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Yorkshire Cricket: A Reckoning
The allegations of bullying and racial harassment of former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq has rocked the cricket world this week and plunged the club into a deep crisis.
Rafiq’s claims had been largely brushed aside, but last week sponsors began to cut their ties with Yorkshire County Cricket Club and, as money talks, suddenly the cricket authorities sat up and took notice and the YCCC chairman, along with two board members, resigned. England cricketer Gary Balance admitted his shame at using a derogatory racial term towards his (former) best friend which was, at the time, viewed as banter.
Then the scandal hit the front pages when Michael Vaughan, the captain who led England to a famous Ashes victory in 2005, announced that he too was implicated. When he shouted at a group of team-mates in 2009 he can’t have imagined how it would put his media career in jeopardy some 12 years later but it has. Two of the group, Rafiq and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, claim Vaughan shouted: “There are too many of your lot. We need to do something about it.” Vaughan is adamant that the claim is false and, of course, the legal teams on both sides have quickly assembled.
The whole of ‘God’s own County’, as Yorkshire stalwarts like to call it, has been tainted by the allegations, but this is nothing new. Lancashire fans, growing up on the right side of the Pennines, watched their great team and its players from around the globe. Back in the seventies, stars like Indian wicket keeper Farokh Engineer and West Indies legend Clive Lloyd became Lancashire favourites and they were followed by a long line of overseas stars to enrich the club and enhance its fortunes.
Meanwhile, over the hill in Yorkshire, their cricket club wouldn’t admit any player from without the county boundary, never mind the borders of the country! With some irony, when Vaughan was a young player, born in Manchester, he was ineligible to play for Yorkshire. But the county, which was already falling behind its rivals and clearly fancied the player, changed the rules to allow players who were educated in Yorkshire to play. So Vaughan was schooled in Sheffield. As the clubs’ rule-makers lurched into the 20th century Indian superstar Sachin Tendulkar became the first overseas player to represent Yorkshire, in 1992.
In football, fans heading over the hills to Leeds United’s Elland Road were greeted by the YRA (Yorkshire Republican Army) and the charming South Stand Skins, as a nasty racist undercurrent left a stench around the place. Every football club has its share of bigoted idiots, but Leeds seemed to have more and away fans let them know!
HDN friend Kausar Tai spoke brilliantly at our Autumn conference on ‘Tackling Islamophobia’ and chairs our webinars on the subject. Kausar blames the media for much of the problems experienced by the British Muslim community, saying, ‘every time there is a terrorist attack Muslims around the world say Oh no…not again.’ And so it was with the Rotherham grooming tragedy, where up to 1,400 vulnerable girls were horrifically abused over decades. The vast majority of Yorkshire’s Muslims and Christians came together in sadness, condemnation and mutual support. But crimes such as these, committed by a tiny minority of the Asian community, serve to embolden the racists, such as white supremacist Thomas Mair who killed Jo Cox, the MP who served in Batley and Spen where she was born and bred. Cox was the founder of the cross-party parliamentary group ‘Friends of Syria’ and, seemingly, that was enough to upset the unhinged Mair.
In their mischief, Lancastrians might be tempted to paint Yorkshire as a racist county but this is blatantly not true either. Four of our own team are proud to live in the West and North Ridings of the county, renowned for its beautiful towns and villages, stunning countryside and stout folk. And there is no section of society suffering right now than the people of Yorkshire, both Asian and White. And, of course, this is not just a Yorkshire problem. The English Cricket Board ignored the pleas for help from outgoing chairman Roger Hutton, as he investigated Rafiq’s claims.
As is always the case, the only winners in situations such as this are the legal professionals. But Yorkshire Cricket cannot afford to become embroiled in the bitterness, this is a chance to progress and improve.
The very future of the club depends on it…and rightly so.
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