Yorkshire CCC suspended from hosting international matches as former England captain drawn into racism row

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Yorkshire County Cricket Club has been indefinitely banned from hosting international or major matches after its "wholly unacceptable" handling of racial harrassment claims.

The England and Wales Cricket Board says the club's approach is "causing serious damage to the reputation of the game."

It comes after player Azeem Rafiq accused the club of "institutional racism" more than a year ago and an internal investigation found the 30-year-old spinner had been a victim of "racial harassment and bullying" while he played there.

Despite this, Yorkshire CCC, who play most of their home games at Headingley in Leeds, has said it would take no disciplinary action against employees, players and executives.

The club is expected to hold a board meeting tomorrow, but in recent days has faced strong criticism from MPs and lost several sponsors including most recently its kit sponsor Nike.

It comes as former Engalnd captain and commemtator Michael Vaughan has been drawn into the row, using his column in the Daily Telegraph to reveal that he is named in the club's report, and to deny any wrongdoing.

He says that hours before he was due to give evidence to investigators in 2020 he learned that Rafiq had alleged he had made a racist comment 11 years before.

It was claimed that in 2009 Vaughan said to Rafiq and two other Asian players "(there are) too many of you lot, we need to do something about it".

"I completely and categorically deny that I ever said those words," Vaughan wrote, adding "I take it as the most serious allegation ever put in front of me and I will fight to the end to prove I am not that person."

Earlier on Thursday cricket's governing body in England and Wales announced Yorkshire CCC will not be able to host major matches.

"The ECB find this matter abhorrent and against the spirit of cricket and its values. There is no place for racism or any form of discrimination in cricket and where it is found, swift action must be taken. This matter must be dealt with robustly if the sport is to demonstrate its commitment to truly being a game for everyone.

"Given recent events, it is clear there are serious questions regarding the governance and management of Yorkshire CCC. The club's failure in relation to actions and responses to their own report represents a significant breach of its obligations to the game.

"As a governing body with duties to act for all in cricket, the ECB Board reaffirmed its commitment to taking decisions in the best interests of the whole game. It also agreed that sanctions including, but not limited to, financial and future major match allocations may be considered at the conclusion of our investigations.

"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's board has also asked the ECB executive to run a review of the cricket club's governance and also said an independent tribunal is reviewing the allegations brought by Rafiq.

Rafiq's former teammate Gary Ballance has also been suspended indefinitely from selection for England, although he has not played for the national team since 2017.

On 3 November, Ballance admitted using a racial slur against Rafiq.

He said: "I am aware of how hurtful the racial slur is and I regret that I used this word in immature exchanges in my younger years and I am sure Rafa feels the same about some of the things he said to me as well."

Rafiq, 30, played for Yorkshire County Cricket Club in two spells between 2008 and 2018 and accused the club of "institutional racism" more than a year ago.

His allegations against the club have begun to gather momentum in recent days with several sponsors announcing they are cutting ties with the club and senior politicians calling for action.

It follows revelations by ESPNCricinfo over the contents of an independent report into the matter.

That report found that Rafiq had been the victim of "racial harassment and bullying" at the club, but it has since emerged that the panel determined repeated use of the word "P***" against the spinner was delivered "in the spirit of friendly banter".

The club's chairman Roger Hutton has been summoned to appear before a parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, while Rafiq has also been invited.

Amid the backlash, several sponsors ended their association with Yorkshire CCC, including Nike - who sponsor the club's kits.

The club is due to host an England men's Test against New Zealand and a men's one-day international against South Africa next summer.

The suspension on hosting matches includes all "major" matches, including The Hundred.

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