The Yorkshire interim coach Ryan Sidebottom has apologised for using “a poor choice of words” when discussing the racism scandal at the county in a television interview.
Sidebottom, the former Yorkshire and England bowler, joined the coaching staff last week on an interim basis to work under the new director of cricket Darren Gough. Azeem Rafiq’s racism allegations led to the resignations of chairman Roger Hutton and chief executive Mark Arthur, while 16 members of staff, including director of cricket Martyn Moxon and first-team coach Andrew Gale, were sacked.
Sidebottom said on Sky Sports: “It’s been tough viewing, tough listening, seeing social media. It’s been very difficult for lots of reasons for a lot of people. Let’s try and forget about it. There’s no room for racism in any walk of life and hopefully now we can move forward, sort things out, do the right thing and get Yorkshire back firing on all cylinders. But it’s been a tough couple of months hasn’t it for Yorkshire and everyone at the club.”
Rafiq, who alleged he had been the victim of racism and harassment during two spells at Headingley as a player, posted a furious response to Sidebottom’s comments on social media. He attached a video of Sidebottom’s interview on Twitter and said: “Let’s definitely not just ‘Forget it’. Learn from it and make things better. Wish it was that easy just to forget it and pretend nothing happened.”
Sidebottom later posted an apology on Twitter, saying: “I’m truly sorry for any offence caused earlier by my words on skysportsnews SkyCricket. We should never forget, we must learn. I never meant to say forget. My choice of words were wrong, and an honest mistake. Here’s what I meant.
“I disagree wholeheartedly with discrimination and fully support all investigations and actions surrounding any racial abuse at Yorkshire CCC. In my interview with Sky Sports News I used the word ‘forget’. This is not what I meant. I didn’t mean that the situation should be forgotten about, on the contrary, it must never be forgotten. It was a poor choice of words.
“It is crucial that the club, and sport as a whole, learns and adapts to create a truly inclusive environment for all, at all levels. I apologise for any offence caused. I am now focused on supporting the playing group at Yorkshire CCC on the pitch.”
Sidebottom, who began and ended his playing career at Headingley, winning three County Championship titles, was appointed as interim coach at Yorkshire alongside his former England teammate Steve Harmison. The England and Wales Cricket Board’s investigation into Rafiq’s allegations Yorkshire’s handling of the case is still continuing.