Yorkshire’s last four leaders launched an extraordinary attack on the England & Wales Cricket Board on the eve of the Headingley Test, denouncing its handling of the club’s racism scandal and calling for an independent inquiry into the whole matter.
Colin Graves, Steve Denison, Robin Smith and Roger Hutton jointly declared that the ECB was unable to uncover the full story behind Azeem Rafiq’s damning allegations of abuse and the botched handling of them.
They did so after voicing a litany of concern about the disciplinary proceedings taken against the club and individuals charged over the scandal last week, something they said they had little influence on despite being Yorkshire between them for almost the entire period of Rafiq’s allegations.
Claims about the case, which threatens to completely overshadow England’s return to the scene of some of their greatest triumphs, included:
That the ECB investigation took too long and “is causing people more suffering”;
That there had been no indication that Rafiq himself was being punished for an anti-Semitic slur that surfaced in November, despite admitting it;
That Yorkshire was “tried twice” after already losing key games and being forced to make sweeping changes to get them back;
That the names of the defendants were leaked even before the ECB announced they would not be identified;
That Mark Arthur, Martyn Moxon and other senior figures in Yorkshire escaped prosecution for allegedly starting the scandal by failing to deal adequately with Rafiq’s grievances;
That the ECB’s investigation completely ignored its own refusal to conduct an investigation almost two years ago.
Graves, himself chairman of the ECB for five years until 2020, saved Yorkshire from financial ruin two decades ago before becoming chief executive of the county between 2012 and 2015.
He said he would “fully support” an independent investigation into the current scandal and said he was “very disappointed” both at the club and at former England players including Michael Vaughan, Matthew Hoggard, Tim Bresnan and Gary Ballance charges had been brought.
“I just think it’s incredible that they’re inflicting more pain on these people,” Graves said.
“Once again, these people’s names are being dragged through the swamp, which I think is unfair.”
He added: “It wasn’t handled very well at all. It could have been handled a lot better and a lot quicker and I think it leaves a lot of bad tastes in people’s mouths.”
Denison, who succeeded Graves in Yorkshire before stepping down in 2018, said: “The ECB is not acting fast enough and they were so afraid of their own shadow that they are almost paralyzed and unable to act.”
On the governing body’s silence on whether Rafiq was tried for his own anti-Semitic insult, he added: “I’m sure the ECB’s thought process was, ‘S— we have a clear case here. But if we hit him now, he’s perceived as the victim in all of this, so it looks like we’re pounding the victim before we get to trying the “perpetrators”.
Denison said he emailed both the recently deceased ECB chief Tom Harrison and Yorkshire leader Lord Patel last week to offer “any way we can” in uncovering the full story behind the scandal to help.
He added, “They didn’t even bother to do me the courtesy of confirming the emails — which pretty much says it all.”
“It just violates a fundamental principle of jurisprudence”
Smith, who returned as club chairman between 2018 and 2020 after also serving in that capacity between 2003 and 2006, said: “It seems to me that the club is being tried twice for the same facts.
“It just goes against a fundamental principle of jurisprudence. No one can be tried twice for the same facts. It’s very, very unsatisfactory.
“I have been personally informed by the ECB that my conduct will be the subject of the proceedings but that I will not be personally charged or personally investigated, which is more of a mixed bag.
“It needs a good, independent judicial review. Until all of these facts are presented to someone of unquestioned reputation and impartiality – a judge, a retired judge, someone of that rank – the full truth will never emerge.
“The ECB has already ruled on Yorkshire’s guilt and imposed these sanctions. Now, in this second trial, how on earth can they take the opposite view? It’s just not going to happen and everyone knows it’s not going to happen.”
Hutton, who left as Yorkshire chairman after the scandal erupted in November, said he would support the club in responding to the charges but was forced to approach him himself, adding he had no part of the ECB belongs.
He said the latter’s handling of the case was “so far removed from any trial, it’s breathtaking,” adding: “I’ve lived my life with the law; I’ve never seen anything comparable myself.
“I’m not entirely sure of the scope of the investigation, but as far as I know it does not relate to acts or omissions by the ECB itself.”
Concerns have also been raised over Yorkshire’s own handling of their toxic legal battle with staff who have been sacked in the wake of the racism scandal, after it was revealed earlier this month that the club had admitted unfair dismissal complaints made against them were “well founded”.
Just last week, England limited-overs specialist David Willey accused the county of prioritizing restoring their reputation at the expense of the welfare of their own players after it was confirmed he would be returning to his native Northamptonshire at the end of the season.
Denison said: “I’m not sure if it’s the club or if it’s just Kamlesh trying to protect his own reputation but played well David that he said that.”
The ECB declined to comment on an ongoing regulatory process, although a source suggested Harrison left before Denison emailed him. Lord Patel did not respond to a request for comment.