Yorkshire suspended from hosting international matches over racism row

Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC) have been suspended from hosting international or major matches over their handling of allegations of racism by former player Azeem Rafiq, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said on Thursday.

“It is clear… that YCCC’s handling of the issues raised by Azeem Rafiq is wholly unacceptable and is causing serious damage to the reputation of the game,” the ECB said in a statement.

“The ECB find this matter abhorrent and against the spirit of cricket and its values.”

Yorkshire batsman Gary Ballance, who said on Wednesday that he had used racist language towards his former team mate Rafiq, has also been indefinitely suspended from England selection.

READ: Sponsors cut ties with Yorkshire following Rafiq racism report

“Before any regulatory investigation is complete, the Board wishes to take immediate action in relation to Gary Ballance,” the ECB said.

“While Mr Ballance has not been selected to play for England since 2017, he will be suspended indefinitely from selection. This position will be reviewed following the ECB regulatory investigation into his conduct.”

The ECB added that it had agreed to hold Yorkshire to account over their handling of the matter and to consider sanctions including, but not limited to financial and future match allocations at the end of its investigation.

“In the meantime, YCCC are suspended from hosting international or major matches until it has clearly demonstrated that it can meet the standards expected of an international venue, ECB member and First Class County,” the ECB said.

Reuters has contacted the club, whose Headingley stadium is used regularly for England’s test and limited overs matches, for comment.

Several sponsors have ended their partnerships with Yorkshire following an independent report into allegations of racism made by Rafiq.

Yorkshire said last month that they would not take action against employees, players or executives following the report, which found Rafiq had been a victim of racial harassment and bullying in his first spell at the county from 2008-14.

Rafiq and senior Yorkshire executives have been called to give evidence before a parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) panel on Nov. 16.

Rafiq, a player of Pakistani descent and a former captain of the England Under-19s, said last year he was made to feel like an outsider at Yorkshire and contemplated taking his own life.

Ballance, who played 23 tests for England, had described Rafiq as his “best mate in cricket” on Wednesday and said that on the pitch they “supported each other greatly”.

“It has been reported that I used a racial slur and, as I told the independent enquiry, I accept that I did so and I regret doing so,” Ballance added.

“To be clear – I deeply regret some of the language I used in my younger years.”

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