AZEEM RAFIQ: Bumble losing his job at Sky is not 'change'

AZEEM RAFIQ: Bumble losing his job at Sky is not ‘change’, it seems to me that only those who have apologised for offensive remarks are being held accountable… while Yorkshire SHOULD be allowed to host international cricket again

  • It has been a whirlwind since I appeared in front of MPs two months ago 
  • Yorkshire have sought to make real change and they are making big strides 
  • As a result, Headingley should be allowed to host international cricket again
  • It seems to me that those apologising for offensive remarks are the ones being punished, and Bumble’s departure from Sky is not ‘change’ 

It has been a whirlwind since I appeared in front of MPs almost two months ago, and what Yorkshire and Lord Patel have done to bring change is definitely a step in the right direction.

That is why I believe the time is right to say they should be given back the international cricket so vital to their very survival. The people of Yorkshire should be able to watch England in Test and white-ball games at Headingley this summer.

The county had been very reluctant to implement any sort of change during my time at the club, and since then when I highlighted everything that had happened to me there. And that is why we were here in the first place.

It has been a whirlwind since I appeared in front of MPs at a select committee two months ago

But if we are asking an institution to look at itself then we should recognise when it begins to show it is genuinely sorry and attempts to start putting things right. Yorkshire need to be supported and helped to move in that right direction.

They do seem willing to do the right thing now. Hopefully their actions under new chair Lord Patel have shown that. They have given me a little bit of hope ahead of the report from that day in parliament in front of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, due to be released shortly.

Much has happened since then and I must thank Julian Knight, chair of the DCMS select committee, for giving me that platform to tell everyone what had gone on. I never expected things to go as far as that.

I should also acknowledge the work of Leeds MP Alex Sobel, Nav Mishra who raised the issue in the House of Commons, and Baroness Morgan, the former Culture Secretary.

I knew things would be thrown at me afterwards and I have always said I am not perfect and I have made mistakes of my own. I bitterly regret making the anti-Semitic comments that emerged from when I was younger, for instance, and I am trying to learn from those mistakes. The Jewish community have been so kind to me.

But I’m not interested in mud-slinging. This is not just about me or any individual caught up in it. There is a much bigger picture. Lord Patel was honest with me when I first met him after the inquiry. He told me it might take months to sort things out and I feel he has always tried to do the right thing.

Lord Patel, the new chairman at Yorkshire, is making a huge effort to help turn things around

The right thing includes appointing Darren Gough as director of cricket. It’s no secret we are friends since he was one of my first captains and we have always stayed in touch. I’m encouraged by his involvement, not least because the game needs people like him back directly involved. Goughie will get things done.

It just seems outside the county everyone wants to throw the book at Yorkshire and my concern is some want to do that in order to make themselves look better or deflect attention away from their issues. I don’t agree with that because it will not drive change.

My message to any county who believe they can ignore this as Yorkshire’s problem and push for greater sanctions towards them is to look at the figures. There have been more than 4,000 complaints to the ECB since they set up their commission to look into racism in English cricket, and 50 to Yorkshire’s own hotline.

As a result I think it is time that Headingley is reinstated as a venue for international cricket

Depriving Yorkshire of England games will harm the prospects of helping the next generation

That means there are thousands of cases outside Yorkshire and what is happening to them today could easily happen to another county tomorrow.

The last thing I want now are kids in Leeds, Bradford and throughout the county being denied the high-level cricket that could inspire them. Rather than help solve the problems in the game, Yorkshire’s international suspension could end up adding to them.

I am not saying everything is now hunky-dory at my old county and we can all move on. Yorkshire must be kept under review to make sure this really is the start of something important and meaningful. Everything is not fine yet, not by a long way.

But let’s do this properly. I have never wanted this to be a case of punishing individuals for their mistakes while avoiding the bigger picture. I have never wanted to make scapegoats of people while the real guilty parties remain unpunished.

Darren Gough’s appointment as director of cricket is the right one and he is a good person

For instance, Matthew Hoggard rang me the morning after my first media interview about what happened to me when nobody expected this whole thing to go anywhere. So many just thought it would all just go away.

We talked about what had happened in the Yorkshire dressing room and Hoggy felt he should apologise for his involvement in it. I can’t thank him enough for that. That’s all I wanted: for people to recognise that what went on was unacceptable and everyone involved needed to look at what they could have done to put it right.

So I hope Hoggy for one has not been affected because it seems to me only people who are apologising are being held accountable. He was courageous while others have looked the other way.

It is the same with David Lloyd. The minute I stepped out of that DCMS inquiry — where Bumble’s name had come up in questioning — I found messages from him on my phone asking if he could get in touch. We spoke that day, I told Bumble how I felt, he accepted he had made a mistake and apologised and we moved on.

I think it was wrong for Bumble to lose his job at Sky and I don’t view it as a sign of ‘change’

It seems that people like Matthew Hoggard who have apologised for unacceptable behaviour are being held to account

So I really hope his departure from Sky had nothing to do with me because it was not my intention for him to lose his job or for Hoggy to lose work.

That is not change. It just looks like a case of someone throwing the book at them to make themselves look good. It’s not fair and it doesn’t sit well with me at all.

Change is coming and I’m hopeful and encouraged. We need to show a bit of love and compassion now. We need to all work together. That is the only way we will create an environment that is genuinely welcoming for everyone.

I don’t want Yorkshire to disappear from that environment. At first in all this I believed international cricket should be taken away from them. But they have done enough to warrant getting it back, for now at least.

I want to see England playing at Headingley this summer. I may even pop down to watch myself.

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