Yorkshire were plunged into further crisis on Thursday night with the ECB blocking them from hosting a Test match and one-day international due to be staged at Headingley next summer.
The move came at the end of another hugely damaging day for the county which also saw kit supplier Nike and several other sponsors terminate commercial deals.
In a strongly-worded statement following an emergency board meeting, the ECB described Yorkshire’s handling of the Azeem Rafiq affair as ‘abhorrent’ and suspended their hosting rights until they have improved their governance.
English cricket’s governing body also banned Gary Ballance from playing for England after he admitted calling his former team-mate a ‘P**i’.
Yorkshire are expected to respond later on Friday after hastily arranging an emergency board meeting of their own, at which the futures of chairman Roger Hutton, chief executive Mark Arthur and director of cricket Martyn Moxon will be up for discussion amid widespread calls for resignations.
As reported by Sportsmail last month, the ECB are preparing to charge Yorkshire with bringing the game into disrepute.
But they took dramatic pre-emptive action on Thursday by suspending the club from hosting ‘international or major matches until it has clearly demonstrated that it can meet the standards expected of an international venue, ECB member and first-class county’.
Headingley is due to host a Test against New Zealand next summer starting on June 23, as well as a one-day international against South Africa on July 24, with both matches now blocked until the club can satisfy the ECB it has implemented significant reforms.
The ECB have now blocked Headingley from hosting international cricket next summer
Former England cricket star Gary Ballance has admitted calling his ex-Yorkshire team-mate and ‘best mate’ Azeem Rafiq a ‘P**i’
The second and third day of the Test are almost sold out.
Unless Yorkshire find a resolution to placate ECB chiefs, being stripped of the match would cost the club more than £1million in ticket and hospitality revenue — at a time when they have been severely hit by the loss of almost all their sponsors.
In addition, the club have been told they cannot bid to stage other international matches, or the final of the Hundred.
The ECB have also commissioned a review of Yorkshire’s governance to determine whether their existing arrangements are fit for purpose.
‘The YCCC’s handling of the issues raised by Azeem Rafiq is wholly unacceptable and is causing serious damage to the reputation of the game,’ an ECB statement read.
‘The ECB find this matter abhorrent and against the spirit of cricket and its values. There is no place for racism or any form of discrimination in cricket and where it is found, swift action must be taken.
Rafiq claimed he experienced racism during his stint at Yorkshire County Cricket Club
‘This matter must be dealt with robustly if the sport is to demonstrate its commitment to being a game for everyone.
‘The ECB will therefore hold YCCC to account. In the meantime, YCCC are suspended from hosting international or major matches until it has clearly demonstrated that it can meet the standards expected of an international venue, ECB member and first-class county.’
Ballance faces formal disciplinary proceedings after admitting using racist language towards Rafiq and has been banned from playing for England in the interim, a largely symbolic punishment as there was little prospect of the 31-year-old resurrecting his international career. His last Test appearance was in 2017.
‘While Mr Ballance has not been selected to play for England since 2017, he will be suspended indefinitely from selection,’ the ECB said. ‘This position will be reviewed following the ECB regulatory investigation into his conduct.’
The ECB’s move was welcomed by the chair of the parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee Julian Knight MP, who has called Hutton and the rest of Yorkshire’s leadership to give evidence on November 16 in what is expected to be a bruising hearing.
Sponsors have severed ties with Yorkshire over the club’s handling of Rafiq’s race row
‘The ECB’s action in taking international cricket away from Yorkshire should act as a short, sharp shock to bring the club to its senses,’ Knight said.
‘I imagine the members of Yorkshire will be questioning why the board is still in place.’
To compound a dismal day for Yorkshire, Nike became the eighth major sponsor to sever ties with the club, a painful blow given there were three-and-a-half years left to run on a four-year contract signed at the start of last season.
Harrogate Spring Water also walked away and Leeds Beckett University said they would pause projects with the club — who have since removed the commercial partners page on their website. The club said: ‘Nike will no longer be the kit supplier for Yorkshire CCC. We stand firmly against racism and discrimination of any kind.’