I wake up this morning desperately sad and ashamed. I’m not a member of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, but I watch them play three or four times a year. Those are some of my favourite moments of the summer and I look forward to the season starting and I hate it coming to an end, but all that feels tainted now.
The thing I can’t get over, that almost makes me tear up, is that young lad, Azeem Rafiq, a gifted cricketer, sitting in the dressing room, probably doing something he’d always wanted to do, but feeling completely undermined. I want to feel proud of Yorkshire CCC but it seems they are a narrow, very white, old, institution where people I know would not feel welcome.
I played at a low level for a couple of years in the Pontefract League and I absolutely loved it. There is lots to admire in that dedication to Yorkshire cricket and the idea that it’s a hard sport, that you work at your craft and that you pass your skills on to the next generation. However, it was crushingly parochial and there wasn’t an inclusive view of what Yorkshireness was. Those people who were in senior positions in league cricket are exactly the sort of people who get voted on to the Yorkshire committee.
I’ve not seen any overt racism at games, but it is not particularly welcoming of people who aren’t a certain template. I have no trouble at all in believing that Yorkshire are an institutionally racist club.
Membership of a county cricket club only makes sense if you’re retired and I fully intended to become a Yorkshire member the day I retired. Yorkshire are a membership club, it is not like they can be bought out by some wealth fund in Saudi Arabia, and that organisation is going to reflect the views and mores of its membership. That’s a real problem.
I’m not convinced there would be a huge push from the membership to change but the reality of sponsors dropping out and Tests and ODIs being taken away might change some views – I hope so. If I were a sponsor of Yorkshire, I would pull out as well and I say this as someone who loves the club and is steeped in its history. Why would you want to be associated with an organisation that acts like that; it’s a no-brainer. Yorkshire have become pariahs in cricket because of what has been exposed and rightly so.
If I used the words reported in my job as an NHS commissioner, my feet wouldn’t touch the floor, I’d be out of there. The idea you can use the P-word as banter is unbelievable. But I’ve done stuff in my younger days that I’m glad social media was not around to record and everyone deserves a second chance.
I don’t happen to think Gary Ballance or Michael Vaughan are unpleasant people or racist in their heart, but the fact the investigation found the organisation had allowed a culture where those kind of words were used, and used against teammates, I stand open-mouthed. As a wider point, it is unfair for today’s players to have to pick up the collective guilt.
A culture of a place is always driven from the top and any organisation tends to reflect the feeling and views of the people there. Having read the statement Roger Hutton gave, he genuinely tried to do his best but he couldn’t get people on the executive board to take it seriously.
I don’t know enough about everything that went on but I would be tempted to think the club needs a top-down reorganisation.
Will I go and see Yorkshire next season? Probably, but this has forced me to re-evaluate my relationship with the club. I want to see a clear road map, acknowledging everything that has happened and what they are going to do about it, a clear vision that Yorkshire CCC are a club for everyone in Yorkshire.
The way it was handled was almost designed to put the club in the worst possible light, react late, half-hearted, badly and then bury it under the carpet. We’re not going to bury it under the carpet, this is not OK.