Yorkshire chairman quits, says club refused to learn from racism allegations

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LONDON, Nov 5 (Reuters) - The chairman of Yorkshire County Cricket Club resigned on Friday, accusing the club's executives of failing to accept and learn from racism allegations raised by former player Azeem Rafiq over a year ago.

Rafiq, who is of Pakistani descent and is a former captain of the England Under-19s, said in September 2020 that he had received racist abuse and was made to feel like an outsider at Yorkshire and that he had even contemplated suicide.

"There has been constant unwillingness from the executive members of the (Yorkshire) board and senior management at the club to apologise and to accept racism and to look forward," Roger Hutton wrote in his resignation letter shared by the BBC.

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"For much of my time at the club, I experienced a culture that refuses to accept change or challenge."

After a nearly year-long inquiry into the matter, the club issued a statement in September acknowledging Rafiq had been racially abused. But on Oct. 28 it said nobody would face any disciplinary action.

England's cricket board (ECB) on Thursday suspended Yorkshire from hosting international or major matches.

Rafiq and senior Yorkshire executives have been called to give evidence before a parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) panel on Nov. 16.

Yorkshire said in a statement it was "resolved to do whatever it takes to regain the trust of all its stakeholders inside and outside the game."

It said Hanif Malik and Stephen Willis had also stepped down from its board and Lord Kamlesh Patel had been appointed to replace Hutton.

Hutton, who joined the board in April 2020 - 18 months after Rafiq left the club - took the opportunity to "apologise unreservedly" to the player.

"The club should have recognised at the time the serious allegations of racism," he wrote. "I am sorry that we could not persuade executive members of the board to recognise the gravity of the situation."

Incoming chairman Patel said in a statement: "The Club needs to learn from its past errors, regain trust and rebuild relationships with our communities," adding, "There is much work to do."

Later on Friday, the BBC said it has dropped former England captain Michael Vaughan from a radio show next Monday after he was named in the inquiry's report into the racism allegations. Vaughan, who played for Yorkshire between 1993 and 2009, denies making any racist comments.

ECB DEFENDS ITS ROLE

In his resignation letter, Hutton also said the national governing body, the England and Wales Cricket Board, had been reluctant to act when approached, an allegation the ECB swiftly denied.

"I immediately reached out to the ECB to ask for their help and intervention to support a robust inquiry," Hutton wrote.

"I was saddened when they declined to help as I felt it was a matter of great importance for the game as a whole."

But ECB Chief Executive Officer Tom Harrison said his organisation could not have joined a Yorkshire inquiry panel as it is itself the regulator.

"We were asked to join the Yorkshire panel, to be part of the investigation, which clearly we cannot do. We are the regulator," he told reporters.

"A quasi kind of involvement - being regulator and part of the membership of an investigation - is completely against the role that we play," he said.

Harrison said the ECB had taken "unprecedented action" over Yorkshire's handling of the issue.

"There are going to be a lot of people from a lot of different backgrounds and cultures that have looked at what's been happening over the last few days and feel very uncomfortable about whether they would want their children to be involved in cricket," Harrison said.

"So we've had to step in in the most direct way to defend the values of our sport."

With its suspension from hosting major matches and sponsors including Nike ending their partnerships with Yorkshire, Harrison said the county faced a financial crisis.

"We have to move quite quickly into rehabilitation and ensuring that we get the balance between sanction and coming out the other side because a healthy and thriving Yorkshire county cricket club is so important to cricket in this country."

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Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru an Martyn Herman in London; Editing by Robert Birsel and Hugh Lawson

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