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British ministers call for 'heads to roll' in cricket race row



Photo: AFP

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British government ministers have called for "heads to roll" at Yorkshire County Cricket Club over its handling of a report that found former player Azeem Rafiq had been the victim of "racial harassment and bullying".

In September, Yorkshire issued "profound and unreserved apologies" to Rafiq, 30, but subsequently said they would take no disciplinary action against any of their staff.

The ESPNcricinfo website on Monday published what it said were details of the report, including an unnamed current senior player's admission that he had regularly used a racially abusive term in reference to Rafiq.

That was deemed to be "in the spirit of friendly banter".

But British Health Secretary Sajid Javid on Tuesday demanded the England and Wales Cricket Board take action, referring to the term used against Rafiq.

"'Paki' is not banter," he tweeted. "Heads should roll at Yorkshire CCC. If @ECB_cricket doesn't take action it's not fit for purpose."

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, whose brief includes sport, said the allegations had not been taken seriously enough.

"Azeem Rafiq's treatment after the racism he faced was disgusting, and the investigation that followed only makes it even worse," she tweeted. 

"The @ECB_cricket investigation must be swift and fully transparent. Racism must be confronted, and NEVER written off as just 'banter'."

A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said such racist language should "never be used in any context".

"These are very serious allegations which have clearly had a significant impact on Azeem Rafiq and it's important they are investigated thoroughly and quickly," he added.

 'Full truth'  

Rafiq, who had two spells at Yorkshire, said he had told the Professional Cricketers' Association and the ECB that the issue needed to be taken out of Yorkshire's hands.

"No one believed me, no one listened everyone tried to protect themselves and left me all alone to fight," he tweeted. "TIME FOR THE FULL TRUTH."

The ECB said in a statement it would conduct a "full regulatory process" and had hired a senior lawyer.

"We are conscious about the length of time that Azeem has waited for resolution and the toll that must be taking on his wellbeing and that of his family," it said.

"We are sorry that, as a sport, this has not yet been resolved.

"We will conduct a full regulatory process that is fair to all parties, but also ensure this happens as quickly as possible."

In a further development, lawmakers on the cross-party Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee in parliament want to quiz Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton over the club's handling of the Rafiq issue.

DCMS chairman Julian Knight said in a statement: "This is extremely concerning and it's clear that Yorkshire County Cricket Club has questions to answer.

"We have monitored developments around the club's handling of the serious allegations made by Azeem Rafiq.

"We want to see much greater transparency from YCCC -- it is time for them to answer their critics. We intend to call the chair of the club before the DCMS Committee to give a much fuller explanation than we have had so far."