Yorkshire racism case: ECB investigation 'deeply disappointing' - Roger Hutton

By Dan RoanBBC sports editor
Headingley
Headingley - Yorkshire's home ground - will host this week's third Test between England and New Zealand

Former Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton has criticised the England and Wales Cricket Board's "deeply disappointing" handling of the club's racism scandal.

Last week, the governing body opened disciplinary proceedings against the county and some individuals following its own investigation.

But Hutton said the process had been "poor" and questioned its independence.

The former chairman said he was dismayed the ECB's own conduct during the affair had not been investigated.

The ECB declined to comment.

Last week, the governing body said it had completed what it called a "thorough and complex" investigation.

Details of racial abuse at Yorkshire first surfaced in September 2020 when former player Azeem Rafiq said discrimination left him feeling suicidal.

Yorkshire launched "a formal investigation" in response and, a year later, an independent panel upheld seven of the 43 allegations made by Rafiq.

However, the panel's report was not published and no player, employee or executive faced disciplinary action as a result of its findings.

The outcome sparked widespread criticism and in November 2021 the ECB suspended Yorkshire from hosting international matches at Headingley "until it has clearly demonstrated that it can meet the standards expected". Then-chairman Hutton stepped down, as did chief executive Mark Arthur.

The ECB restored Yorkshire's right to host England Test matches after governance reforms and an overhaul of staff. It then completed what it called a "thorough and complex" investigation to establish the grounds for the charges against both the county and the individuals involved.

But Hutton - who was critical of the ECB last year when giving evidence to a parliamentary committee, claiming they could have done more to help the county look into Rafiq's allegations - says he found it "deeply disappointing" that the governing body did not "consider it appropriate to investigate the conduct of those at the ECB".

"You will recall the ECB knew of Azeem's allegations before I did. They did nothing about them," he said.

"They did not offer to help YCCC [Yorkshire] investigate despite the obvious difficulties it faced in doing so and when YCCC asked them to help they refused to do so. I believe this should be questioned.

"I also believe that the ECB investigation itself has been poor."

Hutton criticised "a lack of independence".

"I have raised these concerns with the ECB and they have dismissed them," he said.

"I strongly believe cricket would be better served by a wholly independent regulatory arm so not only would this ensure a fair and objective process everyone could trust it to be so."

Hutton added: "I have always taken the view that Azeem is a victim and that cricket needs to improve its approach to diversity and inclusion.

"For my part I apologised for the racism he suffered and for the mistakes that were made by YCCC in the handling of the investigation.

"I am wholly supportive of [current chairman] Lord Patel and believe his changes are positive ones."

The ECB conducted its own investigation into the saga, but it was overseen by a Regulatory Committee that has an independent chair and which includes several independent members.

The charges will be heard by an independent panel of the Cricket Disciplinary Commission.

The ECB has declined to name any individuals charged.

It is understood ex-England captain Michael Vaughan and former Yorkshire players Matthew Hoggard, Tim Bresnan and Andrew Gale are among the individuals charged.

BBC Sport has approached the individuals for comment.

Former Yorkshire and England captain Vaughan revealed he had been accused of making racist comments to Rafiq and others players, but has repeatedly denied the claims.

Vaughan told the BBC he never made racist comments while at the county. He admitted regret at some tweets he had sent in the past.

The ECB has also faced criticism from three other previous Yorkshire chairmen - Colin Graves, Steve Denison and Robin Smith - who along with Hutton also told the Telegraph of their concerns at the handling of the process.