Yorkshire: Azeem Rafiq says Colin Graves’ return has led to racist abuse

Yorkshire: Azeem Rafiq says Colin Graves’ return has led to racist abuse

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Yorkshire: Azeem Rafiq says Colin Graves will give ‘power’ back to racists

Colin Graves is expected to return as the Yorkshire chairman “empowers” racists, says former player Azeem Rafiq.

The Yorkshire council has approved a takeover deal from the consortium led by Graves, 75, for members to vote in favor on 2 February.

“I’m devastated,” said Rafiq, who revealed what happened to the crowd.

“I’m struggling to understand how we’ve ended up here. It’s a mix of emotions – a lot of anger and frustration.”

Yorkshire boss Stephen Vaughan told BBC Sport that the club had to accept the terms of Graves’ leadership due to “financial difficulties” and ensure that its work to promote equality, inclusion and inclusion continues.

Graves, who was chairman of Yorkshire between 2012 and 2015, will return to the role if approved.

Speaking to BBC Yorkshire, Rafiq said: “I woke up this morning to abuse – racist, Islamophobic – this is what [Graves’ return] empowering.

“It empowers stupid people who feel they can be openly racist.”

“The abuse is getting worse, I’ve been through a lot over the last three years and it’s still going on,” added Rafiq, who said the racism he experienced in Yorkshire had left him “close to killing himself”.

Rafiq said he was not optimistic Yorkshire members would vote against Graves’ takeover.

“Members for Yorkshire and Colin Graves are a match made in heaven, I hope they enjoy themselves,” he said.

Yorkshire is in dire financial straits, with £17m of debts due to be repaid by October. Last year the government revealed it had to repay £14.9m to the Graves family trust following the 2002 bailout.

The group lost its sponsors for dealing with discrimination and agreed to pay compensation to fired workers who obtained unfair dismissal certificates.

Graves will issue an unsecured £1m loan to Yorkshire if the takeover goes ahead and arrange a further £4m if other positions on the new board are approved.

Rafiq said it would put Yorkshire in financial trouble in the short term but questioned the impact Graves’ return would have on cricket.

“It sends a clear message to South Asians that cricket is not a safe and welcoming place for us,” he said.

“For a long time I saw Yorkshire as my club, I don’t do it anymore.”

Last year, the ECB criticized Manda for what he called some racist incidents in the government “outrageous”.

In a statement, Graves, who was ECB president from 2015 to 2020, said he “regretted the language and understood those who felt his comments were “irrelevant or thoughtless”.

He also promised to continue the equal, diverse and inclusive work that Yorkshire has done in recent years, with the ECB saying “these words must be acted upon”.

Rafiq said if Manda “really cared” then he could have reached out to him “any time in the last three years”.

“Something needs to be done here, words are not enough,” added Rafiq.

Yorkshire ‘guaranteed’ – Vaughan

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Yorkshire boss Stephen Vaughan talks to the BBC’s Dan Roan about taking Graves

Former chairman Lord Patel, who stepped down in March last year, oversaw a major shake-up at Yorkshire after taking over amid allegations by Rafiq and widespread criticism of the club’s handling of the case.

Speaking to BBC sports editor Dan Roan, Vaughan said he was “assured that work will continue” under Graves.

Yorkshire said it had spoken to more than 350 parties who would like new funding but that under Graves’ leadership it was “the only viable option”.

Vaughan said the main reason Yorkshire chose Graves was that other potential investors, including Indian Premier League franchises, wanted ownership rather than keeping a members’ club and this was not a “board gift” to do so.

However, Mr Graves is understood to want to transform Yorkshire from a members’ club to a limited liability company.

Asked if he could confirm Yorkshire would remain a members’ club, Vaughan said: “I don’t know what the future holds and you can’t say.

“The offerings we’ve been given and the things we’ve been given [the members] will be revealed that they do not mention the demutualization of members.

“What Colin and his management team will do in the future is entirely up to them, but there is no word on what will happen.”

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