'Wholly unacceptable': Bombshell twist in 'abhorrent' cricket scandal

·4-min read
Pictured here, Azeem Rafiq claims he was racially vilified while playing for Yorkshire County Cricket Club.
Azeem Rafiq levelled serious allegations against Yorkshire County Cricket club some of its players. Pic: AAP

English county cricket club Yorkshire has been banned from hosting international matches as the fallout from a racism controversy intensifies.

The Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC) has faced a mountain of backlash over its handling of allegations of racism by former player Azeem Rafiq.

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Yorkshire's Headingley stadium frequently hosts international matches, with the ground a regular fixture on the Ashes calendar when Australia tours England.

As well as the ban on Yorkshire, England batsman Gary Ballance, who said on Wednesday he had used racist language towards former County teammate Rafiq, has also been indefinitely suspended from England selection.

In handing down its sanctions, the England and Wales Cricket Board said both the club and player had caused "serious damage to the reputation of the game".

"It is clear ... that YCCC's handling of the issues raised by Azeem Rafiq is wholly unacceptable and is causing serious damage to the reputation of the game," the England and Wales Cricket Board said in a statement.

"The ECB find this matter abhorrent and against the spirit of cricket and its values."

"Before any regulatory investigation is complete, the Board wishes to take immediate action in relation to Gary Ballance," the ECB said.

"While Ballance has not been selected to play for England since 2017, he will be suspended indefinitely from selection. This position will be reviewed following the ECB regulatory investigation into his conduct."

The ECB added it had agreed to hold Yorkshire to account over their handling of the matter and to consider sanctions including but not limited to financial and future match allocations at the end of its investigation.

"In the meantime, YCCC are suspended from hosting international or major matches until it has clearly demonstrated that it can meet the standards expected of an international venue, ECB member and First-Class County," the ECB said.

Reuters have contacted the club, whose Headingley stadium is used regularly for England's Test and limited overs matches, for comment.

Seen here, an aerial shot of Yorkshire's Headingley Stadium during a Test match.
Yorkshire's Headingley Stadium has been banned from hosting international matches by the ECB. Pic: Getty

Racism scandal could cost Yorkshire millions

Several sponsors have ended their partnerships with Yorkshire following an independent report into allegations of racism made by Rafiq, with Nike saying on Thursday they had cancelled a four-year deal that was signed in March.

"Nike will no longer be the kit supplier for Yorkshire CCC. We stand firmly against racism and discrimination of any kind," the brand said in a statement reported by British media.

Emerald Group Publishing, Yorkshire Tea and Tetley Bitter, among others sponsors, have also said they will end their relationships with the club.

Headingley is due to host a Test match between England and New Zealand in June next year, as well as a one-day international against South Africa the following month.

Those fixtures, as well as a men's Ashes Test in 2023 could now be in jeopardy depending on the final outcome of the ECB's investigation, which could cost the Yorkshire club millions of dollars in lost income.

According to the Guardian, Yorkshire earned around £10.5 million ($A19 million) from international ticket and hospitality revenue in 2019, compared to £3 million ($A5.5 million) from commercial revenue, including sponsorships.

The Nike symbol, pictured here at the US track and field championships.
Nike will no longer sponsor the Yorkshire Cricket Club. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

The ECB statement continued: “There is no place for racism or any form of discrimination in cricket and where it is found, swift action must be taken. This matter must be dealt with robustly if the sport is to demonstrate its commitment to truly being a game for everyone.

“The ECB will therefore hold YCCC to account in relation to their handling of the matter. Given recent events, it is clear there are serious questions regarding the governance and management of YCCC. The club’s failure in relation to actions and responses to their own report represent a significant breach of its obligations to the game.

“The ECB board has asked the ECB executive to commission a review of Yorkshire CCC’s governance to consider whether the existing arrangements are fit for purpose. The board reiterated its unwavering commitment to ensuring that cricket is a game for everyone. Discrimination of any kind on the field of play, in the dressing room, in the stands, or in the boardroom is intolerable in sport or indeed, society. Cricket must work together to eradicate it.”

Yorkshire said last month they would not take action against employees, players or executives following the report, which found Rafiq had been a victim of racial harassment and bullying in his first spell at the county from 2008-14.

Rafiq, a player of Pakistani descent and a former captain of the England U19s, said last year he was made to feel like an outsider at Yorkshire and contemplated taking his own life.

with AAP

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