ECB wants Yorkshire fined £500,000 and deducted points over Azeem Rafiq case

ECB wants Yorkshire fined £500,000 and deducted points over Azeem Rafiq case

The England and Wales Cricket Board has recommended Yorkshire are hit with a £500,000 fine and hefty points deductions across all formats over their handling of the Azeem Rafiq case.

The sanctioning recommendations were made to an independent Cricket Discipline Commission panel in London on Tuesday, with Yorkshire having admitted to four charges in February related to the mishandling of Rafiq’s case, the deletion of documents related to it and a failure to address the use of racist language at the club over a prolonged period.

Six former Yorkshire employees were sanctioned in May, with all of them found to have used the word “P***”, with a seventh – former England captain Michael Vaughan – cleared in March of using racist and/or discriminatory language towards a group of four players of Asian ethnicity, including Rafiq, before a Twenty20 match in 2009.

The ECB recommendation of a fine of half a million pounds was broken down in relation to each charge – £100,000 for the mishandling of the report, £100,000 for the wholesale deletion of data, £150,000 for failing to take adequate action relating to racist behaviour and £150,000 in relation to charge four, systemic use of racist language over a long period.

The governing body suggested £350,000 should be suspended for three years while the remaining £150,000 should be payable in instalments between January and June 2024.

Any financial sanctions could hit the club hard, with Yorkshire chief executive Stephen Vaughan – who was in attendance on Tuesday – highlighting to members at the annual general meeting in March that there was a £3.5million cash shortfall this year and the need to repay £14.9m to the Graves Trust.

The club said last week they were still having “positive conversations” around the long-term financial future of the club and would make an announcement “in due course”.

ECB lawyer Jane Mulcahy said the recommendations took into account the finances of Yorkshire and it would be “wholly unproductive” to put Yorkshire out of business, insisting the ECB “is not trying to do such a thing”.

The recommendation also claimed the “seriousness of the admissions” required sporting sanctions and proposed a 48-72 points deduction in the 2023 County Championship, a four-to-six points deduction in the 2023 One-Day Cup and a four-to-six points deduction in the 2023 T20 Blast.

Yorkshire’s response to the recommendations were presented by lawyer Daniel Stilitz, who spoke of the “deeply regrettable chapter” in the club’s history, once again offering their apologies to Rafiq.

Stilitz said there was “absolutely no evidence” to suggest the deletion of emails had taken place because of the ongoing case and said the club had not ignored racist behaviour from supporters previously.

Stilitz also said Yorkshire had already “suffered detriment” because of the events, asking for that to be taken into account in any sanctions passed down and saying “If ever a sinner has repented, it is Yorkshire Cricket Club”.

“What is striking about this case is how far beyond sometimes slightly symbolic measures that Yorkshire has gone,” he said.

“We do submit that it’s difficult to think of a case in which an organisation which has embraced so forcefully the opportunity to transform itself in this regard. In fairness, the ECB has accepted in their submissions… that the club has undertaken significant EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) action in respect of all aspects of its operation.

“The last two years have been some of the most difficult in the club’s entire history… Yorkshire is not the only club to have issues with racism, as the ICEC (Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket) report today acknowledges.

“Nor is cricket the only sport to have done so. But really Yorkshire has been a lightning rod for concerns about racism in sports and its reputation, performance and finances have suffered and continue to suffer as a result.”

Stilitz said 11 sponsors had withdrawn from the club and that the inability to host international cricket had affected Yorkshire’s finances, which he added need addressing this summer to prevent the club going into administration.

He called on punishments handed down to be suspended and said any sanctions imposed would not penalise those responsible.

The next step is for the CDC to consider its decision – “soon”. It has put a three-to-four-week time-frame on publishing the written reasons for its results.