'Wholesale change' needed at Yorkshire Cricket Club as protest forms outside Headingley Stadium

  • ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry on the crisis engulfing the cricket club

"Wholesale change" is needed at Yorkshire Cricket Club as a protest formed outside the club's stadium in support of former player Azeem Rafiq, after he spoke out about the racism and bullying he suffered.

Two Yorkshire members are campaigning to force the crisis-torn club to hold an emergency general meeting.

Chris Marshall and James Himsworth need 400 members to support their call as they attempt to challenge the existing hierarchy over both the way they have handled former player Rafiq’s claims and their general governance.

They have currently enlisted the backing of around 100 and are now urging others to join them by making contact on disgruntledmembers@outlook.com to help instigate change.

The club has confirmed it is investigating claims of racism from another unnamed player.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has also spoken out and said it's "deeply concerned" about the racism row that's engulfing the club.

Protesters outside Yorkshire County Cricket Club's Headingley Stadium in Leeds. Credit: PA

EHRC chief executive Marcial Boo said in a statement her organisation had written to the club “to ask for more information, including a full copy of their investigation report, to determine if there has been a breach of the law”.

Speaking a day after the resignation of chairman Roger Hutton, Marshall said: “What we can’t do is we can’t let them shuffle the same pack and leave the same jokers in.

“There needs to be a wholesale change on the board. We feel that more than anything, members need to have a much bigger say in determining what would give them confidence and comfort in the way Yorkshire was being run in the future.

“We feel Yorkshire needs that because they are haemorrhaging members. A lot of members have felt that the right thing to do is is to not renew or to say they’re not going to renew, and that helps them.

“It doesn’t really help the club and it doesn’t help the people who want the club to grow, so we want to have another push to make sure people see that even just the threat of an EGM may make them listen to us and listen to more people.”

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

Hutton’s resignation came after it emerged that a report into Rafiq’s complaint included an admission that one player had used the word “P***” in reference to him but that Yorkshire had dismissed it as “friendly banter”.

With sponsors severing their links with the county and after former England batter Gary Ballance had admitted using “a racial slur” against Rafiq, the ECB suspended Ballance from England selection and Yorkshire from hosting international matches.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan revealed he too had been named in the report but denied making a racist comment, with the club plunging ever deeper into controversy.

But former Yorkshire overseas player Rana Naved-ul-Haq telling ITV News he heard teammate Michael Vaughan use racially insensitive comments.

Listen to Rana Naved-ul-Hasan's statement in full

Marshall said: “Yorkshire are past masters at battening down the hatches and letting the storm blow over and ignoring the damage that it does.

“We feel that the board must be far more representative of the communities that Yorkshire operates in.

“As with a lot of clubs, at the grass roots, it’s good. The coaching system and the inclusiveness and everything at the grass roots is good, it just doesn’t get through this hierarchy of old-school, established way of running things.

“We want the board to be far more inclusive around all communities, and that includes the membership.”

The campaigners fear a failure to address the club’s governance could ultimately threaten their existence.

Marshall said: “Part of the concern is that, with all this talk about the ECB thinking that they need to reduce the number of counties because 18 aren’t sustainable, and introduction of the Hundred and two divisions, it would be easy for them to let one club slip.”