Azeem Rafiq: Nike and other leading sponsors cut ties with Yorkshire County Cricket Club

Azeem Rafiq
A former England youth captain, Azeem Rafiq captained Yorkshire in a Twenty20 fixture in 2012

Nike has become the latest company to cut ties with Yorkshire County Cricket Club as the fallout from the Azeem Rafiq investigation continues.

Primary sponsor Emerald Publishing and Yorkshire Tea have also ended deals with the club.

Rafiq will give evidence in person to MPs into a report about allegations of racism he made against Yorkshire.

The report found Rafiq had been a victim of "racial harassment and bullying" at the club.

However, Yorkshire has said no disciplinary action would be taken.

The club had announced a four-year deal with Nike to be its new kit supplier in March this year.

But a statement from the company said: "Nike will no longer be the kit supplier for Yorkshire CCC.

"We stand firmly against racism and discrimination of any kind."

On Thursday, Harrogate Spring Water said it was also ending its club sponsorship agreement with immediate effect.

"We were deeply concerned at the details that have emerged in recent days surrounding the treatment of Azeem Rafiq at Yorkshire County Cricket Club and the way in which the club's current leadership have handled the important issues that have been raised," a statement said.

Furniture manufacturer JT Ellis said it was suspending its sponsorship of the club too.

"As a long-established family business with strong moral values and a diverse workforce, we do not tolerate any form of discriminatory behaviour whatsoever," it said.

Senior Yorkshire officials have also been called to attend the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee hearing on 16 November.

Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton will be questioned by MPs, along with chief executive Mark Arthur and director of cricket Martyn Moxon.

Witnesses who give evidence to select committees are protected by parliamentary privilege, which means they are immune from the threat of civil or criminal proceedings relating to what they say.

On Wednesday, Emerald Publishing said that, while it was withdrawing its "brand association" with Yorkshire, it would continue a financial commitment to Headingley, where the home stadium of rugby league team Leeds Rhinos is also based.

Yorkshire Tea ended its affiliation with "immediate effect", while leisure club operator David Lloyd said it has chosen not to reinstate its partnership.

Tetley's beer said it had informed Yorkshire that its sponsorship would not be extended beyond the end of the current contractual agreement.

NIC Services, which sponsors the fronts of Yorkshire's shirts in the County Championship, said it would consider its backing after the England and Wales Cricket Board's (ECB) investigation into Rafiq's allegations and select committee review have been completed.

Julian Knight MP has called on the board of Yorkshire County Cricket Club to resign after a leaked report emerged apparently containing details of the investigation into the treatment of Rafiq.

A story published by ESPN says the report had concluded that a racially offensive term used towards Rafiq was regarded as "banter".

Knight, chair of the DCMS select committee, called it "one of the most repellent and disturbing episodes in modern cricket history".

In a tweet, he added: "Given the endemic racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, I struggle to think of any reason why that the board should remain in post."

YCCC did not comment on any of the allegations when contacted by BBC Sport.

Knight's comments came after UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid had called for "heads to roll" at Yorkshire and said that if the ECB did not take action, "it's not fit for purpose". He further stated in a Twitter post that the term allegedly used to describe Rafiq was "not banter".

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries called Rafiq's treatment "disgusting" and said "the investigation that followed only makes it even worse".

In a tweet, she added that any ECB investigation must be "swift and fully transparent. Racism must be confronted, and NEVER written off as just 'banter'".

Meanwhile, Yorkshire MPs have called on the ECB to launch an "immediate, comprehensive and independent inquiry into the racist abuse".

In the letterexternal-link, they said referring to the use of a racially offensive term as "banter" was "truly abhorrent".

"Azeem Rafiq was not afforded the dignity and respect he deserved, it now falls to the ECB to ensure this degrading incident is not repeated," it read.

An ECB spokesperson said: "Last week, we received Yorkshire CCC's report into the racism and bullying allegations Azeem Rafiq made against the club.

''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. 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. To achieve this, we have secured the services of a QC, along with other external investigatory support to upweight resource around our process. The ECB board has also reaffirmed its commitment to further additional resource, should the investigation require it.

''We are aware that the [DCMS] Select Committee have called Yorkshire's chair, Roger Hutton, to give evidence. In the meantime, we will press ahead with our investigation.''

Last year, Rafiq claimed "institutional racism" at the club left him close to taking his own life.external-link

Seven of the 43 allegations were upheld in a report by an independent panel.

Hutton apologised to Rafiq - who had two stints with Yorkshire, the second ending in 2018 - and said there was "no question" that during his first spell at the club he had been "the victim of racial harassment".

However, the club recently said it will not take disciplinary action against any player, employee or executive over the harassment.

Rafiq report timeline

2 September 2020: Following an initial interview with Wisdenexternal-link, ESPN Cricinfo publish an article with Rafiqexternal-link in which he claims "institutional racism" at Yorkshire County Cricket Club left him close to taking his own life.

3 September 2020: Yorkshire say they have launched a "formal investigation" into the claims made by Rafiq and chairman Roger Hutton says the club would be carrying out a "wider review" of their "policies and culture"

5 September 2020: Yorkshire ask an independent law firm to investigate racism allegations against the club by Rafiq.

13 November 2020: Rafiq says he hopes to bring about "meaningful change" after giving his first statement to the inquiry.

15 December 2020: Rafiq files a legal claim against Yorkshire "claiming direct discrimination and harassment on the grounds of race, as well as victimisation and detriment as a result of trying to address racism at the club".

2 February 2021: Yorkshire threaten a lifetime ban for anyone found to have made threats against Rafiq or his family and legal team after ESPN Cricinfo show them messages sent to Rafiq's legal firm.

17 June 2021: An employment tribunal case between Rafiq and his former club Yorkshire fails to find a resolution. The independent investigation into his racism allegations remains ongoing.

16 August 2021: Yorkshire receive the findings of an independent investigation into the racism allegations and, two days later, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) asks for a copy.

19 August 2021: Yorkshire, yet to release the findings of the report at this stage, admit Rafiq was "the victim of inappropriate behaviour" and offer him their "profound apologies".

Rafiq accuses Yorkshire of downplaying racism by calling him the victim of "inappropriate behaviour".

8 September 2021: MPs tell Yorkshire to publish the findings of the report "immediately".

10 September 2021: Yorkshire release the findings of the report, which says Rafiq was the "victim of racial harassment and bullying" and seven of the 43 allegations made by the player were upheld by an independent panel.

According to Hutton, the report said there was "insufficient evidence to conclude that Yorkshire County Cricket Club is institutionally racist".

Yorkshire released a summary of the panel's report and recommendations but said the full report could not be released for legal reasons "in relation to privacy law and defamation".

8 October 2021: Yorkshire miss a deadline to send the full report to Rafiq and his legal team after BBC Sport understands an employment judge ordered the club to release it in full by Friday, 8 October.

13 October 2021: Rafiq then receives a heavily redacted version, while the ECB says it is still awaiting the full report.

28 October 2021: Yorkshire says it carried out its own internal investigation after the findings in the report and concluded that "there is no conduct or action taken by any of its employees, players or executives that warrants disciplinary action".

2 November 2021: The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee calls on Hutton to appear before it to answer questions about Yorkshire's handling of a report into Rafiq's allegations of racism.

Julian Knight MP, chair of the DCMS select committee, calls on the board of Yorkshire County Cricket Club to resign after a leaked report emerges apparently containing details of the investigation into the treatment of Rafiq.

A story published by ESPN says the report had concluded that a racially offensive term used towards Rafiq was regarded as "banter".

Knight makes his comments after UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid calls for "heads to roll" at Yorkshire and said that if the ECB did not take action "it's not fit for purpose". He further states in a Twitter post that the term allegedly used to describe Rafiq was "not banter".

3 November 2021: The date of the DCMS hearing is scheduled for 16 November and Rafiq is called to give evidence in person, along with senior Yorkshire officials.

Several sponsors, including primary sponsor Emerald Publishing and Yorkshire Tea, end their partnerships with Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

Ballance releases a lengthy statement expressing regret for using a racial slur against former Yorkshire team-mate Rafiq.

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