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Matt Maher: Thankfully Azeem Rafiq is a story that won’t go away

It is difficult to fathom the arrogance Yorkshire have demonstrated in handling Azeem Rafiq’s racism allegations.

Gary Ballance.
Gary Ballance.

Increasingly, it is difficult to escape the impression those in charge at Headingley were hoping if they waited long enough, the issue would just disappear.

No chance of that happening now. So large is furore surrounding the club’s response the government have got involved. Later this month, three members of the board will give evidence to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee. So too has Rafiq, who is likely to be protected by parliamentary privilege.

“This is one of the most repellent and disturbing episodes in modern cricket history,” DCMS chair Julian Knight wrote earlier this week. It’s hard to argue.

The story began in September last year when Rafiq, now retired, claimed to have been the victim of institutional racism during his two spells at Yorkshire which caused him to contemplate suicide. Within days the county hired an independent law firm to investigate. It reported back in August to Yorkshire, who without releasing the report admitted Rafiq had been the victim of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ and offered him their ‘profound apologies’.

A few weeks later, when a summary of the report was finally released, it emerged ‘inappropriate behaviour’ was actually ‘racial harassment and bullying’. After then ignoring calls from Rafiq and the ECB to release the full version, Yorkshire claimed to have carried out their own investigation into the findings but that no disciplinary action would be taken against any of its employees, players or executive.

It was when details of the report were leaked this week the politicians got involved. It emerged one current senior Yorkshire player (on Wednesday night revealed to be Garry Balance) had regularly used the term ‘P***’ when talking to Rafiq.

For Yorkshire, who have seen a number of major sponsors walk away in recent days, there is now no place left to hide.

Yesterday, Rafiq revealed he is still receiving abuse for speaking out. “We wonder why people don’t come forward,” he said. Cricket should be grateful he did.

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