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A Rose by any other name


Friday, December 3, 2021

Last month the rumbling disquiet over Yorkshire Cricket Club’s management of player and staff accusations of discrimination and abuse came to a dramatic head.  The negative publicity around Yorkshire Cricket Club sparked again when a series of announcements were made last month withdrawing sponsorship and advertising from the organisation and siting the inability to tackle the ongoing case by taking matters into their own hands and voting with their removal of marketing investments.

The matter then piqued when the man at the centre of the story, former Yorkshire County Cricket captain Azeem Rafiq appeared in person on a live feed broadcast whilst attending a meeting with the Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) committee.  His statements were damning, disturbing and delivered in a manner that presented a man determined to follow through on his previously dismissed whistleblowing case.

Azeem’s recalling of being forced to drink alcohol whilst pinned down, continual derogatory references to character, prominent members of the Yorkshire set up frequently using names such as Kevin and Steve as shorthand to undermine and disrespect players from diverse ethnic backgrounds to a complete disregard for a personal tragedy with the loss of his own baby son who was stillborn.

The accumulation of events drove the player to thoughts of taking his own life, with an internal investigation conducted by his club that took an age to deliver an inconclusive outcome.  The lawyers leading the investigation on behalf of Yorkshire Cricket Club were reported by Mr Rafiq as stating he simply didn’t have a case leaving him initially distraught.

To Azeem’s credit he did not go quietly, and it would appear his actions were entirely justifiable with 36 calls to a whistleblowing hotline, set up by the cricket club’s new Chairman Lord Patel.  Azeem was very far from being alone in receiving this appalling treatment.  He has also received a great deal of support from the wider sporting community for highlighting a problem that has proven to go beyond this particular county club.

With Lord Patel now taking the lead in addressing what appears to be an institutionally racist culture, the club is finally taking steps to recover its reputation however the case will, no doubt, live long in the memory, especially for those affected and it will take considerable effort to repair the relationships damaged by the affair.

What Lessons Can We Learn?

Rather than adopt a schadenfreude approach by sneering at the mistakes made by the club we should be mindful that we can all take some degree of learning from this awful experience for Azeem Rafiq and others.

  • First and foremost, ensure that there is a clear, well documented, accessible and widely communicated policy on your organisations position with Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. It might seem overly simplistic but noting the example above it should leave no doubt in anyone’s mind what will and essentially will not be tolerated.  You cannot expect all staff be friends with each other, but everyone deserves equal respect and as an employer you owe a duty of care to ensure their experience at work does not have a detrimental effect on their lives.  Essentially it is also against the law to be found guilty of race discrimination (Equality Act 2010).
  • The aim for your organisation is to have zero tolerance of racism and race discrimination within your workforce, suppliers you use and your customers.
  • Build training into induction, onboarding processes and repeat/ update for all staff on a regular basis to help remind them of the need to recognise signs of discrimination and need to report if suspicions are made. Include all areas of the business from recruitment through to personal development, promotion ensuring true equal opportunity.
  • When an issue arises respond swiftly and proportionately. That is to not make assumptions and be swayed by the status, rank, position of the person either making the complaint or the subject i.e. the source or cause of their discomfort.
  • Internal investigations should be impartial and transparent with an aim, dependent on the specifics of the case, to resolve by meeting the expectations of the complainant if indeed justified in raising the matter.
  • Make E D & I Equality, Diversity and Inclusion an ongoing conversation within your company and encourage all staff to participate in training courses. Regardless of the size of your business you should ensure that you encourage equality, diversity and inclusion and retain a positive approach reaping the benefits of engaging a diverse, multi-cultural workforce.

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