Ruling

09791-21 Yorkshire County Cricket Club v Daily Mail

    • Date complaint received

      17th March 2022

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 09791-21 Yorkshire County Cricket Club  v Daily Mail

Summary of Complaint

1. Yorkshire County Cricket Club complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Daily Mail breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Yorkshire: A CRISIS COUNTY DIVIDED / EX-EMPLOYEE SAYS RACISM IS RIFE AT YORKSHIRE”, published on 10 September 2021 and an article headlined “EXCLUSIVE: Yorkshire County Cricket Club accused of using racist terminology by ex-employee - with Asian players referred to as 'taxi drivers' and 'takeaway workers'" published on 9 September 2021.

2. The first article reported on “racial tensions at grassroots level” and contained allegations of racism made by an individual who formerly “worked for the charitable arm of the [Yorkshire County] cricket club, the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation”. The article contained quotes from the former employee, who said of allegations of racist abuse made by a  player at the Yorkshire County Cricket Club, that racial slurs such as "'Black', 'P**i' [...] 'Taliban' and a 'terrorist": “[t]hose sort of allegations happen all the time, even at grassroots”. The article reported that “After his experience working at the foundation, the former employee had revealed that Asian players “were all referred to as ‘Steve; because it was easier to pronounce’” and included a quote from him in which he said “within the organisation I found it very stereotypical and, in some extreme cases, racist as well”. It included a further quote from him in which he said that when developing cricket in the Asian community, he had been asked “specifically […] to organise programmes for ‘taxi drivers’ and ‘takeaway workers’” and that “They didn’t think there was anything wrong with calling (Asian players) ‘Steve’, ‘taxi drivers’ or ‘takeaway workers’”.  He said further that whilst he did not receive the “name-calling” he “definitely suffered institutional racism there”.

3. The first article was also published online on 9 September under the headline “Yorkshire is a crisis county that is DIVIDED... Azeem Rafiq's explosive allegations of racism tarnished the cricket club's name but they're also having a poisonous effect at grassroots level” in substantially the same format.

4. The second article appeared solely online and also reported on the experiences of the same individual describing him as having “worked for the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation”. It repeated the allegations made by him which had been published in the first article and that “within the organisation, I found it very stereotypical and, in some extreme cases, racist as well”. It also reported that “A former employee of Yorkshire has accused the county cricket club of using racist terminology about Asian cricketers in the local community” and that “A former employee has accused Yorkshire County Cricket Club of discrimination”. A caption to a photograph reported that “Yorkshire County Cricket Club has been accused of racism within their charity foundation”.

5. The complainant, the cricket club including the foundation, said that the articles were inaccurate in breach of Clause 1. It said that the allegations of institutional racism in the foundation were inaccurate, unfounded and untrue. It also said it was false to claim that the foundation, the part of the club for which the former employee worked, did not think there was anything wrong with calling (Asian players) "Steve", "taxi drivers" or "takeaway workers”. The complainant also said it was inaccurate to report that the former employee had accused the “cricket club” of using racist terminology, when the individual had worked for the foundation and not the club, which the complainant said were separate entities.

6. The complainant also said that it was misleading to state that the former employee had been specifically asked to organise cricket programmes for "taxi drivers" and "takeaway workers" when trying to develop cricket within the Asian community. It said that part of the foundation’s remit was to help increase the health and wellbeing of groups that face barriers to being able to take part in physical activity, including people who may have to work unsociable hours such as taxi drivers and catering workers. The complainant referred to research it had commissioned by Leeds Beckett University: “South Asian Community and Cricket (Bradford and Leeds)”. This research concluded “that some groups, for example taxi drivers and catering workers, will remain elusive and difficult to engage more formally/systematically, purely because of the nature of their occupation and hours of work” and that mechanisms to facilitate participation was “important elements in cricket development for South Asian Communities”. The complainant said it was part of the former employee’s role to create programmes to aid hard to reach groups, including taxi drivers and catering workers, among other hard to reach people. The complainant also questioned the former employee’s motivation when making the published comments.

7. Finally, the complainant said it was a breach of the Code for the publication not to contact them for comment in advance of the publication of the articles.

8. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It said that the allegations made by the former employee were published to open a broader discussion about racial tensions at grassroots level in cricket. It said the basic premise for the allegations was clearly not inaccurate or misleading as the complainant had publicly accepted that the former player at the club referred to in the articles had been the victim of racial harassment; that a former coach had regularly used racist language and made jokes based on religion; and that the club had failed to follow its own policy or to investigate allegations of racism. It also noted that during the course of IPSO’s investigation, four other players of Asian heritage had made claims of racism against the club.

9. The publication said that the articles made clear that the former employee’s comments related to the alleged behaviour at the club and not the foundation, the charitable arm of the club he had worked for. The publication said that the complainant was not in a position to dispute whether the events alleged by the former employee had taken place, and they were presented as his account of his experiences which he was entitled to talk about. The publication also noted that it had been previously reported that the former employee had said that all Asian players were referred to as “Steve” when he gave evidence during the investigation into the former player’s complaints of racism. It provided a copy of an article first published in 2020, and said that the article continued to be published online, and that there was no evidence to suggest that the club had provided a comment on the matter despite having been contacted.

10. The publication also said that as the complainant accepted that the former employee had been tasked with organising programmes for hard to reach groups which included taxi drivers and takeaway workers, it was not inaccurate to report that he had been “specifically” asked to organise programmes for taxi drivers and takeaway workers. The publication said the complainant may have an alternative view, but the former employee had considered the references to taxi drivers and takeaway workers to be an offensive caricature of the Asian community. The publication said that this was an opinion he was entitled to hold, and it was entitled to publish.

11. The publication said it had distinguished between comment, conjecture and fact in both the articles due to the language it used – employing quotes and first person pronouns, which clearly attributed the claims to the former employee.

12. The publication said that, in light of the above, and given that the club had publicly accepted that a former player has been the victim of racial harassment, it did not consider that it was obliged to seek further comment from the complainant prior to the publication of the articles under complaint. Whilst it did not accept that the Code had been breached, it offered to add a statement from the club to the articles as a gesture of goodwill.

Relevant Code Provisions

Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.

iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Findings of the Committee

13. The complainant had expressed concern that the articles did not make sufficiently clear whether the allegations made by the former employee related to the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation or the Yorkshire Country Cricket Club itself. The complainant also said that, as a former employee of the foundation, the individual was not in a position to make allegations against the club. The Committee did not agree with this position: the articles repeatedly made clear that the former employee worked at the foundation, and that he was recounting his experiences whilst working there. Both articles reported that: “[the former employee] worked at the charitable arm of the cricket club, the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation”; the first article stated “after his experience working at the foundation, [the former employee] revealed […] Asian players were all referred to as ‘Steve’ because it was easier to pronounce. ’Within the organisation I found it very stereotypical and, in some extreme cases, racist as well’ [the former employee] says”; “[the former employee], who worked for the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation — the charitable arm of the club — from 2014 to 2017, told [the publication]: ‘Within the organisation I found it very stereotypical and, in some extreme cases, racist as well”; and the second article reported that “Yorkshire County Cricket Club has been accused of racism within their charity foundation”. In addition, the Committee noted that the two bodies were closely connected: the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation was part of the club; it was its official charitable and community arm. The Committee acknowledged that the second article stated that “A former employee has accused Yorkshire County Cricket Club of discrimination”; however, it considered that both articles, when read in their entirety, made it sufficiently clear that the individual had formerly been employed by the foundation. In addition, where the foundation was the charitable arm of the club and where the article made clear that the former employee had worked at the foundation, it was not significantly inaccurate or misleading to report the former employee’s comments about behaviour which he said he had observed at the foundation, the club level or at local grassroots as he was entitled to comment on all three. There was no breach of the Code on this point.

14. With regards to the former employee’s allegations that he had heard slurs such as "'Black', 'P**i' [...] 'Taliban' and a 'terrorist" used, these claims were specifically reported as his account; they were contained within quotation marks and were clearly attributed to him, rather than published as a statement of fact. The comments were clearly identified as being what the former employee had said were his own experiences and his general observations of behaviour at “grassroots level”. In such circumstances, and where the complainant was not in a position to dispute his personal account, it was not a failure to take care not to seek the complainant’s response to the allegations before publication, nor was it misleading not to include the complainant’s position in the article. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point

15. The complainant had said that the article was inaccurate to report the former employee’s comment that he had “definitely suffered institutional racism”. The comment was clearly identified as a quote which had been given by the former employee, and the article also included further quotes which set out the basis for this view. Again, the allegation of institutional racism was presented as the former employee’s alleged personal experiences of working at the foundation and the behaviour he said that he had witnessed, and was directly attributed to him. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.

16. It was accepted by the complainant that the former employee had been asked to organise events in order to reach out to taxi drivers and catering workers as part of his role to engage with hard-to-reach groups.  It was not inaccurate for the articles to report this, and omitting a reference to the commissioned research or the rationale behind the strategy did not make the articles misleading. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.

17. The allegations made by the former employee that Asian players had been called “Steve” had been published in a previous article which the complainant had declined to comment on and which remained in the public domain. Furthermore, this allegation had previously been made in evidence given by the former employee to an independent investigation into allegations of racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club. It had clearly been presented in the article as reflecting his experience whilst working at the foundation, and given that the allegation had been in the public domain for some time without being denied by the complainant, the Committee did not agree that it was inaccurate or misleading to republish it. In these circumstances, the publication had not failed to take care by not seeking comments from the complainant before publication. There was no breach of the Code on this point.

18. The complainant had also said it was inaccurate to include a quote from the former employee in which he said that “They didn’t think there was anything wrong with calling (Asian players) ‘Steve’, ‘taxi drivers’ or ‘takeaway workers’”. Again, this was clearly distinguished as a comment which had been made by the former employee, rather than a statement of fact, and the basis for his view had been set out in the article.  Whilst the complainant disagreed with the view expressed by the former employee, where the articles had distinguished between comment and fact and had set out, there was no breach of Clause 1.

Conclusion(s)

19. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

20. N/A



Date complaint received: 10/09/2021

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 24/02/2022