Azeem Rafiq: MPs to investigate Yorkshire cricket racism claims deemed 'banter'

In September, the club said there was "no question" that Rafiq was the victim of racial harassment and bullying during his first spell at the county. Credit: PA Images

Racist comments, reportedly dismissed as 'friendly banter' by Yorkshire County Cricket Club, will now be investigated by MPs.

The club had previously revealed it would not take disciplinary action against any of its employees, players or executives following a review into allegations of institutional racism against former player Azeem Rafiq.

But now the situation has escalated, with MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee stepping in to hold an evidence session.

What's more, the Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who is of Pakistani origin, has also waded into the row, tweeting "P**i is not banter. Heads should roll at Yorkshire CCC. If the ECB doesn’t take action it’s not fit for purpose."

It's been reported by ESPN that an as yet unpublished report from the club referred to the comments made as 'friendly banter'. The club is yet to respond to these claims.

Yorkshire cricket chairman Roger Hutton is to be called before MPs to explain how the club has handled the allegations. Neither Mr Hutton nor the club has yet commented on the move.

Meanwhile, Rafiq has been using social media to highlight other instances of racism within sport. In one post, he writes: "I can't let this go."

Last summer, Rafiq made allegations of institutional racism against the club during two spells at the club between 2008 and 2018.

The allegations led the cricket club to launch an independent investigation which was completed in September.

On the completion of the report, Yorkshire apologised to Rafiq for being the victim of 'inappropriate behaviour' but did not go into detail.

The club stopped short of publishing the report at that time and came under pressure from the England Cricket Board and DCMS to release the report.

A summary of the panel's findings and recommendations was finally published at the end of October.

It was found that seven of the 40 allegations made by Rafiq has been upheld, with some not being upheld on grounds of "insufficient evidence".

The Emerald publishing group, which has naming rights at Headingley Stadium, has described its “dismay” at recent reports. Credit: PA Images

Pressure is also coming to bear on Yorkshire on a commercial level. The Emerald publishing group - a primary sponsor of the county, which has naming rights at Headingley Stadium - has described its “dismay” at recent reports and has told the PA news agency it expects further action to be taken.

“We take all matters related to any form of racism or discriminatory behaviour seriously and expect all our partners to uphold our values,” read a statement issued to PA.

“As sponsors of the Headingley stadium, we are dismayed by the conclusion of an independent panel that the former player, Azeem Rafiq, suffered racial harassment and bullying during his time at the club.

“Whilst the club has offered its unreserved apology for this, and has made a number of positive changes in the intervening years, there is clearly still a great deal more to do.