Azeem Rafiq
Six ex-Yorkshire players were found to have used racist language, stemming from claims made by Azeem Rafiq (above)

The England and Wales Cricket board has criticised former Yorkshire chairman Colin Graves for suggesting incidents of racism at the county were “banter”.

In February Yorkshire accepted four amended charges related to allegations of racism and bullying made by former player Azeem Rafiq.

Graves said no racism allegations were raised to him when he was chairman between 2012 and 2015.

The ECB said it was “disappointed” with his comments.

“We must never again hear the accounts like Azeem Rafiq’s, where racist slurs are used as part of normalised language,” an ECB statement read.

“These events, along with many issues experienced by Azeem and others during their time at Yorkshire, have been upheld more than once, including during proceedings overseen by the Cricket Discipline Committee (CDC).

“We vehemently disagree that this is ‘just banter’ and believe any debate in regard should stop immediately.”

Former spinner Rafiq first made claims of historical racism at Headingley in August 2020, later calling English cricket “institutionally racist”.

Six ex-Yorkshire players found to have used racist language were sanctioned with fines and bans by the CDC last month.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan was cleared “on the balance of probabilities” by the panel of using racist language towards Rafiq.

The sanctions resulting from Yorkshire’s four charges will be discussed at a hearing on 27 June.

Potential sanctions include an unlimited fine, points deductions and suspension from ECB competitions.

In an interview with Sky Sports Newsexternal-link, Graves, who was ECB chairman from 2015 to 2020, said of the racism claims at Yorkshire: “There have been odd occasions where words have been said that people may regret afterwards.

“I don’t think it was done on a racist, savage basis. I know people don’t like the word banter, but I think there could have been a lot of banter in there about it.

“When you play cricket and you’re part of cricket teams and you’re in cricket dressing rooms, that’s what happened in the past.

“But the world has changed; society has changed. It’s not acceptable. I understand that, I accept it, full stop.”

On any specific allegations, Graves said: “When I was chairman of the club, when some of these allegations were made, I can tell you now, nothing was brought up within the club.”

Graves hoped to return as Yorkshire chairman but withdrew from the running last week.

Lord Patel stepped down from the role in March, with Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson currently interim chair.

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