Yorkshire has been suspended from hosting international or major matches at its Headingley ground.
CNN  — 

The chairman of Yorkshire County Cricket Club has resigned amid the club’s handling of racism and bullying towards former player Azeem Rafiq, the club announced on Friday.

Roger Hutton, who joined the Yorkshire board in April 2020, said he apologizes “unreservedly” to Rafiq, who made allegations of racism at Yorkshire last year.

Since Rafiq’s allegations, Yorkshire CCC apologized and said that Rafiq was the “victim of inappropriate behaviour” while playing for the club, although no one was disciplined following an investigation into the allegations by an independent panel.

In a statement on Friday reported by the BBC’s Dan Roan, Hutton said: “The club should have recognised at the time the serious allegations of racism. I am sorry that we could not persuade Executive members of the Board to recognise the gravity of the situation and show care and contrition.

“I remain disappointed that legal restrictions, including an ongoing employment tribunal, have prevented the investigation report from being published and look forward to the time that everyone can see its recommendations. I hope for it to be published as soon as possible.”

Hutton added that the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) “declined to help” when he approached the governing body after learning of Rafiq’s allegations.

He also said that there has been a “constant unwillingness from the Executive members of the Board and senior management at the Club to apologise and to accept racism and to look forward” and that he has “experienced a culture that refuses to accept change or challenge.”

Azeem Rafiq bowls against Middlesex while playing for Yorkshire in 2016.

In a statement sent to CNN, an ECB spokesperson said: “Yorkshire CCC did reach out to us at the beginning of the investigation with a request that we partner with them on exploring Azeem’s allegations of racism and bullying against the club.

“Our role is to operate as a regulator across the entire game. We must act independently of any club investigations, should we ever be required to intervene as regulator – either during or after.

“The reason why our governance is structured in this manner is perfectly demonstrated in the way that these issues have played-out at Yorkshire County Cricket Club.”

Hutton has been summoned to the UK Parliament on November 16 to answer questions over the club’s handling of the racial harassment towards Rafiq – a responsibility he said he would still undertake.

Yorkshire also announced that Hanif Malik and Stephen Willis have stepped down as board members, while Neil Hartley will remain on the board to ensure a smooth leadership transition but plans to step down in the near future. Kamlesh Patel has been appointed as the club’s director and chair.

On Thursday, the ECB suspended Yorkshire from hosting international or major matches at Headingley.

“It is clear to the Board that YCCC’s handling of the issues raised by Azeem Rafiq is wholly unacceptable and is causing serious damage to the reputation of the game,” said a statement.

“The ECB find this matter abhorrent and against the spirit of cricket and its values.”

Earlier this week, former England player Gary Ballance admitted using a racial slur towards Rafiq while the pair were teammates at Yorkshire.

Ballance, who has been suspended from representing England by the ECB, said that he “deeply regret[s] some of the language I used in my younger years” and that he and Rafiq share an “incredibly close relationship.”

Meanwhile, former England captain Michael Vaughan has said he “completely and categorically den[ies]” making a racist comment that was a part of Rafiq’s complaint that led to Yorkshire’s investigation.

Vaughan has worked as a pundit since retiring as a player.

“The night before I was due to give evidence, out of the blue, I was hit with the news that Rafiq was alleging that in 2009, when I was still a player and before a Yorkshire match against Nottinghamshire, I had said to Rafiq and two other Asian players as we walked onto the field together that there are ‘too many of you lot, we need to do something about it,’” Vaughan recalled in a column for The Telegraph newspaper published on Thursday.

“This hit me very hard. It was like being struck over the head with a brick. I have been involved in cricket for 30 years and never once been accused of any remotely similar incident or disciplinary offence as a player or commentator. That the allegation came completely out of the blue and more than a decade after it was alleged to have happened made it all the more difficult to process.”

Vaughan said he was “adamant those words were not used.”

Former Yorkshire player Rana Naved-ul-Hasan told ESPNcricinfo on Friday that he heard Vaughan making the comments to a group of South Asian players.

A number of Yorkshire’s sponsors, including Yorkshire Tea and Emerald Publishing, have cut ties with the club amid its handling of Rafiq’s allegations, while Nike said it will no longer be the club’s kit supplier.

In a statement, Patel, the new chair and director of Yorkshire, said: “The Club needs to learn from its past errors, regain trust and rebuild relationships with our communities.

“There is much work to do, including reading the panel’s report, so we can begin the process of learning from our past mistakes.

“Yorkshire is lucky to have a vast talent pool of cricketers, and passionate supporters, from all of our communities and we must re-engage with everyone to make a better Yorkshire County Cricket Club for everyone.”

CNN’s Amy Woodyatt contributed to reporting.