Photo 236382828 | Yorkshire Cricket © James Copeland | Dreamstime.com

On 14th October 2021, 14 members of staff at Yorkshire CCC sent a letter to the club’s Board detailing their dismay at the manner in which allegations of racism being made by former player Azeem Rafiq were being handled.
The signatories included coaching and medical staff. The men who signed it believed that the letter would remain confidential and that the club would consider its contents fairly, fulfilling their duty of care to staff who were already experiencing serious mental destress and reputational damage as a result of Rafiq’s claims. They also did not understand why the club appeared to be covering up Rafiq’s history of unpleasant behaviour, much of which would have cast doubt on many of his allegations. They were wrong. Chairman Roger Hutton resigned less than a month after the letter was sent and his replacement, Lord Kamlesh Patel, used the letter as an excuse to sack all 14 signatories by email without meeting with them first to discuss their concerns. Patel also dismissed Director of Cricket Martyn Moxon and HR Manager Liz Neto.

At once, 16 careers were lost, 16 families affected and 16 reputations destroyed, for the label of racist is one of the hardest to ever remove in modern society.

The shock and destress felt by these people cannot be underestimated. Martyn Moxon, a man with over 30 years unblemished service to the game, had already been signed off work with a stress related illness at the time, after bearing the mental strain of the allegations more than most.

In the days and months that followed, the search for justice began and, as it gathered pace, more and more questions began to emerge. Why did the club accept responsibility for allegations they had previously believed to be false? Why did those who could prove the truth remain silent? Why did the club fail to publish the Squire Patton Boggs report, an independent enquiry they themselves had commissioned following Rafiq’s initial allegations? Why did Rafiq and Lord Patel claim to have never met before the latter’s appointment at Yorkshire, despite photographic evidence proving that they knew each other as far back as 2018?

Piece by piece a picture emerged, one far more scandalous than could have ever been envisaged at the start of this sorry affair. The investigation that has followed from journalists and cricket lovers, including this writer, involves corruption that reaches as high as the British government, something that will be covered in a further instalment of this series.

The Bouncer has seen the original Squire Patton Boggs report and can confirm that the independent investigators that carried out the inquiry labelled parts of Azeem Rafiq’s testimony not “credible” on more than one occasion. The report finds very little evidence other than hearsay to support the majority of Rafiq’s allegations but contains plenty that casts doubt on many of them. Some of Rafiq’s more serious accusations were not even made by the former spinner when speaking to SPB. Instead, he only made the claims later once he had a wider audience at the DCMS committee. For example, the SPB report states that when Rafiq was questioned about use of the phrase “Raffa the Kaffir” during the inquiry that “it was clear from the interview transcripts that AR had not heard of this term”, yet within months he was claiming that he had been repeatedly called “Raffa the Kaffir” in the dressing room throughout his time at Yorkshire.
Rafiq claimed to the CDC hearing that Tim Bresnan had consistently called him a “p**i” and referred to his sister as a “fit p**i”. However, when asked by SPB to give specific examples of racist behaviour by Bresnan, Rafiq is unable to provide any. The accusations of racism against Bresnan only came later.  Reading through the report, a pattern begins to emerge of Rafiq claiming racism at the club without being able to provide evidence, yet by the time of the DCMS hearing he is able to magically produce quotes and examples that he failed to inform Squire Patton Boggs of.

One of the most damaging claims made against Martyn Moxon and the leadership of the club was that they provided no care and support to Rafiq when the player’s son was tragically stillborn in 2018 or when Yorkshire released him later that year. The picture painted is of Moxon is of a hard, unfeeling man keen to rid the club of an awkward player and completely uninterested in his duty of care for a suffering young man.
However, the SPB report contains an email from Moxon, sent to Rafiq after his release from Yorkshire CCC dated 6th September 2018 and we will republish it here.

“Hi Azeem, Following on from our meeting yesterday, I just want to re-iterate that both the club and myself are committed to giving you all the support you may need both in a personal and professional regard. Please do not hesitate to contact any of us if you need any help. I wish you well for the future. Best wishes, Martyn.”

The Bouncer has also been told, on good authority, that almost the entire Yorkshire dressing room reached out to Rafiq to offer support and comfort after his tragic loss.

The accusations against him pushed Martyn Moxon to the stress induced illness that led to him being signed off by Yorkshire before his sacking. The Bouncer has spoken to many people within the game and not a single one of them has offered anything other than glowing praise for Moxon, a warm and kind man who would do anything for anyone and who has been publicly hung out to dry by the club he served.

Interestingly, Adil Rashid declined to participate in the SPB investigation yet came forward at the 11th hour to support Rafiq’s claims against Michael Vaughan to the CDC. This gives even more weight to the testimony of Liz Neto and Ajmal Shahzad who claimed that Rashid had told them Rafiq was pressuring him into supporting his evidence, claims that The Bouncer can reveal we have additionally corroborated from three further witnesses.

The only evidence the investigators seem to be able to use to support Rafiq’s claims against John Blain is that similar accusations were made by former cricketer Majid Haq in Scotland. These are the accusations that Blain has been cleared from this month, with the former seamer produced a signed letter from Cricket Scotland CEO Peter Fitzboydon, confirming that “these allegations have not been founded and there is a not a case to answer”. The SPB report notes that Rafiq and Haq spoke in September 2020, with Rafiq’s statement being produced in November 2020 and Haq’s in December of that year. The panel considers the possibility of collusion between the two men but cannot find sufficient evidence. However, Blain’s exoneration from Haq’s claims, and those of fellow former Scotland player Qasim Sheikh, must cast serious doubt on the validity of Rafiq’s accusations against him.

On 10th June, Blain published the aforementioned letter on X dated 12th January.  Despite this, Blain claims he was asked to keep the news of his exoneration private so as to protect the feelings of his false accusers. Even though Fitzboyden’s letter proves his innocence beyond reasonable doubt, John Blain’s ordeal is not over. George Dobell began reporting once again on John Blain’s case, through The Cricketer website. As a result of this Cricket Scotland has rowed back on its’ own findings, issuing a communication this week to declare that Blain had not been exonerated. An understandably incandescent John Blain has threatened to sue CS, citing both the letter and a phone call from Fitzboyden’s successor as CS CEO, Trudy Lindblade, in February assuring him of his innocence. It seems that Cricket Scotland, as the ECB did before them in the Rafiq case, is buckling under pressure from governments and an increasingly vocal group of so-called anti-racists in the media.

In an article published on The Cricketer website yesterday George Dobell used John Blain’s previous heartbreaking statements in a Telegraph interview about the strain on his mental health and his thoughts about whether his son would be strong enough to carry his coffin if he ended his own life to cast doubt on the letter Cricket Scotland sent to Blain in January. This is the direct quote from Dobell’s piece “The Cricketer understands that CS were, in January, concerned about Blain’s mental health. He had been quoted in the media as saying he had contemplated suicide”. The implication that CS sent Blain the letter of exoneration purely out of pity due the state of his mental health is as absurd as it is insidious.

The fight to clear their names has been long and hard for the Yorkshire 16 and shows no sign of ending soon.  Some had expected long careers in the English game, others well earned and peaceful retirement. They were failed by both their club and a governing body that was too weak to stand up for the people it was supposed to protect. The ECB has completely failed to scrutinise Lord Patel’s decision to sack the 16 staff, despite knowing their dismissal was unjust. This has been proven by the fact that almost all of the dismissed staff have received settlements from Yorkshire CCC for their illegal sackings. Indeed, some including Head Coach Andrew Gale and bowling coach Richard Pyrah, have won unfair dismissal claims against the club. In September 2022, Yorkshire CCC released a statement admitting that “the club has acknowledged that its dismissal of that group of employees was procedurally unfair”. In addition, physiotherapist Wayne Morton has since received a public apology from the club. Morton described the ECB as “complicit through neglect” in Yorkshire’s treatment of the 16, stating that his colleagues were seen as “collateral damage” in this sorry affair with “no duty of care” provided to them by either the club or the governing body.

The truth is finally coming out. However, it has come too late to undo the damage done to innocent men and women who just wanted to do their jobs.

Perhaps the last word should go to the Squire Patton Boggs report itself. The report’s most telling line is on page 77 where it states that, apart from Rafiq’s close friend Garry Balance who admitted to mutual exchanges between the pair; “The remainder of the witnesses who provided evidence to the Investigation, say they have never seen or heard any instances of racist behaviour towards AR (Azeem Rafiq) or any other person in the context of their involvement with the Club. Those witnesses include current and former playing staff and coaches, many of whom worked with AR. They also include witnesses of Asian background.”

16 innocent people lost their livelihoods in one of the greatest miscarriages of justice ever carried out in our sport. We must not rest until the whole truth is revealed and their names are cleared.

4 thoughts on “The Yorkshire Files Part 3 – The fight for justice

  • As journalist who has covered countless stories at Yorkshire for newspapers and magazines,and television,I can assure you that Martyn Moxon and other members of staff were treated brutally…the allegations they faced.. wrongly..have never been challenged and the reporting by sections of the media has been biased and one-sided.When Azeem Rafiq was capped by Yorkshire.. rightly..I don’t recall any allegations of racism or when he was appointed Skipper of the T20 side.

  • As a proud Yorkshire woman, I remain horrified by this scandal and how many people’s lives have been destroyed because of baseless allegations.
    I am currently listening on the radio to a further progress report on the Post Office scandal. So I would say “Keep fighting for justice”. It took and is still taking the Postmasters far too long to get long to get justice for their ruined lives but persistence is winning.

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