Lord Kamlesh Patel, the new chair of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, has apologised to Azeem Rafiq over the county’s handling of his racism and bullying allegations and settled their former player’s employment case against the club.
Rafiq has responded by thanking Lord Patel, and calling for chief executive Mark Arthur and director of cricket Martyn Moxon to follow ex-chair Roger Hutton in resigning.
Lord Patel, who was appointed on Friday following Hutton’s exit, also vowed to oversee “urgent and seismic change” in response to the ongoing racism crisis, which threatens the county’s viability after their right to stage international fixtures was suspended and sponsors quit.
“Azeem is a whistleblower and should be praised as such, he should never have been put through this,” the Bradford-raised peer said at a press conference.
“We’re sorry for what you and your family have experienced and the way in which we’ve handled this.
“I thank Azeem for his bravery in speaking out. Let me be clear from the outset, racism or discrimination in any form is not banter.”
Patel’s reference to “banter” came after that term was reportedly used in the county’s report into Rafiq’s allegations.
“What happened to you must never be repeated. There’s a clear need for urgent and seismic change, starting from within.”
It was reported that a team-mate had repeatedly used the word p*** as a derogatory slur aimed towards Rafiq, but the allegation was not upheld on the basis that it was in the context of friendly exchanges between the two.
Patel added Yorkshire had settled a separate employment tribunal with Rafiq and it did not involve a non-disclosure agreement.
Rafiq said: “I want to thank Lord Patel for making the offer and sorting this out within 72 hours of his appointment. It should not have taken the rest of the club a year to realise I would not be silenced through an NDA. I spoke out because I wanted to create change at the club.
“I brought a legal claim because the club refused to acknowledge the problem and create change. For the first time that I can remember, I have hope this might happen – but I will be watching and continue to campaign to ensure that it does.
Patel is commissioning a specialist independent review of the county’s processes and procedures on diversity and inclusion.
Patel said he had spoken with Rafiq for six and a half hours since his appointment as chair on Friday.
“It was difficult and it was actually quite sad. It was tough for me, it was incredibly tough for him,” he said.
“You did feel ‘why would we do this to any human being’?”
Patel said he had asked Rafiq to “sit on his shoulder” and “challenge him” on how he handles matters from this point onwards and added: “It would be a shame not to work together to seek his help to find a way forward.”
Rafiq responded: “This is a good start, but I want to reiterate my call for the change that must come next – and one that must happen quickly. Mark Arthur, Martyn Moxon and many of those in the coaching staff have been part of the problem.
“They have consistently failed to take responsibility for what happened on their watch and must go. I urge them to do the right thing and resign to make way for those who will do what is needed for the club’s future.”