Durham CFO on panel calling racial slurs “banter”


Durham University’s Chief Financial Officer sat on the five-person panel of Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC) that reportedly dismissed the repeated use of a racial slur as “banter between friends”.

Stephen Willis has since resigned his position as a non-executive director at YCCC but claims this was over frustration at the slow pace of action on racism by the club executive.

Willis, who sits on the University’s Senior Leadership Team, was the sole representative of the Club’s Board on the otherwise independent panel.

The University insists Willis is a “highly regarded colleague of the utmost integrity” and “passionate about equality, diversity and inclusion”. They also stressed he joined the panel on a personal and voluntary basis and was co-opted “to provide organisational context” on YCCC.

Last week, ESPN reported that at least one Yorkshire player referred to player Azeem Rafiq as a “P**I”, telling other people “don’t talk to him [Rafiq], he’s a P**i”, asking “is that your uncle?” when they saw bearded Asian men and saying “does your dad own those?” in reference to corner shops, reducing Rafiq to tears. Cricketer Gary Ballance has since admitted to using the slur.

The panel upheld seven of Rafiq’s 43 allegations against the club, citing insufficient evidence of the remaining claims. It also said Ballance should not face disciplinary action, nor any other staff or player at the club, and did not accept that Rafiq was offended by the comments at any point.

The panel also decided that Rafiq himself should have been disciplined when referring to a player from Zimbabwe as ‘Zimbo’ – despite this being a non-offensive term more similar to ‘Aussie’ or ‘Kiwi’.

However, YCCC has refused to publish the full report, citing legal reasons. But another member of the panel, Mesba Ahmed, told The Telegraph that the panel members had done “as good a job as we possibly could have done” before reaching a conclusion.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid tweeted last Tuesday: “‘P**i’ is not banter. Heads should roll at Yorkshire CCC”. Several sponsors have withdrawn from the club over the past week, and Yorkshire has been banned from hosting international Test matches on its home ground.

A Durham University spokesperson told Palatinate: “Stephen Willis’ membership of the Yorkshire County Cricket Club Board as an unpaid Non-Executive Director was undertaken in a personal and voluntary capacity.

“He resigned from his post because he was not convinced that all those charged with the responsibility of delivering important recommendations to improve equality, diversity and inclusion at the club shared his sense of urgency to take action.

“Durham University has no to make on the matter. We believe everybody has the right to work and live in a safe, respectful and inclusive environment.

“Stephen Willis is passionate about equality, diversity and inclusion in and outside the workplace and it is integral to his values. He is a highly regarded colleague of the utmost integrity.”

Image: gin soak via Flickr

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