Azeem Rafiq: Sponsors distance themselves from Yorkshire cricket club amid racism claims

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One Yorkshire cricket club sponsor has cut ties with the side and another is putting its relationship on hold amid a race row.

The Emerald Group, a publishing company based in Bingley, said it was "removing [their] brand association" with Yorkshire County Cricket Club and Headingley Stadium, while Yorkshire Tea said it would be putting its relationship with the club "on hold".

Yorkshire County Cricket Club has been accused of "endemic racism" over its handling of allegations from former player Azeem Rafiq.

Rafiq, 30, played for Yorkshire in two spells between 2008 and 2018 and accused them of "institutional racism" over a year ago.

Since then, an independent panel assessed the claims on behalf of Yorkshire CCC and it led to an apology being issued to Rafiq but nobody being disciplined.

On Tuesday, Yorkshire's chairman Roger Hutton was summoned to appear before a parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee to answer questions over the club's handling of the allegations.

It is understood Rafiq himself has also been invited to the hearing, which is thought to be happening within a fortnight.

A statement from the Emerald Group read: "We have today taken the decision to remove our brand association with Yorkshire County Cricket Club and Headingley Stadium.

"We do not tolerate any form of racism or discriminatory behaviour and the damaging effects this has.

"Our intention remains to continue a financial commitment to the stadium itself, which is also the home of Leeds Rhinos rugby, as we believe this supports the aims of diversity and inclusion in sport along with a range of charitable community endeavours."

A Yorkshire Tea spokesperson said: "We were upset to read about the experiences of Azeem Rafiq during his time at Yorkshire Country Cricket Club. We wholeheartedly believe that cricket should be a sport for everyone, but his experiences and the way the panel report has been handled don't reflect that.

"Our current sponsorship of YCCC was naturally coming to an end but we have taken the decision to end it with immediate effect."

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