Sports

ECB charges Yorkshire and individuals over racism allegations

Yorkshire have received long-awaited notice that they will be charged, along with seven individuals, following an ECB investigation into racism and other allegations surrounding the club.

The ECB has not named those under investigation at this stage. However, the evidence provided by Azeem Rafiq, the former Yorkshire player, to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee last November, and the results of Yorkshire’s independent investigation, is already well known.

Yorkshire will be accused of failing to address a culture within the club that was hostile to minority-ethnic cricketers and of failing to respond to complaints about racism or discrimination in a proper manner.

Although none of the current management team or players are associated with the period under review, the club remains responsible for historic actions. But a new regime that is committed to change is hardly likely to try to defend the actions of its predecessors and could well plead guilty, point to its commitment to change and just take the hit.

As the hearings are likely to be concluded after the end of the season, and there remains no clarity on potential points deductions, that possibility is likely to hang over Yorkshire for the entire summer.

However, individual administrators will not be charged because the Cricket Discipline Commission, which is in charge of disciplinary hearings in the domestic game, has no power to sit in judgment on administrators, who appear to escape the sort of individual scrutiny given to players, coaches, match referees, agents, members, ECB committee members, and any others who have agreed in writing to be bound by the rules.

The ECB has yet to remark whether it regards that as a glaring oversight that it intends to remedy.

The charges arise from alleged breaches of ECB Directive 3.3 which states: “No Participant may conduct themself in a manner or do any act or omission at any time which is improper or which may be prejudicial to the interests of cricket or which may bring the ECB, the game of cricket or any cricketer or group of cricketers into disrepute.”

The cases are expected to be heard by a CDC independent panel in September or October this year, although this has been one of the most complex and potentially problematic cases ever considered by the commission and legal representations on behalf of some of those accused could yet push back the hearing into next year. Hearings could last for more than a week and will involve cross-examination of those who have provided witness statements.

An ECB statement said “The ECB’s investigation has been thorough and complex, with the allegations covering a significant period of time and a number of witnesses and other individuals coming forward to share their own experiences and allegations. The ECB is grateful to all those who have taken the time to speak with the investigating team.

“In matters of this nature, our normal practice is not to identify individuals charged at this stage. This decision is taken on a case-by-case basis. It is however standard practice for the CDC disciplinary panel to publish its decisions and written reasons in full following the hearing.”

Only one player who has faced racism allegations, Gary Ballance, remains on Yorkshire’s books, although he has not played all season and remains on open-ended leave because of mental health issues, his return seemingly more unlikely with every passing month.

Ballance has apologised for using the term “P**i” in conversations with Azeem Rafiq, whose whistle-blowing last year laid bare the full extent of Yorkshire’s ills, but he has insisted the context was not racist and was intended as “banter”. Others have also vigorously denied culpability.

Two former coaches, Andrew Gale and Richard Pyrah, are among those currently pursuing claims for wrongful dismissals following the mass removal of 16 members of the Yorkshire staff. Earlier this month, they were among six members of the coaching staff who won the right for their case to be heard at a full employment tribunal in Leeds in the autumn. Judicial mediation will now take place before an employment judge in an effort to broker an agreement ahead of any tribunal hearing.

Former players who have faced allegations include three former England players, Michael Vaughan, Matthew Hoggard and Tim Bresnan. Vaughan and Bresnan have repeatedly denied making racist remarks to Rafiq, and Bresnan called time on his career at Warwickshire before the start of this season. Hoggard phoned Rafiq to apologise for how his remarks had been interpreted and Rafiq said that that his apology had been accepted.

Yorkshire’s new regime have made it clear that their ability to respond could be limited by the refusal of those in charge at the time to provide information. As co-operation is unlikely – even somewhat unwelcome for a new Board that is committed to promoting diversity – they may have little option but to subtly distance themselves from the outcome.

They responded: “For clarity, YCCC notes that the allegations relate to charges as far back as 2004 up until 2021 and the Club will need the cooperation of those in position during this time in order to fully consider and respond to the matters raised.

“Unless and until that cooperation by those with first-hand knowledge and responsibility during the relevant period is forthcoming, the Club is not able to comment on the investigation, evidence, report or charges but will, of course, continue to fully cooperate with the CDC throughout this process.”

Rafiq welcomed the ECB’s announcement, saying he hoped “we can move to the hearing quickly”. “This has been another gruelling but unfortunately necessary process,” Rafiq said. “It has been a long two years since I went public about my experiences, but I hope this all means that no young player ever goes through such pain and alienation again. My preference would be for this hearing to take place publicly, but I am hopeful that we are at least nearing a point where there will be some sense of closure for my family and me.”

David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps


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