Azeem Rafiq: Ex-Yorkshire player makes first statement in racism inquiry

2 weeks ago
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Azeem Rafiq pulls through mid-wicket

Warning: This report contains offensive language.

Azeem Rafiq said he hoped to bring about “meaningful change” after giving his first statement to the inquiry into alleged “institutional racism” at Yorkshire.

In September, former spinner Rafiq, 29, said he felt he was made to feel like an “outsider” as a Muslim at the club.

Yorkshire launched a “formal investigation” into the claims, which were detailed at an inquiry on Friday.

Rafiq said the experiences at his former club left him close to taking his own life.

In a statement, Yorkshire told BBC Sport: “Racism has no place in our society or in cricket and we are hopeful that the outcome of this investigation and the recommendations of the panel will drive positive progress which can be shared by all.”

Rafiq issued a press release to coincide with the inquiry, detailing the key points of his statement.

In it he said: “I have spoken out about the racism I faced because I don’t want kids to go through what I did.

“I want to see kids starting off their journey in cricket in a culture of acceptance and respect, where they are judged on their talent and not on their culture and identity. I hope that the investigation will result in meaningful change at the club and in the sport.

“I am grateful for the outpouring of support and words of encouragement I have received, in particular from parents who have shared their concerns about how their kids have been treated and who want to see change.”

Rafiq made a number of allegations about the club, including:

  • Different treatment of himself and his Asian team-mates compared to other team-mates. He said this was especially the case in disciplinary matters, coaching and development support, and in pastoral care offered by Yorkshire after Rafiq’s son was still-born.
  • Development pathways and support for young Asian players coming through the club. Rafiq said there was an email that reflected “broader conversations and culture at the club” which contained the p-word. He said this email contained the sentence “only a few **** are OK to go through. We cannot have too many of them”.
  • Racist comments from team-mates as “banter”. Rafiq said team-mates used racist language about his Pakistani heritage and also referred to people with beards by asking, “is that your uncle?”, comments which left him feeling “worthless and totally isolated”.
  • The drinking culture at the club and insensitivity towards Muslim players. As a Muslim, Rafiq said he was “ridiculed” for not drinking alcohol, which is forbidden in Islam, and there was peer pressure to participate. He also said there was a lack of Halal food for Muslim players.
  • Racist comments from Yorkshire supporters and abuse of Asian supporters. He said incidents included beer being thrown on Asian fans, and that incidents were not investigated or properly addressed by the club.

Yorkshire added: “We have taken the claims made by our former player, Azeem Rafiq, very seriously and a full investigation conducted by Squire Patton Boggs, an independent law firm, began in September.

“Mr Rafiq’s written statement was made available last week and he will give further verbal evidence today. These statements will then be made available to the club to provide a response to as part of the next phase of the process.

“We realise that that this is a difficult time for all parties involved but it is important that these matters are investigated thoroughly and swiftly.

“In addition, and recognising that this process is as much about the future as it is the past, we have convened an independent panel to support the investigation and to publish recommendations on steps the club may need to take as a result of the investigation’s findings.”

Since the announcement of the investigation, the chairman of the Yorkshire South Premier League Roger Pugh has resigned from his postexternal-link after calling Rafiq “discourteous and disrespectful” in a blog post.

Two members of the investigative sub-committee were also replaced because of a conflict of interest, with head of diversity at Yorkshire, Hanif Malik, being removed and Gulfraz Riaz of the National Asian Cricket Council resigning.

Rafiq told BBC Sport in September about “dreading every second” of playing for Yorkshire in what should have been “the best time of my life”.

Rafiq played 169 games for Yorkshire across all formats, taking 217 wickets and scoring over 1,000 runs, including a first class century, before being released by the county in 2018.

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