Yorkshire’s racism furore has deepened after a leading administrator in the region launched a personal attack on Azeem Rafiq.
Roger Pugh, the chairman of ECB Yorkshire South Premier League, described Rafiq as “discourteous and disrespectful” in his chairman’s blog dated September 3 and posted the following day.
It followed Rafiq’s interview with ESPNcricinfo, published on September 2, in which he claimed his experiences of “institutional racism” while playing for Yorkshire left him on the brink of committing suicide.
Pugh said that he was “not in a position to comment on” Rafiq’s allegations, but claimed that he had found Rafiq “very difficult to deal with” before invoking a “biblical quote” in response to learning of the former player’s comments.
“Yesterday, I read that Azeem Rafiq had made allegations of ‘institutional racism’ at Yorkshire CCC,” Pugh wrote in his blog. “Of course, I am not in a position to comment on these allegations, but that they should come from him does not surprise me.
“I have had contact with Azeem both as an umpire and an administrator, and found him very difficult to deal with – being both discourteous and disrespectful. Indeed, over the five years in which we have been in existence, he is the only person in our league that I have had any issues with.
“Several of our umpires and one of our clubs also had problems with him in 2016, when he was back with YCCC, and I wrote to the club to draw attention to his behaviour – a step not taken lightly. I am not a religious man, but a biblical quote seems to me apt here. It is, ‘as ye sow, so shall ye reap.'”
In his interview, Rafiq expanded on similar comments he had made to Wisden.com and the Cricket Badger podcast, and claimed that Yorkshire had treated him coldly in the wake of a family tragedy, releasing him from his contract shortly after his son was still-born, despite having claimed they would look after him “professionally and personally”.
He highlighted how the lack of diversity within the Yorkshire dressing room had made him a target, including from senior players and one captain whom he stated was “openly racist”.
Now aged 29 and pursuing a career away from cricket, having led Yorkshire in a T20 against Durham in 2012 to become the youngest captain in the club’s history, Rafiq said he had chosen to speak out to “prevent anyone else feeling the same pain”.
On Thursday, Yorkshire promised a full independent inquiry into Rafiq’s claims as well as a wider review into its policies and culture in a statement quoting chairman Roger Hutton as saying: “Any allegation of this nature is hugely concerning to everyone from the board to the playing staff here, and we take the reports very seriously.”
The club released a further statement on Saturday saying that it had “asked independent law firm, Squire Patton Boggs (Squire) to lead an investigation and review of these matters”.
“As The Yorkshire County Cricket Club have previously indicated, it takes the matters aired by Azeem Rafiq very seriously,” the statement said. “Squire has extensive expertise and has begun the work to ensure a thorough investigation and review is conducted.”
Upon announcing Hutton as Yorkshire CCC chairman in April, the club said on its website: “Educated at Exeter University and Leeds Metropolitan University Law School, Hutton took the role of Article Clerk at Squire Patton Boggss (sic) before joining Clarion as an Assistant Solicitor in 1996. Three years later, Hutton became a partner at the law firm and has since worked with many high-profile clients.”
A spokesman for Yorkshire CCC said that Hutton no longer had any connection, personal or professional, with Squire.
“Roger’s managing partner at Clarion and at the moment we have no further statement,” the spokesman said. “There will be a further statement in the coming days which will clarify more on the process itself.”