Azeem Rafiq reports that the failure of ethics and finances at Yorkshire may result in the return of Colin Graves.
The possible comeback of Colin Graves as chairman of Yorkshire reveals the shortcomings of the game. This has been worsened by poor financial handling, inadequate leadership and governance, and a lack of morality among those in charge of the sport in this nation and those who fund it. Perhaps there is a chance to take action and demonstrate some courage, but time is quickly running out.
In August of 2020, I shared my stories about Yorkshire in a public setting for the first time. The past 40 months have been challenging for both myself and the sport, and the most heartbreaking aspect is that it appears we have returned to the same point where we began. There has been no progress, only hollow promises and unfulfilled commitments.
I reflect on the events of November 2021, when the England and Wales Cricket Board made the decision to suspend Yorkshire from hosting international cricket due to their inadequate and delayed response to my testimony, amidst strong political pressure. This led to numerous companies immediately terminating their partnerships with the club, including Nike, Yorkshire Tea, Tetley’s Brewery, and Harrogate Water.
A man who has consistently downplayed the club’s issues, and even went on TV last June to dismiss racism as mere “banter”, may soon resume his role as chairman at Headingley. But where is the public outcry? Where are the efforts to intervene?
Can you reword this question for me? It pertains to the current sponsors and kit suppliers of Yorkshire, including Uber Eats, Vertu Motors, NIC Services Group, Al-Murad Tiles, C&C Insurance, Sodexo, and Kukri. Do you believe Colin Graves represents your values? Is it appropriate to label racism as joking or teasing?
Frequently, businesses only take action when they are exposed. It is important to understand that they will be exposed. Sponsors have previously shown their moral principles, and they must do so again, as any company supporting this behavior is involved in it. There is still an opportunity for them to take action, to withdraw their support and prevent Yorkshire from regressing and undoing the progress made in the last three years.
The ECB’s stance against racism has been revealed to be empty words. In a recent interview with their chair, Richard Thompson, he claimed that the organization handled the report from the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket well. This shows that the ECB is more concerned with appearance than actually taking action.
I have only observed a focus on self-preservation, public relations strategies, and delaying addressing issues. This lack of consistency suggests that actions are driven by preserving reputation rather than upholding values. The ECB reprimanded Graves for dismissing racism as mere banter, yet took no action when Ian Botham, current chairman of Durham, publicly denounced the ICEC report as “nonsense” and a waste of money. What kind of message does this send to young players of ethnic minorities?
The ECB has a strict policy against discrimination, but seems to be turning a blind eye as Graves continues to lead one of the most prominent and established cricket counties. While they excel at making promises and creating plans, their follow-through is lacking. It appears that those in power are not motivated to enact change.
I am skeptical that the situation was beyond their control. It is known that they provided Yorkshire with a large sum of money at the end of last year, and if preventing Graves from interfering and keeping Yorkshire financially stable required further assistance, then that is what they should have done. Zero tolerance should truly mean zero tolerance, not just until it becomes too costly.
Yorkshire had other choices available. In the days leading up to Christmas, Lord Mann, a former MP for Bassetlaw and current member of the House of Lords, stated that he had proposed linking Yorkshire’s board with three individuals who could have assisted in financing the club. However, they declined to even engage in a discussion with them. The notion that Graves was imposed on the club and that they had no alternative is absurd. I was informed in February 2023 that preparations were already underway for his return. The manner in which his comeback is being portrayed is deceitful and concerning.
I maintain the belief that every person should have the opportunity for redemption. If Graves wishes to be a leader for the club and its progress, he must not only speak positively, but also take action. He must demonstrate that he has acknowledged and learned from past events, and is prepared to make meaningful changes and provide clear guidance in challenging situations both now and in the future. Unfortunately, there has been no indication of this so far.
After attending the hearings with the Cricket Discipline Commission, I have been working towards rebuilding my life and looking towards the future. While I am dedicated to this cause, I do not want to be solely known as an advocate against racism in cricket. Unfortunately, it has been difficult to move on from the situation. It has been disheartening to see the lack of action and follow-through on the promises that were made.
I am currently keeping in touch with individuals associated with the club, kind individuals who desire change and are dissatisfied with the current situation. Parents reach out to me, as well as those who have experienced discrimination and injustice, seeking assistance and support. The fight continues. There are many unresolved inquiries, and I am committed to addressing them.