On the 14th October 2021, fourteen concerned employees wrote a letter to their bosses. Six days earlier, a summary report into conduct at their workplace had been published. The employees felt it showed them in a bad light, an impression not challenged publicly by their management. A one-man campaign threatened to destroy their workplace. The workplace was Yorkshire Country Cricket Club. The one man was former player Azeem Rafiq.
Bloodbath investigative team does not know how the directors responded to the concerned employee’s letter. The communication only became public when leaked to the Daily Telegraph a month later. What the informed observer can surmise is, through their lack of action across the next two weeks, the Yorkshire Board thought the situation under control. They couldn’t have been more wrong. Likewise, as we shall see, when concerned staff signed a letter suggesting only one man plotted to destroy them – they couldn’t have been more naive.
Yorkshire CCC’s low key response to their own commissioned report simmered and then exploded in their faces two weeks later, on the 28th of October, following the release of a long statement to the press. Expecting a witch hunt and accompanying crucifixions, some interested parties became infuriated by the following passage,
“The Club also carried out their own internal investigation following findings in the Report after which they are able to report that they have come to the conclusion that there is no conduct or action taken by any of its employees, players or Executives that warrants disciplinary action.”
The resulting media and political earthquake now threatens the very existence of Yorkshire County Cricket Club.
The report in question addressed allegations of discrimination made by 31-year-old former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq. Karachi born Azeem came to Barnsley as a child and joined Yorkshire as an academy player as a teen. A legal team from Squire, Patton and Boggs, controversially closely connected to YCCC chairman Roger Hutton, prepared the report.
To avoid claims of defamation and to preserve confidentiality, the report was not published but a summary, conclusions and recommendations were drawn from it by a supervisory panel. Dr Samir Pathak, a surgeon and trustee of the MCC Foundation, chaired the panel. Other members were,
- Stephen Willis, a non-executive director of Yorkshire, an ally of Mr Hutton, and chief financial officer of Durham University.
- Rehana Azib, a barrister and employment law specialist.
- Helen Hyde, former personnel director and member of the management board at Waitrose and a John Lewis partnership corporate registrar for 21 years.
- Mesba Ahmed.
Original appointee Mr Anif Mailik stood down after Rafiq objected to his presence. Gulfrax Riaz, Chairman of the National Asian Cricket Council is named as a panellist elsewhere but doesn’t feature in the Yorkshire press release. No matter, it is noticeable the supervisory panel was majority Asian.
Rafiq made in excess of forty complaints. The panel upheld seven. To quote from the document:
- When Azeem Rafiq was playing junior cricket for Yorkshire, he was not provided with halal food at matches.
- Prior to 2010 the Panel found that there were three separate incidents of racist language being used by former players which were found to be harassment on the grounds of race.
- Before 2012 a former coach regularly used racist language.
- During his second spell at Yorkshire between 2016 and 2018 there were jokes made around religion which made individuals uncomfortable about their religious practices.
- During his second spell at the Club, a former player made references to Azeem Rafiq’s weight and fitness that amounted to bullying.
- In August 2018, when Azeem Rafiq raised concerns of racism there was a failure by the Club to follow its own policy or investigate these allegations.
- Finally, that on a number of occasions prior to 2018 the Club could have done more to make Muslims more welcome within their stadiums and should have dealt better with complaints of racist or anti-social behaviour within those stadiums.
The full summary report, its conclusions and recommendations can can be read here.
As a legal rather than a judicial process the panel couldn’t force people to make statements or answer questions. Therefore, lack of evidence prevented some allegations from being upheld. Although much has been said about banter and the accompanying ‘racism is not banter’ strapline, there is only one reference to banter in the report summary. Even then, the word is put in inverted commas and placed in the context that action would be taken to challenge it:
The Panel found that this highlighted the importance of YCCC monitoring the use of such language and taking appropriate action against those individuals who engage in such comments, even if it is in the context of “banter” or “friendly”.
The reporting panel also concluded;
It determined that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that Yorkshire County Cricket Club is institutionally racist. It did not find that any decisions by the coaching staff or the Club, relating either to Azeem’s inclusion within a team or his ultimate release from the Club was for anything other than cricketing reasons.
There were a great many people at the Club who cared deeply for Azeem and who worked extremely hard over a long period to develop and assist him, both personally and professionally, and who celebrated his successes and championed him at the Club. And there were others that worked exceptionally hard with him on his cricket, particularly when he struggled for form.
An ongoing employment tribunal dispute delayed publication. Rafiq turned down a £100,000 settlement with accompanying non-disclosure agreement (NDA). After the employment dispute concluded unsettled, YCCC published the panel’s report on 8th October. With a misleading racism is banter headline and with the club not proposing any action against any employees, the 28th October press release was followed by a media, social media and political uproar.
A flurry of allegations, many of them anonymous, came out over the following days. Some less serious, a Muslin girl ‘forced’ to wear shorts. Some more serious, Michael Vaughan allegedly told a group of Pakistani players there were, “Too many of you lot, we need to do something about it”. Rana Naven-ul-Hasan (a Pakistan international fast bowler) corroborated the story but Ajmal Shahzad, also said to be present, did not.
One wonders if Mr Naven-ul-Hasan shares the values of the Islamic republic he represents on the cricket field? Blasphemy punishable by death? Sex outside marriage, illegal? Homosexuality, illegal?
After Michael Vaughan issued a strongly worded repudiation, the Twitter archaeologists discovered a number of Vaughan’s historic tweets. These included a Puffin’s favourite which referred to his clocks being put back to 1940 when this country had some bollocks. Although the BBC folded and removed Vaughn from their programming, Michael will continue with Fox Sports providing audio for BT’s forthcoming Ashes coverage.
Michael Holding, a native of 99% black Jamaica, lectured on diversity and equality from his millionaire’s mansion, possibly in the Cayman Islands where he has spent much of the pandemic. The club suspended batsman Gary Ballance over use of the word ‘Paki’. Head coach Andrew Gale was suspended for saying ‘yid’ in a private message.
On Thursday 4th November, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced Yorkshire’s Headingley home wouldn’t be used for future international matches. This dealt a massive blow to the finances with the withdrawal of the money-spinning June 3rd 2022 test against New Zealand and the July 3rd 2022 one day international against South Africa. Although Yorkshire are in debt (much of it owed to the Graves family), they returned profits in recent years. The current debt level stands at £18.6 million according to the Daily Mail. 2019 saw profits of £6.4 million.
Also on the 4th of November, sponsors began to end their association with the club. In all, Yorkshire lost £3 million in sponsorship revenue and £3.5 million from the internationals. Those withdrawing sponsors included Tetley. Although Tetley owners Calcutta based Tata Consumer Products Limited might be squeamish about banter, they are more relaxed about slave labour. In January 2014, the World Bank criticized poor working conditions, low wages, and gross human rights violations experienced by Tetley tea pickers. A Guardian headline ran, “Assam’s modern slaves: the real price of a cup of Tetley tea.”
A similar double standard is exercised by Emerald Publishing (until Thursday, Headingley was known as the Emerald Headingley). The next item on Emerald’s website, next to the announcement of the end of their Yorkshire sponsorship, tells of the company’s partnership with the medieval fiefdom of the United Arab Emirates. Laughably, one of the resulting publications is International Journal of Excellence in Government – in association with the prime ministers office. The prime minister in question being the despot Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum whose values include kidnapping his own daughter.
On Friday 5th November, Chairman Roger Hutton bowed to pressure and resigned. In his resignation letter, he called upon the old guard at Yorkshire to resign too and criticized the ECB for a lack of support for the beleaguered club during the completion of their report. Two fellow new guard non-executive directors and allies of Hutton, including report panellist Willis, resigned with him. Lord Kamlesh Patel replaced Hutton as chairman. Armed with a diploma in social work from Huddersfield Polytechnic, Lord Patel has become a member of great and the good.
Grammar school boy Kamlesh, one of the Nairobi Patels, claims he and his family fled Kenya in the 1960s upon the expulsion from the country of Asians without work permits.
This is not true.
The Patels could have taken out Kenyan nationality and stayed in Kenya as, at the end of British rule, Kenyan jobs went to Kenyan citizens. Plenty of other Asians did. In fact, the Patel’s chose to keep their British passports, chose to leave East Africa and chose to come and live in Britain.
As Patel was appointed, the Daily Telegraph reported former Yorkshire chairman Colin Graves had been keen on the position but thought to be too ‘toxic’. The Costcutter convenience store entrepreneur had been chairman of Yorkshire during much of the time of the Rafiq allegations.
On Saturday 6th of November, Headingley Stadium hosted a vigil. Featuring on the Sunday Telegraph’s front page, one of Rafiq’s children held up a sign saying, ‘Racism is not banter’. Sparsely attended, it seemed to consist of the media plus Rafiq’s close family members, their children, human rights hangers-on and his father Mohammed wired up to an oxygen tank. There was mention in the media of Azeem’s wife’s stillborn baby and of Rafiq’s tears and suicidal thoughts.
At the vigil, Leeds University lecturer Dr Abdul-Bashid Shaikh addressed the crowd. Dr Shaikh’s doctorate is in Comparative Religion, awarded by Batley Business Enterprise College. Also present, Mohammed Patel, a human rights lawyer and Yunus Lunat, who practices employment law.
Amongst the evening’s accompanying tweets, one caught the eye. From @suigenerisjen it referred to one of Rafiq’s placard-carrying children as a, “Gorgeous little boy.” @suigenerisjen is the Twitter handle of Jennifer Robinson of Doubty Street Chambers in London. What Ms Robinson forgot to mention in her tweet, is she is part of the legal team involved in Rafiq’s employment dispute during the previous year.
Doubty Street Chambers, according to their website, aim to ‘improve access to justice and promote human rights and civil liberties through the law’. Her commitment to human rights has involved representing terror suspect Mohammed Jabar when the Treasury tried to freeze his assets. Jennifer is a friend of the Clooneys. The founder and head of her chambers is leftie luvvie QC Jeffrey Robertson.
On Monday 8th November, Lord Patel announced the Rafiq employment case settled, with the club paying £200,000 but without a non-disclosure agreement. Patel apologised to Rafiq. A whistleblower’s hotline would be set up. Without an NDA in place, minutes later the strategic communications company representing Rafiq put out a press release demanding the resignations of YCCC old guard Martyn Moxon, Mark Arthur and ‘many on the coaching staff’.
The strategic communications team are PR company Powerscourt, specifically grammar school boy (Bournemouth School) Mark Leftly, a director of the company and their head of public affairs. Bloodbath understands Powerscourt are representing Azeem Rafiq for free. Previously, Leftly was a journalist, business editor, political editor and columnist at The Independent, Independent on Sunday and Evening Standard. In between times, he has been press secretary to the ex-leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable.
In their own communications regarding their Rafiq account, Powerscourt are inviting, in their own words, ‘any media, political or campaign group enquiries’. Bear this in mind: when you see journalists, Hope Not Hate, the ECB, the Equality and Human Rights Commission et al joining a witch hunt, a strategic communications company has trawled them there. Rafiq family members are now sending carefully worded tweets, obviously penned by a PR company and full of media buzz phrases. Azeem’s sister Amna posts,
‘My father made sacrifices to keep us safe and happy. He supported us every step along the way and provided us with endless opportunities but never did he imagine he would be stood outside Headingley like this ever. Here’s to a better future for everyone! Hashtag stump out racism.
Her tweet was complete with photos of cute children holding catchphrases and the morose looking Mr Rafiq senior on his oxygen machine. Simultaneously, the tone of Azeem’s tweets has changed and his grammar and spelling have improved.
Monday 8th November also saw an emergency question raised in the House of Commons. Contributors included Nazim Shah, MP for Bradford West, whose previous contributions to harmony among peoples include wanting the Jews removed from Israel and telling sexual abuse victims to shut up in the interests of diversity.
On Tuesday 9th November, reports announced Martyn Moxon to be signed off with a stress-related illness, perhaps not surprisingly as 48 hours earlier The Observer reported,
“A source at the club [Yorkshire CCC] said that extra security has now been brought in to protect staff working at the cricket ground after some of them received death threats.”
The previous Friday’s YCCC board meeting was held over Zoom. The majority of staff were told to work from home. The staff directory has been taken down from the club’s website. For some reason, these developments receive less attention than allegations of name-calling ten years ago.
Bloodbath also understands members of ‘the community’ who have previously corresponded with Yorkshire employees are circulating and publicising their contact details, resulting in more threats and bullying. For obvious reasons, Bloodbath cannot name names. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is female employees who are getting the worst of the abuse. Again, for some reason, this receives less mainstream media coverage than allegations of historic discrimination.
As well as Headingley, there is reason for concern at the Yorkshire Post, with long-running ill will not least between Rafiq and the Post’s sports journalist Chris Waters. Previous Twitter spats include:
From Azeem Rafiq:
“but the constant briefing about me, the attacks from you in particular amongst other things that have been happening is not something I am going to back down from.”
Reply from Chris Waters:
“Constant briefing? Attacks? What are you talking about? You’ve got a screw loose sadly.”
With the mental health card bound to be played at some point, ‘screw loose’ sounds an unwise turn of phrase bound to be weaponised. As long ago as September 2020, the following communication passed between the two of them.
From Azeem Rafiq:
you sure know a lot? How sure are you? Please tell
Chris Waters replied:
I know enough to believe, with all my heart , that the current YCCC hierarchy has been the victim of a grave miscarriage of justice. Still, let’s not let that get in the way of a popular narrative.
Given the subsequent response to the YCCC panel’s report, with flack coming in from all directions, one might suppose the Yorkshire Post are now shitting bricks. It is also squeaky bum time in other parts of the media. The Daily Mail’s fearlessly self-opinionated cricket lover Piers Morgan is strangely quiet on the topic. Issan Khan’s Mail on Sunday coverage of the 6th November vigil began with the following tosh,
“Visibly strained with a machine placed on a silver trolley, tubes loosely flowing to both nostrils, Mohammed Rafiq stands with a sign outside Headingley. The sign reads ‘Racism is not banter ‘, but it’s the sign on the weary face or the 63-year-old that speaks louder. It speaks of pain, trauma and defiance after his son Azeem came out 15 months ago with allegations of racial discrimination and bullying by his employer, Yorkshire County Cricket Club.”
As for the ECB. Although thought toxic by the Daily Telegraph, Colin Graves was Chairman of the ECB for a five-year term starting in 2015. After he stood down, Ian Watmore filled the position but himself resigned last month after criticism of England’s decision not to tour Pakistan following concerns over security and player welfare. The more furious voices came from the sub-continent, not least from those associated with the illegal gambling industry.
The chairman-less ECB’s England team are in Australia preparing for the Ashes test matches. Unable to avoid the Yorkshire controversy, England captain Jo Root gave a hostage video style interview to the media on 11th November. Root is in a difficult position. As a contemporary of Rafiq (Root’s first-team career at Yorkshire spans from 2009 to the present, Rafiq’s between 2008 and 2014 and 2016 to 2018), Root cannot say he witnessed racism as he will be challenged as to why he didn’t do anything about it. At the same time, he can’t be seen to contradict Azeem Rafiq.
Despite reading out a carefully prepared laundry list of non-commital banalities, Root still attracted the opprobrium of Rafiq, with Azeem tweeting his ‘incredible hurt’ over his former Yorkshire captain’s comments.
So much for the difficulties at the ECB, what of the character of Rafiq himself? While protected from mainstream media criticism by the race, whistleblower and victim cards, the original YCCC staff letter is more candid.
The former Yorkshire spin bowler is accused of not sharing the ‘White Rose values’ of the club. The letter adds,
“Azeem is a complex character. He had and demanded, very significant and constant staff support whilst at the club”
Some of his former colleagues went on to say,
“He became an underperformer on the field, he was problematic in the dressing room [with a] one-man mission to bring down the club and with it, people of genuine integrity.”
“There are endless episodes of Azeem’s behaviour, well-known to the club, which reflect on him as a person well before he decided to accuse the club, staff and players of any wrongdoing.”
A source has revealed to Bloodbath one such episode, memory-holed by mainstream media, which demonstrates difficulties with Azeem’s temperament, misuse of social media, lack of disciple and disruptive party lifestyle.
The Bloodbath investigative team received the following cutting.
One of England’s best young cricketers has been banned from all matches for a month, after calling the national under-19 coach a “wanker” on Twitter.
Azeem Rafiq was banned and fined £500 for his tirade about the England U-19 coach, John Abrahams. The Yorkshire all-rounder’s obscene outburst came last week, after he was dropped from the under-19 team to face Sri Lanka, when it is thought his habit of staying out after agreed curfews during matches became an issue.
Rafiq, under-19 captain before he was first disciplined, pleaded guilty to two charges considered by an ECB cricket discipline commission panel.
If the character of the complainant is flawed, what of the parliamentary committee which will sit in judgment of Yorkshire County Cricket Club when the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee take evidence on the afternoon of Tuesday 16th November?
As might be expected, the committee members are beyond parody. All are white. Time forbids a forensic discretion of each of them but Bloodbath was able to take a thumbnail look at three plus their minister.
Wearing shorts or otherwise, Muslim girls might be advised to avoid expenses cheat the Rt Hon Damian Green MP after thousands of pornographic images were found on his House of Commons computer during a police enquiry. Likewise, one wishes Lord Patel’s whistleblowers more luck than the women who complained about Damien Green during the 2017 Westminster sex scandal. An inquiry concluded the evidence against him ‘plausible’ rather than proven, with Mr Green’s subsequent resignation brought about by his breaking of the ministerial code rather than his sexual harassment of women.
Speaking of the safety of children, one wonders why bouffant adorned pantomime dame SNP MP John Nicholson put forward a 2016 private member’s bill which would, in effect, have removed men with multiple convictions for gross indecency in pubic places from the sex offenders register?
Before entering Parliament, Julian Knight MP was a financial journalist. In a 2004 book, he explained how to avoid tax by altering a will after death and use non-domiciled status to avoid more tax while re-arranging assets to qualify for free elderly care paid for by the tax-payer.
The minister for DCMS is multiple expenses thief Nadine Dorres who had re-pay £3000 as part of the 2009 scandal. Despite being MP for Mid-Bedfordshire, a 45-minute commute from central London with a train every ten minutes, Ms Dorres claims expenses for a second home. Although paid a full-time wage by the taxpayer Ms Dorres has time to, according to The People newspaper, pen a series of books that have earned her £1/2 million. She has appeared in I’m a Celebrity and claimed £80,000 in expenses for hiring her own daughters as staff.
One assumes the minister and her Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s values will prevent them from attending the freebie jolly of next year’s football World Cup, to be held in human rights and LGBT disrespecting Qatar.
Meanwhile, back in Yorkshire, a bombshell report reveals Asian sexual exploitation of young girls in Rotherham continues. Hundreds of Afghans have been dumped on Scarborough. Five men are to stand trial for the murder of Kain Tordoff in Bradford. A Batley grammar school teacher is under police protection after disrespecting Islam. In Batley and Dewsbury, 40 arrests have been made in a child sex abuse enquiry. Etc etc etc etc.
Time will tell what the consequences of Rafiq’s action will be for YCCC, the ECB and cricket. At Tuesday’s Select Committee hearing, Doubty Street Chambers and Powersources’ client will be well-rehearsed and meticulously scripted. Ominously, any firewall the rest of the game thought they had built around themselves was breached on Friday 12th November when Essex Chairman John Faragher was forced to resign. During a 2017 board meeting, while discussing such things as grass cutting, boundary painting and re-arranging the car park, Mr Faragher somehow managed to say ‘nigger’.
Stacked against Yorkshire in particular, and cricket in general, are minorities, London law firms, employment lawyers, human rights lawyers, strategic communications companies and a terrified media. South Asian gambling syndicates sneer from the sidelines. Most of all, cricket might fear Westminster politicians who expect sport to paper over the brokenness in society caused by their own blood bath of multiculturalism and uncontrolled immigration.
© Always Worth Saying 2021