Like many others, we’ve been dismayed to see the story of Azeem Rafiq’s experience at Yorkshire County Cricket Club unfolding over the last year.
The club is an icon of sport in Yorkshire, inspiring generations of people to enjoy and take up sport over many years.
Clearly it has been concluded that bullying and racism has been shown towards the player which obviously cannot and should not be tolerated. The more recent reports from ESPN of the language being used are particularly disturbing and upsetting.
It’s yet another wake-up call for us all involved in sport in Yorkshire. Last year there was a huge amount of energy and focus on anti-racism following the George Floyd murder; policies and practices were checked and changed, awareness training carried out and conferences put on by a wide range of our colleagues in the sector. Progress was and is being made, but we collectively have a long way to go.
It is not a ‘high ideal’ or naïve to expect that everyone should be able to enjoy sport, indeed live their lives, free from intimidation and harassment. It’s a basic right.
We cannot view this high profile case as a ‘one-off’, something that has happened at an elite level, some time ago. We’ve seen other cases of racism, alleged and proven, in the public domain involving sports organisations in our county. Other personal stories are emerging at a very grassroots level. And, of course, it is similar across the country – I’d strongly recommend everyone involved in sport reading the home Sports Council’s publication of ‘Tell Your Story: Tackling Racism in Sport’ report that was launched over the summer.
Our sporting Yorkshire world needs to again look at itself. To check, challenge, learn, listen and react appropriately and strongly to the slightest hint of racist behaviour. Of course, if we can help we will not hesitate to do so in whatever capacity is required, but recognising we are continuing to learn and act along with all our partner colleagues.
We also need to recognise and be proud of some of the brilliant work that is taking place across Yorkshire; local sports and other organisations using the power of sport to bring people together in a fun, friendly and, sometimes, disciplined environment. Sport is often the centre and builder of our communities.
So we know sport is a vehicle for good, it is in the blood of Yorkshire. We can’t let it become the opposite through the racist acts of individuals and the weakness of a system that doesn’t tackle it head on.
Nigel Harrison, Yorkshire Sport Foundation, Chief Executive
David Gent, Active Humber, Chief Executive
David Watson, North Yorkshire Sport, Chief Executive