Yorkshire chairman quits over racism case

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The chairman of Yorkshire County Cricket Club has quit as the club struggled to contain a crisis over its handling of a former player's racism allegations which have shaken the sport.

Roger Hutton said on Friday he was resigning "with immediate effect", citing the club's unwillingness to accept the claims by former player Azeem Rafiq and its refusal to apologise.

"There has been a constant unwillingness from the executive members of the board and senior management at the club to apologize, and to accept that there was racism, and to look forward," Hutton said.

"For much of my time at the club, I experienced a culture that refuses to accept change or challenge."

Rafiq, a former England Under-19 captain, said in interviews last year that as a Muslim he was made to feel like an "outsider" during his time at Yorkshire from 2008-18 and that he was close to taking his own life.

A formal independent investigation was commissioned by Yorkshire into more than 40 allegations made by Rafiq, with seven of them upheld in a report released last month that found that Rafiq - one of its former captains - was the victim of racial harassment and bullying.

But the club said it would not take any disciplinary action against any of its employees, players or executives.

On Wednesday, former England cricketer Gary Ballance admitted using a racial slur against Rafiq when they were teammates at Yorkshire, but said "this was a situation where best friends said offensive things to each other which, outside of that context, would be considered wholly inappropriate."

On Thursday, Yorkshire were punished by the England and Wales Cricket Board by being suspended from hosting international matches "until it has clearly demonstrated that it can meet the standards expected of an international venue."

The famous Headingley Stadium in Leeds was scheduled to host an England Test against New Zealand and a men's one-day international against South Africa in 2022, as well as an Ashes Test in 2023.

The ECB slammed the club for its "wholly unacceptable" response to the racism faced by Rafiq.

"The ECB find this matter abhorrent and against the spirit of cricket and its values," the governing body said in a statement. The case "is causing serious damage to the reputation of the game."

A number of Yorkshire's sponsors, including Nike, have deserted the beleaguered club.

Founded more than 150 years ago, Yorkshire is the most successful team in the sport in England and Wales.

Hutton joined the Yorkshire board in 2020, almost two years after Rafiq ended his second stint at the club, and says he has never met the player.

"During my time as chairman, I take responsibility for failing to persuade them to take appropriate and timely action," Hutton said on Friday.

"This frustration has been shared by all of the non-executive members of the board, some of whom have also now resigned."

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