'Culture that refuses to change': Yorkshire County Cricket chair resigns over Azeem Rafiq racism row

ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott has the latest on the fallout following the club's reaction to the independent panel

The chair of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Roger Hutton, has resigned with immediate effect in the wake of the handling of racism allegations made by former player Azeem Rafiq.

In a statement, Hutton said he experienced “a culture that refuses to accept change” at the club and saw a "constant unwillingness" from top bosses "to apologise and to accept racism”.

In the wake of Hutton’s resignation, Yorkshire announced changes to their board, with Lord Patel taking over as chair and also becoming a director.

Hanif Malik and Stephen Willis also left the board, with Neil Hartley to follow once Lord Patel’s transition to chair had ended.

“It is resolved to do whatever it takes to regain the trust of all its stakeholder inside and outside the game,” a statement from Yorkshire said.

Hutton's resignation came as a second former Yorkshire player, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan claimed to ITV News that ex-England captain Michael Vaughan did make racist comments to several players of Asian heritage.

The ex-Yorkshire player supported Azeem Rafiq's claims Vaughan told four players "there's too many of you lot, we need to do something about it" and said he was a "witness" to the alleged incident.

Are more current or former players likely to be named in the investigation?

Vaughan has denied the allegation.

Hutton was this week called to appear in front of the parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee to explain Yorkshire’s handling of Rafiq’s claims and the independent report into the matter.

He has now decided to leave his post, citing frustration at board members and senior management - and called on them to resign too.

Azeem Rafiq said he was driven to tears from racial abuse he suffered while playing at Yorkshire County Cricket Club. Credit: PA Images

Hutton said in a statement: "There has been a constant unwillingness from the executive members of the board and senior management at the club to apologise, and to accept that there was racism, and to look forward.

"For much of my time at the club, I experienced a culture that refuses to accept change or challenge.”

Hutton explained he joined the Yorkshire board in 2020, 18 months after Rafiq ended his second stint at Headingley, having spoken out about the racism he and his family had suffered. He said he has never met the former player.

“I know however, that when someone makes claims as serious as his, they need to be investigated and changes need to be made," Hutton continued.

"I would like to take this opportunity to apologise unreservedly to Azeem."

Despite not working for the club when the allegations were made, Hutton has taken a share of responsibility for the county’s response to Rafiq's allegations, which have been in the public domain for more than a year and were raised through formal channels long before. Yorkshire recently determined no employees would face any disciplinary action despite the independent panel upholding that Rafiq had been a victim of racial harassment and bullying.

“During my time as chairman, I take responsibility for failing to persuade them to take appropriate and timely action.

A sign reading "YCCC racists shame our county and game" in a bus stop near Yorkshire County Cricket Club Credit: PA

"This frustration has been shared by all of the non-executive members of the Board, some of whom have also now resigned,” Hutton continued. “I now call for those executive members of the Board to resign, to make way for a new path for the club I love so much... “I am sorry that we could not persuade executive members of the Board to recognise the gravity of the situation and show care and contrition.”

Developments in the long-running case have escalated at pace this week, ever since it was revealed by ESPNCricinfo that the independent report had resolved the repeated use of the offensive term “P***” was delivered “in the spirit of friendly banter”.

Yorkshire are also reported to be investigating an anti-Semitic Twitter post by first-team coach Andrew Gale, completely unrelated to the Rafiq case, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Yorkshire chief executive Mark Arthur described the post to the newspaper as “completely unacceptable”.

Former Yorkshire player Gale is reported to have told the Jewish News he was “completely unaware” that the word used in a deleted tweet from November 2010 was offensive until it was pointed out to him, and he then removed the message.

Gale told the Jewish News: “I would never have used the word had I been aware of its offensive meaning and I have never used it since.” Since then, an exodus of major sponsors and commercial partners has unfolded, including kit manufacturer Nike, Yorkshire Tea and Harrogate Spring Water, while political pressure from the halls of Westminster has ramped up.

The latest company to cut ties on Friday was the NIC Services Group, who is Yorkshire's front-of-shirt sponsor, with "immediate effect" and said Hutton and the YCCC's statements are "inconsistent with our own core values and culture".

It said it stands "firmly against racism and discrimination of any kind", adding: "Our future relationship remains dependent on the outcome of the ECB review, YCCC’s commitment to end discrimination and our confidence in the evidence of meaningful change."

As well as the DCMS committee session, which has been set for November 16, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said “heads should roll” at the Club and a cohort of 36 Yorkshire MPs and metro mayors demanded the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) take decisive action in its role as national governing body.

Yorkshire was stripped of hosting international and major fixes , with the ECB saying the Club's "handling of the issues raised by Azeem Rafiq is wholly unacceptable and is causing serious damage to the reputation of the game". "There is no place for racism or any form of discrimination in cricket and where it is found, swift action must be taken," it added.

‘’Yorkshire CCC did reach out to us at the beginning of the investigation with a request that we partner with them on exploring Azeem's allegations of racism and bullying against the club," continued the ECB. It said its role is to operate independently of club investigations as a regulator, adding: ‘’The reason why our governance is structured in this manner, is perfectly demonstrated in the way that these issues have played-out at Yorkshire County Cricket Club.’’

Ex-captain Vaughan revealed he had also been named in the independent report but denied the allegation that he made racist comments to players of Asian heritage in a Daily Telegraph column on Thursday night.

Assistant coach Paul Collingwood said the fallout is "an education for all of us" and said the topic has been discussed in the dressing room in which he claimed "everybody feels really welcome".

He said: “We’ve seen it in the news, keeping a close eye on it, so when something as big as this is in the news you have a chat about it. It’s an education for all of us, keep trying to learn, understand and get better. “We’ve really worked hard over the last few years with the courage, respect and unity that we have in the dressing room and that’s a motto that we live by in the dressing room. “I know this group of players, it’s very important to them that it’s an environment where people feel safe. We’ve got a very diverse group of players and I know everybody feels really welcome in that dressing room.”

Former England batsman Gary Ballance also issued a lengthy statement admitting that he was guilty of using a “racial slur” against Rafiq, during a long and deep friendship in which he claims both men said inappropriate things to each other.