Watchdog states cricket club’s racism scandal was likely unlawful

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the UK’s equality watchdog, has said that the racism and discrimination which has been alleged to have taken place at Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC) was “likely” unlawful.

The commission which in a statement noted that it had reviewed the documentation relating to the accounts which is described as “upsetting and deeply concerning”, said that it would reserve the right to take legal action if an action plan to tackle such issues isn’t implemented properly.

The commission’s chief executive Marcial Boo said: “We consider it likely that an unlawful act has taken place.

“However, we have confidence that the new management at the club is taking appropriate steps to deal with past failures, including the departure of the entire management team and the agreement of a 12-point action plan between Yorkshire and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).”

He did however warn: “We will therefore be monitoring the club’s action plan closely and we reserve the right to take legal action if the action plan isn’t implemented properly.”

Yorkshire County Cricket Club has been widely criticised for its response to the claims by former player Azeem Rafiq, who in 2020 said he was subject to “institutional racism” while playing for the first class county.

Over the course of the intervening 15 months, the club has undertaken a review which found Rafiq had been the subject of racial harassment.

However, YCCC  then said that no disciplinary action would be taken against any employees, players or executives.

This resulted in many of the club’s sponsors walking away from the club, as well as the resignation of Roger Hutton as chairmanMark Arthur as CEO and other board members.

Most recently Rafiq gave evidence to Department for Culture Media and Sport Select Committee and noted that he saw this incident as the start of a process to remove racism from the sport.

Subsequently the new chairman of the club, Lord Patel, has been undertaking what he has said are “important changes” to how the club is run, in order to “move on from the past to become a culture which is progressive and inclusive.” This has included an exodus of coaching staff, the setting up of a whistleblowing hotline and the appointment of former England international, Darren Gough as interim managing director.

Most recently the club has launched a new partnership with Pakistan Super League team, the Lahore Qalanders which will include a player exchange programme, scholarships for young aspiring players from Yorkshire.

Most notable however is YCCC’s ambition to emulate the Qalanders Players Development Program (PDP) which aims to engage young people and is seen as “a blueprint for nurturing cricket talent whilst reducing barriers to entry”.

Lord Patel commented: ““The work the Lahore Qalandars do both on and off the pitch is remarkable and can serve as a benchmark for clubs around the world – ours included – for how best to spot, foster and support talent at all levels in the game of cricket.

“The Players Development Program is an incredible achievement – breaking the mould for how teams can be created within our sport, and demonstrating that through offering access and support, great cricketing talent can be found from all backgrounds.

“Over the coming months, this, coupled with scholarships and new opportunities and experiences for academy players, will represent an exciting step toward a Yorkshire County Cricket Club that is welcoming and supportive to all.”