club, his objections were ignored. Amongst the 40 allegations, only seven were upheld, whilst the rest were dismissed due to alleged “insufficient evidence”. A spokesperson for Rafiq remarked: “What is clear is that Yorkshire admits racism and bullying has taken place on many occasions, yet won’t accept the obvious – that this is an institutional problem.” Consequently, it seems the club has not only failed to address the issue but also undermined the experiences of Rafiq and other minority players who may be victims of similar experiences. Such an apparent absence of support would undoubtedly sway members of ethnic minority communities against pursuing careers within professional sport. More significantly, denying systemic racism contributes to the creation and maintenance of conditions conducive to the manifestation of overt forms of bigotry.
Concerningly, the case of Azeem Rafiq is not an isolated one, with racial abuse and discrimination seemingly rife in the broader sports industry. One such example is the refusal of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel to condemn the booing by a segment of English fans of England’s footballers taking the knee before matches. Patel went so far as to label taking the knee, in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, to be “gesture politics” – a statement roundly condemned by many players, pundits and politicians. Such rhetoric by those in government helps to perpetuate institutional racism by providing a license for racist tropes to be entrenched in sporting culture – with profound consequences. The vile racist abuse directed at Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford, and Bukayo Saka after the final of Euro 2020, for instance, is a demonstration of overt racism in sport, that the attitudes of Johnson and Patel have enabled. It is evident that racism towards Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) players is a systemic issue within sport that clubs, authorities and the UK Government have failed to adequately address and, in some cases, actively compounded.
It is not merely enough for sports clubs to tackle racism by promoting diversity at the club level and within the sport. Instead, clubs and sports associations must make a concerted effort to accommodate BAME players and have a zero-tolerance to all forms of racism they may face. The government must also ensure that they do not perpetuate indifference to racism within sport by tolerating racist attitudes and behaviour at stadiums and elsewhere. As such, MEND urges Yorkshire County Cricket Club to release its full report in light of Azeem Rafiq’s claims.