David Parkin on Roger Hutton’s resignation

BY the time you read this Roger Hutton will have resigned as the chairman of Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

I know this because I spoke to Roger last night and he sent me a copy of his resignation statement which is embargoed to 8.05am this morning.

You can read it below.

Roger Hutton, Chairman, Yorkshire County Cricket Club – Resignation  

Today I announce my resignation as Chairman of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, with  immediate effect. It is with great sadness to leave a Club I was immensely proud to serve and  have loved since watching my first game from the old County Stand at the age of seven. 

The Club has proud traditions and status as one of sports biggest brands and, as Chairman,  I had a vision for our Club which was shared by the Non-Executive members of the Board – we truly believed we could make the cultural changes to take it out of the past and into the future.  

In August 2020, a former Yorkshire player and the youngest captain in the Club’s history – Azeem Rafiq – gave an interview to the well-respected cricketing publication, Wisden. In it he recounted his experience of playing Club cricket at Yorkshire, the racism he encountered and the mental anguish this caused him and his family.  

This was a man who was calling for change, meaningful change for other young men and  women facing the same challenges he faced in the sport he loved. 

Azeem left the Club in August 2018, 18 months before I joined the Board in April 2020. I have never met Azeem and was not at the Club during the period he was employed. I know however, that when someone makes claims as serious as his, they need to be investigated  and changes need to be made. 

I would like to take this opportunity to apologise unreservedly to Azeem. 

The Club should have recognised at the time the serious allegations of racism. I am sorry that we could not persuade Executive members of the Board to recognise the gravity of the situation and show care and contrition. 

I remain disappointed that legal restrictions, including an ongoing employment tribunal, have prevented the investigation report from being published and look forward to the time that everyone can see its recommendations. I hope for it to be published as soon as possible. 

I want to be clear that when I was made aware of Azeem Rafiq’s allegations, I immediately  reached out to the ECB to ask for their help and intervention to support a robust inquiry. I was saddened when they declined to help as I felt it was a matter of great importance for the game as a whole. It is a matter of record that I have continually expressed my frustration at the ECB’s reluctance to act. 

There has been a constant unwillingness from the Executive members of the Board and senior management at the Club to apologise and to accept racism and to look forward. For much of my time at the Club, I experienced a culture that refuses to accept change or challenge. 

During my time as Chairman, I take responsibility for failing to persuade them to take appropriate and timely action. This frustration has been shared by all of the Non-Executive members of the Board, some of whom have also now resigned. I now call for those Executive  members of the Board to resign, to make way for a new path for the Club I love so much. 

I will of course continue to fully cooperate with the ECB and the invitation to give evidence to  the House of Commons Select Committee.

The Club has some brilliant people and has done much to be proud of, particularly the  Yorkshire Cricket Foundation, and I want to see more grassroots education in the game to put  an end to racism for good. 

I look forward to the time when Yorkshire County Cricket Club is a great Club again and will  always support those who share my love for the Club and wish our supporters and team well, always.

Yorkshire might often be described as the biggest and most historic cricket club in the world but its reputation and standing has shrivelled amid the ongoing fallout over former player Azeem Rafique’s racism allegations.

An investigation found Rafiq had been a victim of “racial harassment and bullying” while at the club.

Yorkshire’s investigations began in 2020 after Rafiq claimed “institutional racism” at the club left him close to taking his own life.

After more than a year – and having been asked to do so by MPs – Yorkshire released the findings of an independent report in September which upheld seven of the 43 allegations made by Rafiq.

But the club said no players, coaches or executives would face disciplinary action following the club’s own investigation into the report’s findings.

The fallout from Yorkshire’s response to the racism report intensified on Monday when ESPN Cricinfo reported a racist term about Rafiq’s Pakistani heritage was regularly used towards him, but the investigation concluded it was “friendly and good-natured banter”.

Rafiq’s former team-mate Gary Ballance says he was responsible for some of the racist language Azeem Rafiq was subjected to during his time at Headingley.

Despite all this, the club’s silence on the matter has been deafening and suggested that those at the very top were either in denial about the allegations or keeping their heads down until this storm blew over.

But it didn’t and this week several of the club’s sponsors including Yorkshire Tea and Headingley Stadium naming rights partner Emerald Publishing as well as kit supplier Nike, have ended their relationships with YCCC.

Yesterday Yorkshire were suspended from hosting England matches by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

Julian Knight MP, the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee, has called on the Yorkshire board to resign.

Senior Yorkshire officials including Roger Hutton and chief executive Mark Arthur have also been called to attend a DCMS select committee hearing on November 16 along with Azeem Rafiq.

What a shameful shambles of a situation.

We are constantly told that there is “No Room for Racism” but it seems it was quite at home in the dressing room, board room and corridors of power at Headingley Stadium.

Which is what prompted me to get in touch with Roger Hutton.

I’ve known Roger, the joint managing partner of Leeds law firm Clarion for many years.

He is a talented, successful, well connected lawyer who I believed to have strong principles, good judgement and a clear sense of right and wrong.

Which is why I was so surprised to see him in the eye of this particular storm.

When he accepted the role of chairman of YCCC last year he did so not because it provided some nice padding on his CV, but because he thought he could he could bring genuine change to an organisation which has had many financial and governance challenges in recent years but remains probably the best known cricket club in the world.

But Roger’s 18 months in charge will only be remembered for one reason, and it isn’t a global pandemic.

From talking to Roger and reading his resignation statement, I sense a man who is at the end of his tether.

A man who has tried to do the right thing but has been stymied at every turn by executives who won’t make changes because they won’t accept any of Azeem Rafique’s allegations – even the ones upheld by an independent report.

And a man who when he asked the ECB for help and support was told they couldn’t help.

Until the heat was turned up so far by this week’s publicity that English cricket’s governing body went quickly scuttling to try and find the moral high ground.

I’m sure Roger would be the first to admit that things should have been done differently.

But how hard is it to do that when those within an organisation are so resistant to change?

Not only that but those in senior management at the club lobbied to drop the investigation, wanted to pursue an approach of portraying Azeem Rafique as a flawed character and in the words of one executive “shut the f****r up”.

It beggars belief that in this day and age when issues of racism and mental health are taken so seriously, that this could happen.

But we are dealing with people here who think using the word ‘P***’ is good natured banter.

When I was a child in the 1970s and 1980s that word wasn’t acceptable.

Until this week I actually hadn’t heard it for decades.

But it seems it was in regular use in the dressing room at Headingley.

And sadly, it seems other places too.

I spoke to Jas Athwal this week.

He is a Deputy Lieutenant of West Yorkshire, former chairman of Bradford Bulls and a retired retailer who remembers standing on the doorstep of his Bradford grocery shop when the National Front were marching past in the 1970s and 80s.

But he doesn’t have to go that far back to cite an experience of racism.

Just last month he was sitting in the bar of The Belfry golf course having just played its Brabazon course and won the Porsche Golf Cup Great Britain.

Jas and his team mates now go on to play in the Porsche Golf Cup World Final in Majorca in May next year.

Enjoying a drink and celebrating a great win, Jas and his team were excited and looking forward to a five-star trip to a luxury golf resort.

Until Jas saw a group of men chatting nearby and nodding towards him.

He clearly saw one say: “Look at that, a P*** has won. I’ll go and shake the P**** hand.”

Jas shook his hand, told the man he heard what he said and then excused himself and left.

And there’s me thinking words like that and attitudes like that were extinct.

They are not.

And they never will be until people take responsibility and action.

By taking no action or responsibility those at YCCC are condoning racism and bullying and that is not acceptable.

Roger Hutton clearly thought he could bring change at Headingley but has had to finally accept defeat.

He fought a battle and lost.

What those who remain must accept is that they will ultimately lose the war.

What is so sad is that clearly many battles lie ahead until that war is won.

::::

VISITING the amazing place that is Salt’s Mill at Saltaire last Sunday, I wandered into the part of the mill which houses several antique shops.

Amid the crystal decanters and ageing brooches was a familiar sight.

A Raleigh Chopper bicycle.

I never had one, but I remember them very clearly from my childhood.

I couldn’t afford one with my pocket money back then and, it turns out, I still can’t afford it now.

The price tag on it was £3,200.

Isn’t nostalgia a wonderful thing?

But bloody expensive.

:::

LAST week’s blog got a big reaction.

Mainly, I think due to my memories of La Grillade and my recent meeting with the restaurant’s owner Guy Martin-Laval.

And my suggestion of a reunion dinner for Guy and former customers has garnered enough interest to hopefully become reality.

Many who got in touch reminisced about the charm with which Guy ran his establishment on Wellington Street.

Including David Ansbro, former chief executive of Leeds City Council who moved to London to run major law firm Eversheds as its CEO.

“After being away from Leeds for four years – 1999 to 2003 – I returned to La Grillade to be welcomed by Guy with the words:‘I thought you were dead’.

:::

I WAS also pleasantly surprised at some of the compliments I received about my new Michelsberg Tailoring sports jacket.

Although there were even more for the typo in which I said it was “maid to measure”.

I wish I could say it was a deliberate mistake, but it wasn’t.

When you’ve been staring at a screen for three hours on a Friday morning, it happens.

But that is no excuse, so apologies.

What it did help me discover is that there are places where a gentleman can get “maid to measure” services.

Unfortunately they cost a little bit more than a Michelsberg jacket and trousers.

:::

ONE of the messages I received about my new jacket was from a former colleague at the Yorkshire Post, Frederic Manby.

He said: “David: you don’t give us the price of the jacket which would be useful in evaluation.For the record I prefer it with the polo neck, but mostly it’s not to my taste at all. In fact I don’t like anything about it.”

Which is disappointing as Fred was always one of my sartorial heroes when I worked at the Yorkshire Post.

He was up there with Jeremy Clarkson and Compo from Last of the Summer Wine.

Have a great weekend.

1 comment

  1. David Page

    A very robust commentary on the YCCC racism and I hope that Sir Roger Hutton’l and other NEDs action in resigning finally prompts the change that is needed (especially in Executive Directors).

    On nostalgia we will have to agree to differ – I was firmly in the Raleigh Grifter camp rather than the Chopper.

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