"The Panel does not accept that Azeem was offended"
A current senior player at Yorkshire County Cricket Club was cleared of wrongdoing after a racism report ruled that Azeem Rafiq being called a “P***” was “banter”.
Rafiq, who had two stints at the club between 2008 and 2018, had made numerous allegations against his former employers over the treatment he allegedly received.
In September 2021, Yorkshire published a summary of the report into alleged institutional racism at the club.
It admitted that Rafiq was the victim of racial harassment and bullying.
However, the club has now said it is “pleased” that none of its current employees would face disciplinary action.
It was reported that the unnamed player was cleared by the report on the basis that the term was used as “banter”.
The player also reportedly admitted telling others “don’t talk to him [Rafiq], he’s a P***”, asking “is that your uncle?” when seeing other bearded South Asian men and asking “does your dad own those?” in reference to corner shops.
The player also allegedly admitted recalling Rafiq breaking down in tears at one point.
But the player says he was unaware that he was been offensive and would have stopped if Azeem Rafiq had asked.
The investigating team of lawyers found the comments to be “capable of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”.
They accepted Rafiq’s “evidence that he was offended, degraded or humiliated and that this amounted to harassment under the Equality Act and the Club’s Equal Opportunities policy”.
However, the panel disagreed.
They said: “The Panel does not accept that Azeem was offended by [the other player’s] comments, either at the time they were made or subsequently.”
The panel went on to say that Azeem Rafiq might be “expected to take such comments in the spirit in which they were intended (i.e. good-natured banter between friends)… [so] it was not reasonable for Azeem to have been offended by [the other player] directing equally offensive or derogatory comments back at him in the same spirit of friendly banter”.
The panel also accused Rafiq of using “offensive, racially derogatory comments” when referring to a player of Zimbabwean heritage as “Zimbo from Zimbabwe”.
It was reported that the panel recommended that Rafiq should face disciplinary action if he were still a Yorkshire cricketer.
When a summary of the report was published, Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton said:
“There is no question that Azeem Rafiq, during his first spell as a player at YCCC, was the victim of racial harassment.
“He was also subsequently the victim of bullying.
“On behalf of all at YCCC, I wish to extend my sincere, profound and unreserved apologies to Azeem and to his family.”
Following the announcement that no Yorkshire employees would face disciplinary action, a spokesperson for Rafiq said:
“We note the statement released by Yorkshire County Cricket Club today. As ever, we will take time to fully respond.
“However, we do also note that the club has come to the conclusion that no employees, players or executives will face disciplinary action.
“This is despite Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s admission that Azeem was the victim of racial harassment and bullying.
“This is despite Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s admission that it failed to follow its own policy and investigate allegations of racism as recently as 2018.
“It is inconceivable that there are no current employees who should not have been disciplined for their conduct.
“Yorkshire’s failures continue to mount up and it is time that board members – for once – do the decent thing and resign.”
After months of delays, the ECB have received the report and are reviewing the information.