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The chairman of one of England's most prestigious cricket clubs has resigned over its response to racism experienced by former player Azeem Rafiq.
Roger Hutton has left his post at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, acknowledging that the club “should have recognised at the time the serious allegations of racism” made by Rafiq in 2020.
Hutton “apologised unreservedly” to 30-year-old Rafiq. He said that YCCC had “a culture that refuses to accept change or challenge”, adding “I am sorry that we could not persuade executive members of the board to recognise the gravity of the situation and show care and contrition.”
A leading employment lawyer told Personnel Today that the case was a textbook example of a failure to properly investigate accusations of racist discrimination. Hutton’s resignation comes after an investigation found Rafiq was a victim of “racial harassment and bullying” – but the club initially said they would take no disciplinary action.
[pullquote]The failure to take action here despite the findings of discrimination suggest a real lack of leadership in handling these serious issues” – Natasha Adom, GQ Littler[/pullquote]
He has been replaced as chairman by Lord Kamlesh Patel of Bradford. There have also been two resignations from the club's board and a third that will be deferred until a transition to a new leadership team is complete.
Leaked material from the report published this week revealed that Rafiq had been subjected to racial slurs during his two periods with the club – a claim backed up by his former friend and teammate Gary Ballance in a statement on 3 November who said: “It has been reported that I used a racial slur and, as I told the independent inquiry, I accept that I did so and I regret doing so.” He added: “To be clear – I deeply regret some of the language I used in my younger years.”
On 3 November Rafiq tweeted: “I wanted to stress this is not really about the words of certain individuals. This is about institutional racism and abject failures to act by numerous leaders at Yorkshire County Cricket Club and in the wider game. The sport I love and my club desperately need reform and cultural change.”
Yorkshire had launched an inquiry in September 2020 after Rafiq made the allegations and asked an independent panel to investigate his claims. Among the panelists were specialist employment barrister Rehana Azib and HR consultant Helen Hyde.