Azeem Rafiq urges sponsors to walk away if Colin Graves returns to Yorkshire


Azeem Rafiq has criticised the expected return of Colin Graves as Yorkshire chair and urged sponsors to walk out on the club if he is reappointed.

Rafiq – who spoke out against the racism he experienced as a Yorkshire player, leading to the club being fined £400,000 and docked 48 points in last year’s County Championship, in addition to sanctions against six individuals – said in a Sunday newspaper column he feared “nothing had changed” in the 40 months since he first raised the issue and that “all we have are empty words and broken promises”.

Graves has reportedly been in talks with Yorkshire about a return, having previously been chair between 2012 and 2015, presiding over part of a period in which the club has subsequently admitted to an ECB charge of failing to address the systemic use of racist or discriminatory language. Graves refused to appear as a witness in November 2021 at the parliamentary hearings which followed Rafiq’s complaints and sparked controversy in a TV interview last June when he described allegations of racism – which he said were never raised with him at the time – as “banter”.

“Maybe there is still time to act, still time to show some backbone, but it’s running out fast,” Rafiq wrote in the Observer.

“I cast my mind back to November 2021, when under intense political pressure the England and Wales Cricket Board suspended Yorkshire from hosting international cricket because of its slow and substandard response to my testimony. In the hours that followed dozens of companies ended their associations with the club.

“My question now is for Yorkshire’s current sponsors… Does Colin Graves reflect your values? Is it acceptable to describe racism as banter?

“Sponsors found their moral compass before, and they need to find it again, because any organisation supporting this is complicit in it. There is still time for them to act, to leave now and stop Yorkshire stepping back in time and undoing what progress they have made in the past three years.”

In 2002, Graves bailed the club out with a multimillion-pound loan, of which some £14.9 million is still owed to the Graves Family Trust. Graves revealed last week that a new ownership offer had been accepted and his consortium was in exclusive negotiations until January 5. Depending on the result of those negotiations, club members could be asked to vote on his proposal at an extraordinary general meeting.

“I still believe that everyone deserves a second chance,” Rafiq said. “If Graves wants to lead the club and the game in a positive direction he can’t just say the right things, he needs to do the right things – not just words, but action.

“He has to show he has accepted what has happened in the past, and is ready to take substantial action and offer clear direction now and when difficult decisions are necessary in the future. It is fair to say there has been no sign of any of this yet.”

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