Headingley, to the many ruddy-faced cricket fans that pack its beery stands every summer, is the beating heart and soul of English cricket.

Yorkshire is home for most of the 158 year history. This place has a lot of sporting heritage: It’s the home of Stokes, Botham, and Bothams Ashes. Boycott and Trueman used to play here. Illingworth was home to many Test players and county champions than anywhere else.

However, next summer our national side will give Leeds a broad berth.

As things stand now, there will be no one-day internationals or Test matches played in white rose land. Bowlers from Kirkstall Lane will not be able to settle the final stages of domestic tournaments. Even the Emerald Stand where rows of rowdy supporters wear fancy dress may no longer be known as the Emerald Stand.

The toxic controversy that has decimated England’s iconic, most popular county side is to blame. The recent events have seen Yorkshire being ostracized by cricket’s establishment. They were also attacked by commentators and pundits as well as thousands of fans. Sponsors (including Tetley beer, Nike, Yorkshire Tea, Emerald Publishing and Emerald Publishing which owns the “naming rights” to this stand) dropped Yorkshire.

England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has banned the club from hosting major games. Senior politicians have also criticized the club’s culture and values as’repellent and troubling’.

The club has been banned from staging major matches by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), the British game's governing body, while its culture and values were dubbed 'repellent and disturbing' by senior politicians. Also in the firing line is former England batsman Gary Ballance (pictured), a serving Yorkshire player. He's said to have told colleagues in the mid-2000s: 'Don't talk to him (Rafiq), he's a P***,' and to have asked Rafiq when he saw bearded Asian men: 'Is that your uncle?'

England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has banned the club from hosting major matches. Senior politicians have also criticized the club’s culture and values as’repellent and troubling’. Gary Ballance (pictured), an ex-england batsman and serving Yorkshire player, is another person on the list. He’s said to have told colleagues in the mid-2000s: ‘Don’t talk to him (Rafiq), he’s a P***,’ and to have asked Rafiq when he saw bearded Asian men: ‘Is that your uncle?’

At the centre of the public outrage are claims that a former player, Azeem Rafiq, and several Asian colleagues suffered serious – and, they say, institutional – racist abuse during their recent careers at the club.

The long and ugly catalogue of allegations range from being called ‘P***s,’ ‘elephant washers’ and ‘sheikhs’ by team-mates and coaches, to being told they ‘stink’ and should ‘go back to where they came from’ on a daily basis, to finding themselves the subject of off-colour jokes.

One Muslim member complained about being uncomfortable with the club’s alcohol culture. A second claimed he overheard two ‘senior players’ – both still involved at Yorkshire – talking about ‘how they ‘sh***ed a bird’ in a hotel room who was on her period and made a mess, and all they could find was a Muslim player’s prayer mat to clean it up’. The list goes on.

Rafiq alleges that Michael Vaughan (ex-england captain) told three Asian players as they entered the pitch in 2009: “There’s too much of you bunch; we have to do something.”

Vaughan categorically denied making this remark and described reading it as like being hit over the head by a brick.

Gary Ballance (ex-england batsman), a Yorkshire player, is also in the firing line. He’s said to have told colleagues in the mid-2000s: ‘Don’t talk to him (Rafiq), he’s a P***,’ and to have asked Rafiq when he saw bearded Asian men: ‘Is that your uncle?’

Azeem Rafiq  suffered serious – and, they say, institutional – racist abuse during his recent career at the club

Azeem Rafiq  suffered serious – and, they say, institutional – racist abuse during his recent career at the club

Ballance, 31 years old, has confessed to the remarks and offered an extensive apology. In which he said they were made within the context a close friendship.

He said, “I regret certain of the language that I used during my youth.”

The worst is Yorkshire’s treatment of complaints.

It appears that senior club officers dismissed the racist incidents in their clubs as “banter” and tried to sweep them under a rug. However, not one individual has been fired or disciplined. Roger Hutton, the chairman of the club and two other board members accepted that it was inevitable and resigned.

It looks like a cover-up. The club has tried hard to conceal the shocking findings from a scandal report.

Criticisms say the conduct of England’s iconic cricket club, with its players, supporters, employees, executive and board members, is often institutionally racist. The club has produced many famous Test players.

Tom Harrison, chief executive of the ECB, stated yesterday that the actions taken by the club are causing serious disrepute to the sport.

Adil Rashid (pictured)In other words, say critics, the behaviour of players, staff, fans, executives and board members of England's most iconic county cricket club, which has produced a virtual assembly line of famous Test players, has for much of the past 20 years been institutionally racist

Adil Rashid (pictured). Critics say that the behavior of staff, players, fans, executives, and board members at England’s most famous county cricket club has been institutionally racist for most of the 20-year history. This has resulted in a virtual line of Test stars.

Yorkshire’s turbulent history makes it all the harder to prove guilt. Because, despite Yorkshire being the nation’s most multi-cultural area, including Batley, Dewsbury, and Bradford, the Headingley stands and changing rooms have been for many years, as the old saying goes, “hideously white”.

You had to be born and raised in Yorkshire in order to qualify to play in the county. This made it an exclusive club in which no Asian players were ever chosen. Even though cricket was hugely popular among immigrants, the local leagues were frequently segregated. Established teams made it so difficult for Indians and Pakistanis to join their clubs.

In an anti-Muslim act, one Headingley member wore a head of a pig to the Test between England and Pakistan in the summer when outsiders could join the team. He wasn’t disciplined.

It was Sachin Tendulkar of India who became the first Asian to have the right to represent the side. He had lived 4,350 miles from home.

Yorkshire didn’t select an Asian-British player for the next decade, despite having a lot of talent from minority backgrounds. It did sign Ismail Dawood (Dewsbury) in 2003. The same year, the club refused to discipline one of its white players, Australian Darren Lehmann, for calling a Sri Lankan opponent a ‘black c**t’ during a one-day international. Colin Graves (the county’s chairman) responded to the reporters by saying: “You can’t claim it was malicious. He’s not a racist.

Terry Rooney was a Labour MP who told the Commons in 2004 that there had been ‘deep-rooted and embedded racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club. Robin Smith (Graves’s successor), wrote indignantly to the Commons, asking for an apology. Smith stated that the claims were “incredibly hurtful” and “totally without basis”.

By THEN – and this, remember, is just 17 years ago – the colour barrier at Yorkshire was at least starting to be broken, with the emergence of two talented Asian players from its own academy system: Ajmal Shahzad, a bowler who went on to be capped for England, and Adil Rashid, who is currently representing the national side at the T20 World Cup. Azeem Rahiq’s career began in that context.

Rafiq was an experienced spin bowler, and middle-order cricketer who was born in Barnsley. In two spells, he was a Yorkshire senior cricketer for 10 years. He also captained a limited-overs squad in 2012. Before leaving Yorkshire in 2018, he returned to professional cricket.

However, the current scandal dates back to last summer, when he ran a Rotherham tea shop and catering company. ESPN Cricinfo’s cricket site, received information that he was giving free meals to NHS employees and key workers. A reporter decided to make a personal visit. However, the interview went a surprising route.

Rafiq said that Rafiq and I discussed my business and then Rafiq was asked about prejudice and racism. “Emotions overtook me, and all that I had kept inside came out.

Rafiq made a series of extraordinary allegations about how he, as a Muslim man, felt like an outsider at Yorkshire. Rafiq said that racist abuses had been part of club culture.

During one game in Scarborough, he revealed, a spectator kept abusing ‘P***’ players. Rafiq and another spectator made comments that revealed the truth: the man in question was actually the grandfather of another player. Yorkshire did not initiate an investigation.

Pictured Ismael Dawood

Photo of Ismael dawood

He also recalled a second incident in which a Muslim boy was drinking a pint in front of him. The players made a lot of fun of the incident when they were informed by the dressing room. Rafiq stated that again, the perpetrator did not go un-investigated. He recalled that the boy received a jumper at the club. But the laughter showed him what other people thought.

Rafiq conducted a series interview follow-ups in September 2013. Even more shocking were the comments. According to BBC, he spoke out about his team-mates saying: “They’d stereotype me and tell me that ‘He stinks. A player said that one of his team-mates was not a sheikh. He doesn’t get any oil. I’ve been to many parties and left in tears.

In 2017, he also said that he reported an individual to Martyn Mxon (director of cricket in Yorkshire) and Andrew Gale (coach).

“While I was expressing my feelings, the director for cricket was distracted by the time. He was not interested.

According to a newspaper, he was referred as “you bunch” and “the Asians” by his British Muslim coworkers.

Yorkshire responded initially to these claims by saying its equality and diversity committee would investigate them. After it was clear this wasn’t going to work, an attorney firm was appointed to conduct a formal investigation. However, news that Squire Patton Boggs was Roger Hutton’s former employer raised eyebrows.

Senior cricket officials made a public attack on Rafiq in a second unwelcome step. Roger Pugh was a former civil servant who is also chairman of the Yorkshire South Premier League. He described him as being ‘discourteous’, disrespectful, and extremely difficult to handle.

Another former player stated at this time that he was also racialized by the club.

Rana Naved-ul-Hasan was a Rafiq player in 2008/2009. He said that he supported his criticisms about Yorkshire, adding that he never had to suffer racist abuse at Sussex or Derbyshire.

He said that Yorkshire was the victim of systematic taunting. It’s difficult to stop it. ‘To us as overseas players from Asia, when you are not able to perform, the home crowd which should be supporting us, instead they are hooting and taunting us with racist slurs like ‘P***’.’

Rafiq was asked to testify to the inquiry in November last year. In addition to his previous claims, he said the club had discriminated against Asian players in its academy, saying he once read an internal email saying ‘only a few P***s are okay to go through. It is impossible to have too many,’ he claimed when it came time to decide which of the club’s young players would be able to progress through its pathway programme.

Three other witnesses claimed they were victims of racism in Yorkshire the month following. Taj Butt, a coach said that he quit the country within six weeks due to racist language.

Tony Bowry was the Cricket Board’s Cultural Diversity Officer between 1996-2011. He told the inquiry that many youngsters felt uncomfortable in the changing rooms because of the racism they were exposed to. This affected their performances… They were labeled trouble-makers.

Tino Best (an overseas player) said, ‘Somethings I saw towards players of Pakistani heritage wasn’t great. They were complaining every day about the treatment they received. Separately, it was reported that Rafiq was called ‘Raffa The Kaffir’ in the dressing area. This term is used to disparage people of color in South Africa during apartheid.

So far, so ugly. The nail in Yorkshire’s coffin wasn’t just the horrendous nature of the allegations but also the way that the club responded to them in August after Squire Patton Boggs’ 100-page report was finally completed.

The agency appears to have confirmed that Rafiq made at least seven false claims. Yorkshire, however, refused to acknowledge that he had been racially abused in his initial reply. Azeem had been the victim historically of inappropriate behaviour. This is unacceptable. The club said, “We are sorry.”

Yorkshire was also reluctant to publish the report or give a copy of it to the ECB. This is despite being given one by the ECB’s lawyers last week. It only released a summary in September. The county eventually admitted that it had suffered from racism.

“Prior to 2010, there were three distinct incidents where former players were using racist language that was found to be harassment due to race,” reads the summary. “Before 2012, former coaches regularly used racist languages,” it said. Furthermore, during his second stint at Yorkshire in 2016 and 2018, jokes were made about religion that made some individuals feel uncomfortable about their religious practices.

Rafiq also raised concern in August 2018. The club did not follow its own policies or investigate such allegations.

According to the summary, the club should have made Muslims more welcome in its stadiums, and dealt with anti-social behavior complaints better on several occasions.

Yorkshire, however refuses any accusation of institutional racism despite this. The club announced last week that its panel, which met to review the issue, had decided to not discipline any individual player or staff member.

Astonishingly, the panel claimed that much of the racist abuse Rafiq suffered, which included being regularly called a ‘P***’, had been ‘banter’. According to the panel, he was not entitled to be offended. The panel also stated that Rafiq should be disciplined for calling a Zimbabwean player a “Zimbo”, which was a racist, offensive term.

Even though its chairman, and two other board members, had resigned, the club continued to follow this strange line.

It is difficult to envision how this scandal can end without an immediate and total U-turn.

English cricket is, in a way, rotting at its heart.