It’s difficult to imagine a happy end now or how Yorkshire could be freed from the worst crisis ever.
It is no exaggeration to say the scandal over the treatment of Azeem Rafiq threatens the very foundations of one of England’s most illustrious counties.
Just when it appears it cannot get any worse, along come more damning allegations involving significant figures in the club’s history and an unseemly squabble between Yorkshire and the ECB over who should be responsible for clearing up this squalid mess.
English cricket is being rocked at the accusations of racism made by Azeem Raffiq in Yorkshire
It seemed we had reached a nadir when it emerged earlier this week that not only had Gary Ballance called his ‘friend’ Rafiq a ‘P**i’ but that it had been dismissed as banter by the sorry excuse of an independent inquiry that has now cost Yorkshire chair Roger Hutton his job.
Friday proved to be the most alarming day of an ongoing affair with troubling momentum.
Michael Vaughan is the most prominent figure in English cricket. He was captain of the 2005 Ashes winning team. Now, Vaughan is the face of BBC Cricket as they try to reach a younger audience through the coverage of Hundred.
But Vaughan’s position is now seriously in jeopardy following Sportsmail’s revelation that Rana Naved has backed up Rafiq’s allegation that he said ‘Too many of you lot, we need to do something about it,’ to a group of Asian players at the club. Vaughan’s decision to get his retaliation in first by confirming the accusations against him — and vigorously denying them — on Thursday appears to have backfired, not least because he revealed the BBC were aware about his involvement last summer but did nothing.
England has suspended Gary Ballance indefinitely after he admitted using racist language toward Rafiq while they were Yorkshire team-mates.
Surely, then, their coverage of the Rafiq story was compromised and it is no surprise that the BBC are now said to be reviewing Vaughan’s position.
Then there is coach Andrew Gale who admitted yesterday using the word ‘yid’ to insult the then head of media at Leeds United when he was Yorkshire captain in 2010.
There have been three players who are currently in the spotlight, and there may be more.
It was little better when ECB chief executive Tom Harrison made a rare appearance above the parapet to address the governing body’s belated decision to get fully involved in the crisis once sponsors had started deserting Yorkshire in their droves.
Although they made a start, they took Yorkshire out of international cricket on Thursday. The ECB must then get its house in order, Sportsmail insists.
But Harrison was distinctly uninspiring yesterday as he tried to convince us, not for the first time this year, of the ECB’s capacity for firm leadership.
First, there seemed to be a blame game going on, with Hutton criticising the ECB’s lack of support for Yorkshire when Rafiq first made his claims of institutionalised racism and Harrison insisting it was not the ECB’s place then to get involved.
Michael Vaughan admitted he was named in the Azeem Rafiq report but denied racism claims
They sure as hell are involved now but Harrison first caused eyebrows to be raised on Friday when he confirmed he had not yet read the controversial report into the allegations — even though it has now been in the ECB’s possession for several days.
Harrison blamed a ‘regulatory process’ but surely, as the main man at the ECB, he would want to get his hands on that document as soon as it dropped on the ECB’s doormat at Lord’s. How can Harrison be certain of the contents of his document?
Then there was Harrison’s admission he has had no recent contact with Rafiq — even though he admitted this week’s developments are ‘vindication’ for the struggles of a British Asian cricketer who has been doubted by some in the game far too long.
Harrison is still able to see his friend Colin Graves. He saw him on Thursday as the ex-ECB Chairman of Yorkshire was trying desperately to retake his former role at the helm.
‘Colin is hugely passionate about cricket in Yorkshire and is probably the reason why the club are still in existence,’ said Harrison. ‘I have a very close relationship with Colin. I have a huge regard for him and he’s a close friend.’
Yorkshire should have the same chairman, CEO and director for cricket as they did when the Rafiq incidents occurred. How would it have looked for Yorkshire’s Asian community, who Yorkshire has to prove they aren’t racist?
So thank goodness Yorkshire saw sense when they appointed Lord Kamlesh Patel of Bradford as director and chair in Hutton’s place — rather than bringing back Harrison’s chum, the divisive figure of Graves.
This is an initial step, but it’s still a first.
Despite Graves being kept away for the moment, Yorkshire’s two senior managers who Hutton asked to be fired are still in place.
It is hard to believe that Martyn Moxon, the director of cricket at Headingley, and Mark Arthur, chief executive are still there.
Perhaps their exits will come when they face the music in front of MPs at the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s select committee hearing on November 16.
Headingley has been stopped by the ECB from hosting international cricket next season
Before then, Yorkshire, under Lord Patel’s guidance, and particularly the ECB have to mean business. Harrison was sincere in his response to Harrison’s accusation that the ECB only became involved because sponsors had stopped supporting the game, and politicians were involved.
‘I don’t think it was that,’ he said. ‘It was about the game being dragged through the mud and the disrepute as a result of the statement by Yorkshire last week that no action was going to be taken.
‘That was the moment we felt we were going to be dealing with something very different.
‘Not a breach of the regulations but a breach of the values we have in cricket and the unwritten contract we have with people in the game that the game will always be there for them.
‘It became clear very quickly we would have to take significant action because the message was that cricket was light on racism. That message can never be communicated anywhere else on Earth. This sport is not for racism. Discrimination of any kind is prohibited in this sport. Yorkshire has failed to act. We had to be decisive. So we have.’
Not quite. Although they have already made some progress, there are still many more things to do. What about a points penalty? And a relegation into Division Two in the County Championship for Yorkshire.
If they do, then the ECB can be accused of treating money as a race more than it takes people. This is because Durham was subject to ECB sanctions for financial violations in 2017.
We might not end up with an unhappy ending if we have strong leadership. Rafiq is far from finished, but everyone in the game should be able to start looking at that.