Yorkshire players threaten to quit after mass sacking of coaching staff caught up in racism scandal

·4-min read
Yorkshire players threaten to quit after mass sacking of coaching staff caught up in racism scandal - AFP
Yorkshire players threaten to quit after mass sacking of coaching staff caught up in racism scandal - AFP

Yorkshire face a player revolt – and a bitter legal battle – over a cull of their entire coaching team in the wake of the racism scandal that has engulfed the county.

Telegraph Sport has learned that Lord Patel, the beleaguered club’s new chairman, held crisis talks with members of the squad on Friday amid a major backlash against a mass clear-out at Headingley.

Some players were said to feel so strongly that they were threatening to leave themselves.

“The players are absolutely distraught and feeling very aggrieved at what has happened,” a source said.

Players are said to be furious at what they deemed an indiscriminate cull, one that could nevertheless help lift the ban on the club staging England matches and lure back key sponsors.

There were 16 sackings in total, including director of cricket Martyn Moxon, signed off sick with stress, and head coach Andrew Gale, suspended over a historic anti-Semitic Twitter post, whose positions were made untenable following Azeem Rafiq’s harrowing testimony about the scandal in front of a House of Commons select committee.

Lord Patel is said to have held a Zoom meeting with members of the squad shortly before the departures were announced – but after Yorkshire’s England players, in Australia for the Ashes, had been told the news by Ashley Giles.

Telegraph Sport has been told those sacked were “blindsided” by the announcement and that some were certain to follow Rafiq in taking legal action against the club after receiving no severance pay. Such action would allow them to tell their side of the story in one of the most toxic rows the sport has seen.

Gale released a statement on Friday saying: "The decision has come as a surprise to me. The players knew about it before I did and I will be fighting the decision legally."

Club explains reasons for dismissals

Lord Patel said of a clear-out that began last month with the resignation of chief executive Mark Arthur: “Significant change is required at Yorkshire County Cricket Club and we are committed to taking whatever action is necessary to regain trust.

“The decisions announced today were difficult to make, but are in the best interests of the club. Without making important changes to how we are run, we cannot move on from the past to become a culture which is progressive and inclusive.

“We want to make Yorkshire County Cricket Club a place for everyone, from all backgrounds. To do this, we need to rebuild our culture and instil positive values in everyone associated with Yorkshire. We are determined to learn from the mistakes of the past to become a club which people can trust.

“We are hoping to announce a new director of cricket in the coming days. We have a huge rebuilding job to do but we are confident that this heralds a step forward towards a brighter future.”

A wave of wrongful or unfair dismissal claims could heap further reputational damage on a county whose former chairman, Roger Hutton, accepted they were guilty of institutional racism following their handling of an investigation into Rafiq’s complaints he had been repeatedly abused while there.

The scandal saw them lose multiple sponsors and the right to stage England matches, while batsman Gary Ballance was banned from playing for his country after admitting calling Rafiq a P*** in what Yorkshire’s investigation had dismissed as “banter”.

Julian Knight MP, the chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport select committee that heard Rafiq’s testimony last month, welcomed Friday's announcement, adding: “The experience of Azeem Rafiq at YCCC demanded no less.

“On Tuesday we will be discussing racism in cricket with the National Asian Cricket Council and considering the ECB’s 12-point plan to tackle it.”

Telegraph Sport revealed last month how a delegation of Yorkshire staff had written to their board complaining of the county’s failure to stand up to Rafiq’s “one-man mission to bring down the club”.

Sent on October 14, the letter criticised Rafiq’s behaviour at the club and even expressed fury over an apology issued when it was revealed seven of his 43 abuse claims were proven.

The correspondence laid bare for the first time the “extreme hurt” of staff, who felt they and the club were facing unfair attacks.

“Staff who knew Azeem well felt that an initial apology to him and an acceptance that he was a victim was not the correct approach and misrepresented entirely what kind of individual he was whilst at the club,” the letter said.

“There are endless episodes of Azeem’s behaviour, well-known to the club, which reflect on him as a person well before he decided to accuse the club, staff and players of any wrongdoing. We find it difficult to comprehend how this part of Azeem’s character has not been released or at least used by the club in its defence.”

Reacting to the emergence of the letter last month, Lord Patel said: “It is troubling for many reasons, and further evidence of the wider issues the club has faced.”

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