Sajid Javid has today weighed into the Yorkshire County Cricket Club racism row, insisting ‘P**i is not banter’ and urging that ‘heads must role’ over the scandal.
In a rare intervention for a senior minister, the Health Secretary urged the ECB to take action over allegations made by cricket star Azeem Rafiq.
It comes after the Pakistan-born English cricketer claimed he experienced racism during his stint at the Yorkshire County Cricket Club.
However, despite accepting the word ‘P**i’ was directed at Rafiq, an investigation panel cleared a senior player at the club of racism.
The investigating panel did not accept that the ex-England Under 19 captain was offended by the other player’s comments, either at the time or at a later date.
As part of the committee’s findings, it also concluded that regular use of the racial slur was ‘banter’ between the as-of-yet unidentified star and Rafiq – a finding which has since sparked outrage.
Now, as MPs prepare to grill the club’s chairman over handling of racism complaints, Mr Javid has had his say.
Taking to Twitter, the health secretary, whose parents are both from Pakistan, said: ”P**i’ is not banter. Heads should roll at Yorkshire CCC. If the ECB doesn’t take action it’s not fit for purpose.’
In a rare intervention, the Health Secretary urged the ECB to take action over allegations made by cricket star Azeem Rafiq
It comes after Azeem Rafiq (pictured playing for Yorkshire in 2016) claimed he experienced racism during his stint at the Yorkshire County Cricket Club
Mr Javid’s comments come as Yorkshire CCC now face a huge backlash, with commercial sponsors said to be expressing their concern about the racism scandal.
The Emerald publishing group, which has the naming rights at the club’s Headingley Stadium, in Leeds, told the Times it was ‘dismayed’ at the result of the review.
Meanwhile, Yorkshire’s chairman Roger Hutton is now set to be grilled by MPs on the club’s handling of Rafiq’s racism complaints, having been called by Parliament’s Digital, Media and Sport (DCMS).
It comes after ESPNcricinfo published details from a leaked report into an investigation into Rafiq’s claims.
According to the website, the panel’s report revealed how a senior player, who is still at the club, regularly used the ‘P**i’ slur when talking to Rafiq.
The player is also said to have admitted telling other people ‘don’t talk to him (Rafiq), he’s a P**i’; asking ‘is that your uncle?’ when bearded Asian men were in view; and saying in reference to corner shops — ‘does your Dad own those?’
However the report – which has been passed to the ECB for further investigation — cleared the individual of wrongdoing as it was perceived the comments were made in a ‘friendly, good-natured manner’.
ESPNcricinfo did not reveal the name of the senior player. However, the name could be revealed when Mr Hutton goes before the DCMS committee.
The meeting will be the first time anyone from Yorkshire has been directly questioned in public on the case.
Anything said at the meeting will have Parliamentary privilege, meaning the person cannot be sued for revealing the identity of the as-of-yet unnamed cricketer.
The report into institutional racism at Yorkshire ruled that the remarks were ‘friendly banter’
Yorkshire have now sent the ECB a full copy of the report after twice missing deadlines to do so
Julian Knight, the chairman of the select committee, said in a statement: ‘This is extremely concerning and it’s clear that Yorkshire County Cricket Club has questions to answer.
‘We have monitored developments around the club’s handling of the serious allegations made by Azeem Rafiq.
‘We want to see much greater transparency from YCCC — it is time for them to answer their critics. We intend to call the chair of the club before the DCMS committee to give a much fuller explanation than we have had so far.’
It comes as former England captain Mark Butcher criticised the findings of the panel, saying ‘It beggars belief.’
He added: ‘It’s not only completely tone deaf but totally in denial.’
It comes after the report found that, in the context of ‘banter between friends’, Rafiq might be ‘expected to take such comments in the spirit in which they were intended’.
It is also reported that the panel found Rafiq’s reference to a team-mate of Zimbabwean heritage as ‘Zimbo from Zimbabwe’ as a ‘racist, derogatory term’ and said that if Rafiq were still at Yorkshire, he would have faced disciplinary action.
On Monday, Yorkshire reiterated that no disciplinary action would be taken by them in the wake of Rafiq’s allegations.
‘The club carried out its own internal investigation which shows there is no conduct or action taken by any current employees, players or executives that warrants disciplinary action,’ read a club statement released to Sportsmail.
‘We do, however, acknowledge we must work hard to restore trust from those who feel let down.
Julian Knight, the chairman of the select committee, said in a statement: ‘This is extremely concerning and it’s clear that Yorkshire County Cricket Club has questions to answer.’
‘There is much the club can learn from the independent report and we are committed to incorporating the panel’s recommendations into our diversity and inclusion plans.’
Of last Thursday’s announcement that no action would follow, a spokesperson for Rafiq said: ‘This is despite Yorkshire’s admission that Azeem was the victim of racial harassment and bullying, and despite their admission they failed to follow their own policy and investigate allegations of racism as recently as 2018.
‘It is inconceivable that there are no current employees who should not have been disciplined. It is time that board members — for once — did the decent thing and resigned.’
The redacted report, released on September 10, recorded that ‘the panel did not find Rafiq’s evidence wholly credible.
Rafiq and the player engaged in friendly verbal attack towards each other, and no malice was intended by either to the other’.
Yorkshire said in a statement: ‘We acknowledge that we must work hard to restore trust from those who feel let down.
‘We are committed to incorporating the panel’s recommendations into our diversity and inclusion action plans.’