The England and Wales Cricket Board has recommended Yorkshire are hit with a
£500,000 fine and hefty points deductions across all formats over their handling of the Azeem Rafiq case.
The ECB made its sanctioning recommendations to an independent Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC) panel, with Yorkshire having admitted to four charges in February related to the mishandling of Rafiq’s case, the deletion of documents related to it and a failure to address the use of racist language at the club over a prolonged period.
During a hearing in London on Tuesday, cricket’s governing body suggested a hefty points deduction for the club.
The points deduction would come into effect in the 2023 season and includes a 48-72 point deduction in the County Championship, a 4-6 point deduction in the One Day Cup and a 4-6 point deduction in the T20 Blast.
The ECB has also recommended that Yorkshire is issued with a £500,000 fine, with £350,000 suspended for three years.
This suspension would be lifted if the club breaches the CDC and ECB’s code of conduct again.
The remaining £150,000 fine would be paid in instalments between January and June 2024.
During submissions, the ECB’s barrister, Jane Mulcahy KC said the proposal takes into account Yorkshire’s finances.
“It would be ‘wholly unproductive’ to put Yorkshire County Cricket Club out of business and rather strike a balance,” she said.
“This is a very serious matter, and we feel this is an appropriate and proportional proposal. We do accept that Yorkshire’s financial position is unfortunate, and we understand that.”
Yorkshire, represented by Daniel Stilitz KC during the proceedings, felt that its cooperation through the process means the recommended sanctions are too severe and that a suspended sanction would be most appropriate.
Stilitz said: “The events that have led to this place come after a deeply troubled period for the club. The club wishes to apologize to Azeem Rafiq and others again.
“The charges are historic but that doesn’t make them any less serious. It does, however, give the panel an opportunity to see how the club has proceeded and conducted themselves in these proceedings.
“Yorkshire has been realistic of the problems that have existed in the club. It was proper that it adopted the approach it took to the charges that were made. Some were admitted at the outset and others a bit later. Yorkshire has cooperated with the process.”
Stiltiz asked the three-person panel to consider how Yorkshire has cooperated with the proceedings and suffered financially from the process.
“The club has already suffered detriment; we accept that this is a matter that goes to proportionality,” he said. “The last two years have been some of the most difficult in this club’s history. Yorkshire is not the only club to have problems with racism, but it has been a lightning rod for racism in sports.
“It has been a painful and disruptive period for Yorkshire. The action taken led to substantial legal costs and liabilities. The unique circumstances of this case prioritised the need for speedy change. Yorkshire’s cricketing performance suffered due to the change. The new coach arrived just three weeks before the start of the season and it was relegated that season.
“Yorkshire was the author of its own misfortune but that does not negate the point that it has suffered already. The consequences should be taken into account. In this case, Yorkshire doesn’t need any deterring, it has learnt the lessons and some.”
Any financial sanctions could hit the club hard, with Yorkshire chief executive Stephen Vaughan – who was in attendance on Tuesday – highlighting to members at the annual general meeting in March that there was a £3.5m cash shortfall
this year and the need to repay £14.9m to the Graves Trust.
Stilitz outlined that the club is in a precarious financial position and could be forced into administration if it does not refinance this summer.
“There are short-term cash flow issues. In the medium term there is a difficulty because the club’s revenue does not meet its liabilities,” he added.
“There is the more long-term position that the club is indebted and needs to refinance this summer if it is to continue. Unless Yorkshire refinances its businesses this summer, it is highly likely that it will be forced into administration.
“This is an unfortunate and complex case. If ever there was a sinner that has repented, it is Yorkshire Cricket Club. Any sanction the panel imposes will not punish those who were responsible. They have all since left. Nor will it even punish those who failed to respond adequately, because they are long gone too.
“The club invites the panel to impose a sanction that is for the long term good off the game. And that includes a sanction that allows Yorkshire to continue to play a part in the game and recognises the changes that it has made.”
Following the CDC hearing on Tuesday, the board of Yorkshire County Cricket Club said: “We are grateful to have had the opportunity in today’s Cricket Discipline Commission hearing to make representations to the panel regarding a reasonable sanction which is proportionate and reflects the club’s position today.
“While we have been clear on the importance of taking accountability for the wrongs of the past, we are disappointed and concerned that the ECB’s sanctions recommendation has the potential to hinder the good work that has been enacted at Yorkshire over the past 18 months.
“In reaching its decision, we hope the panel takes into account our acceptance of the charges, the robust work we have undertaken to build the foundations for a club which is truly inclusive and welcoming to all, and YCCC’s current financial position. We look forward to receiving the CDC’s final decision in due course.”
The panel will now consider its decision for sanctions, suggesting that it could take up to a month to come to a written decision.
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