The fall-out from the Azeem Rafiq racism case has continued at Yorkshire County Cricket Club with the announcement of the resignation of its chairman Roger Hutton this morning (5 November) ahead of an emergency meeting of the board today.
In a lengthy statement, Hutton has apologised unreservedly to Azeem and said the club should have recognised the serious allegations of racism.
Hutton, who joined the board in April 2020 after Rafiq’s two stints at the club between 2008 and 2018, said he took responsibility for failing to persuade the club to take “appropriate and timely action”, adding that he “experienced a culture that refuses to accept change or challenge.”
He noted that all of the non-executive members of the club’s board had shared his frustration in the lack of appetite for change and had now also resigned, and he called on the board’s executive members to follow suit and “make way for a new path for the club I love so much.”
Notably, Hutton also pointed the finger at the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), to which he said he had reached out for “help and intervention to support a robust inquiry” immediately on being made aware of the allegations.
Of the ECB’s response, Hutton said: “I was saddened when they declined to help as I felt it was a matter of great importance for the game as a whole.
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"It is a matter of record that I have continually expressed my frustration at the ECB's reluctance to act.”
Hutton also noted that legal restrictions, including in relation to an ongoing employment tribunal, had prevented YCCC from releasing the independent report into Rafiq’s allegations but that he hoped it would be published as soon as possible.
He expressed his commitment to cooperating with the ECB and taking up an invitation to give evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee.
Rafiq first made public allegations of racism at YCCC in an interview with cricket outlet Wisden in August last year and then again in a September 2020 interview with ESPNCricinfo, after which YCCC launched an independent investigation.
Since receiving the investigation report in mid-August this year, the club has been accused of delaying the release of its findings, downplaying them and trying to brush them under the carpet.
YCCC’s handling of the report has led to a number of sponsors cutting ties with the club, including Emerald Group, Anchor, Yorkshire Tea, Age Partnership, Harrogate Spa Water, David Lloyd Clubs and, notably, Nike – a global brand and one with which YCCC had only agreed a four-year kit supply deal in March.
In addition, the ECB announced late yesterday (4 November) that it was suspending YCCC from hosting international or major matches “until it has clearly demonstrated that it can meet the standards expected of an international venue, ECB member and First Class County.”
That will result in a further financial hit to the club, which GlobalData has already estimated could lose up to $500,000 a year through lost sponsorships alone.
YCCC's accounts for 2019 show that the club made nearly £10.5 million ($14.1 million) from "international ticket and hospitality revenue", which accounted for over 58 per cent of its income.
Prior to the ECB’s announcement yesterday, Patrick Kinch, a sport analyst at GlobalData, had commented: “County cricket is already a cash-poor sector, with the counties typically losing money and relying on ECB grants and stadium Test Match designation to boost their coffers, with only the T20 Blast and The Hundred able to provide full venues."
“Yorkshire is fortunate in that it is both a venue for The Hundred and often used for international fixtures, however with the idea being muted that Yorkshire be stripped of international host privileges by politicians and the DCMS, further financial strife through lost ticket revenues may be on the way, should the racism row with Rafiq be resolved unsatisfactorily.”