LONDON (AP) — The chairman of Yorkshire County Cricket Club quit on Friday as the club struggled to contain a crisis over its handling of a former player’s racism allegations that have shaken the sport.
Roger Hutton said he resigned “with immediate effect.” He cited the club’s unwillingness to accept the claims by former player Azeem Rafiq and its refusal to apologize.
“There has been a constant unwillingness from the executive members of the board and senior management at the club to apologize, and to accept that there was racism, and to look forward,” Hutton said. “For much of my time at the club, I experienced a culture that refuses to accept change or challenge.”
He apologized “unreservedly” to Rafiq. Hutton also urged the board to follow him and three members have stepped down: Hanif Malik and Stephen Willis. Neil Hartley said he’ll leave after a transition.
Hutton was replaced by Kamlesh Patel, the chair of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s South Asian advisory group and a former board member.
Patel said Yorkshire “needs to learn from its past errors, regain trust and rebuild relationships with our communities.”
Rafiq, a former England Under-19 captain, said in interviews last year that as a Muslim he was made to feel like an “outsider” during his time at Yorkshire from 2008-18 and he was close to taking his own life.
A formal investigation was commissioned by Yorkshire in September 2020 into 43 allegations made by Rafiq, with seven of them upheld in a report released only in September under pressure from lawmakers. It found Rafiq — a former captain — was the victim of racial harassment and bullying.
But it also said a racial slur directed at Rafiq was delivered “in the spirit of friendly banter.” And the club said it would not take any disciplinary action against any of its employees, players or executives.
The UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid called for “heads to roll.” Julian Knight, the chair of a government select committee, called Yorkshire’s moves “repellent and disturbing.”
On Wednesday, former England cricketer Gary Ballance admitted using a racial slur against Rafiq when they were teammates at Yorkshire, but said “this was a situation where best friends said offensive things to each other which, outside of that context, would be considered wholly inappropriate.”
Rafiq responded that his complaint was “not about individuals” and more to do with “institutional racism and abject failures.”
On Thursday, former England and Yorkshire captain Michael Vaughan denied an allegation in the report that he once told a group of Asian teammates there’s “too many of your lot, we need to do something about it.”
But Pakistan international Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, an overseas player at the county during the 2008 and 2009 seasons, claimed to ESPN Cricinfo that he overhead Vaughan using racially insensitive comments and offered to give evidence to any inquiry.
Yorkshire has been suspended by the ECB from hosting international matches, including an England test against New Zealand in 2022 and an Ashes test in 2023.
The ECB has started its own investigation and slammed the club for its “wholly unacceptable” response to the racism faced by Rafiq.
“The ECB find this matter abhorrent and against the spirit of cricket and its values,” the governing body said in a statement. The case “is causing serious damage to the reputation of the game.”
Several sponsors, including kit supplier Nike, have deserted Yorkshire.
Founded more than 150 years ago, Yorkshire is the most successful team in English cricket.
Hutton joined the Yorkshire board in 2020, almost two years after Rafiq ended his second stint at the club, and said he has never met the player.
“During my time as chairman, I take responsibility for failing to persuade them to take appropriate and timely action,” Hutton said on Friday. “This frustration has been shared by all of the non-executive members of the board, some of whom have also now resigned.”
Hutton added he reached out for help in the club investigation from the ECB but was frustrated by its “reluctance to help.”
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