Pakistan-origin cricketer Azeem Rafiq, who made explosive accusations of racism against county side Yorkshire which forced them to make far-reaching changes in their club structure, was on Saturday invited to witness Day 3 of the Test action between England and New Zealand here, and the 31-year-old seemed to be enjoying his visit.
Almost two years after the cricketer went public about allegations of racial harassment and bullying at Headingley, which forced the club to enact far-reaching governance reforms and also confirm board appointments, Rafiq returned to the ground for the first time.
In the aftermath of the disclosures, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) took stringent action of banning Headingley from hosting any international games in November last year. In a bid to improve the club’s image, Lord Kamlesh Patel took over from Roger Hutton as chairman. The entire coaching and support staff at the club was asked to leave and Yorkshire gradually started making fresh appoints to the vacant posts.
Raifq said on Saturday that ECB did the right thing by lifting the ban on Headingly, which had pushed Yorkshire on the verge of insolvency.
“I don’t think fans should suffer because of failures of leadership over a long period of time, and secondly I think the club needed the support to be able to drive through the change that was required,” Rafiq told City A.M. on Saturday.
“It’s a balance of challenge and support — (hosting the Test) is important for the survival of the club.”
Interim chair of the Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Lord Kamlesh Patel had recently revealed that had international cricket not returned to the club, there was a realistic possibility of it going bankrupt post the allegations made by Rafiq and others.
“If Test matches or international matches didn’t come back here we were going to go bankrupt. We literally were,” Patel had said on BBC’s Test Match Special ahead of the opening day of the third Test between England and New Zealand.