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Yorkshire banned from hosting matches, racism, Azeem Rafiq, reaction, Gary Ballance, ECB

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Yorkshire were suspended from staging international matches on Friday after the England and Wales Cricket Board condemned their “wholly unacceptable” handling of a racism row involving former player Azeem Rafiq.

The 30-year-old Rafiq accused Yorkshire of failing to deal adequately with his allegations of racism during his time with the English county.

Yorkshire offered the Pakistan-born off-spinner “profound and unreserved apologies” in a report into his allegations of racial abuse in September.

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But last week Yorkshire said they would take no disciplinary action against any staff, unleashing a wave of criticism and prompting sponsors, including kit manufacturer Nike, to turn their back on the club.

Now the ECB, the English game’s governing body, has stripped Headingley, Yorkshire’s headquarters in Leeds, of the right to stage a Test between England and New Zealand in June 2022, as well as a one-day international with South Africa in July.

“YCCC (Yorkshire County Cricket Club) 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,” said a board statement.

Meanwhile, the ECB said former international Gary Ballance, who admitted using a racial slur against Rafiq during their time together at Yorkshire, would be “suspended indefinitely” from England selection pending an investigation into his conduct.

Rafiq demanded sweeping changes at Yorkshire and revealed he is still suffering abuse.

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Rafiq said the row was about “institutional racism and abject failures by numerous leaders at Yorkshire County Cricket Club and in the wider game.

“The sport I love and my club desperately need reform and cultural change,” he posted on Twitter.

“The system and environment changes that will organically educate and bring through a new generation that make this the beautiful game it should be.”

The row has drawn in British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as well as governing body the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

Johnson stepped up the pressure on the ECB on Thursday as his spokesman told reporters: “The PM’s clear that racist language should never be used in any context whatsoever.

“These are serious allegations. They must be investigated thoroughly and quickly. We urge the ECB to look at this carefully.”

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Rafiq, who represented Yorkshire in two spells between 2008 and 2018, made 43 allegations and said he had been driven to thoughts of suicide by his treatment at the club.

Yorkshire’s redacted report upheld seven of his claims but concluded the club was not institutionally racist.

Former England spinner Monty Panesar said Yorkshire had “completely mishandled this case”.

He told ITV: “They haven’t taken serious concern for Azeem Rafiq and his welfare. They’ve kind of termed it as banter which sits uncomfortably with me.

“The ‘P’ word is a racist term and should not be defined under the banter bracket.

“Yorkshire felt Azeem’s allegations weren’t important to them. They avoided the issues and also delayed the report.”

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