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Azeem Rafiq Says Racism is Widespread in English Domestic Cricket

Azeem Rafiq captained Yorkshire in 2012 and was England U-19 captain too.

Updated
Cricket
3 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Yorkshire admit former player Azeem Rafiq was a victim of racial harassment and bullying.</p></div>
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Former cricketer Azeem Rafiq told a British parliamentary hearing on Tuesday that he was humiliated by the racist abuse and bullying he suffered at England’s most successful cricket club, Yorkshire.

Rafiq, who broke down while giving evidence in Parliament, said his teammates used an offensive term referring his Pakistani heritage, and that the leadership at the 33-time winners of the English county championship failed to act on the racism.

Rafiq, 30, told House of Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee that racism had been commonplace at Yorkshire. He also added that the club treated him inhumanly after his son’s demise in 2017 and that racism was widespread in domestic cricket.

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Rafiq said that the day after his son died, Yorkshire director of cricket Martyn Moxon "ripped shreds" off him in a manner he had never seen Moxon address anyone else at the club.

“Pretty early on, me and other people from an Asian background,” Rafiq said. “There were comments such as, ‘You lot sit there near the toilets,’ ‘Elephant washers.’ The word P*** was used constantly. And there just seemed to be an acceptance in the institution from the leaders and no one stamped it out.”

A former England U-19 captain himself, Rafiq recounted that he felt humiliated by the treatment meted out to him in his two spells at Yorkshire from 2008 to 2018. He pointed out that he was being looked at as a possible captain before reporting his concerns in 2017.

Then Rafiq said board minutes said he was “a problem, a troublemaker and an issue that needs to be resolved.”

This was followed by a 2017 preseason tour where Rafiq said he suffered abuse from a teammate in front of others.

“Gary Ballance walks over and goes, ‘Why are you talking to him? You know he’s a P***’ Or, ‘He’s not a sheikh, he’s got no oil,’” Rafiq recalled.

A fortnight ago, former England cricketer Ballance admitted to having used a racial slur against Rafiq at Yorkshire. Ballance had said, “this was a situation where best friends said offensive things to each other which, outside of that context, would be considered wholly inappropriate.”

A formal investigation was commissioned by Yorkshire in September 2020 into 43 allegations made by Rafiq, with seven of them upheld in a report released in September under pressure from the lawmakers staging the hearing on Tuesday.

The club meanwhile has been suspended by England Cricket Board from hosting international games at Headingly by over its “wholly unacceptable” response to the racism faced by Rafiq.

The Pakistan-born Rafiq, who is Muslim, also detailed a disturbing experience of alcohol at the age of 15 after being asked about his drinking.

“I got pinned down at my local cricket club and had red wine poured down my throat, literally down my throat,” the 30-year-old Rafiq said. “The player played for Yorkshire and Hampshire. I (then) didn’t touch alcohol until about 2012 and around that time I felt I had to do that to fit in.

“I wasn’t perfect. There are things I did which I felt I had to do to achieve my dreams. I deeply regret that but it has nothing to do with racism. When I spoke I should have been listened to. The game as a whole has a problem, with listening to the victim. There is no ‘yeah, but’ with racism; there is no ‘two sides’ to racism.”

On Monday, current England spinner Adil Rashid joined ex-Pakistan Test player Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, seconding allegations against former England Test captain Michael Vaughan. The former captain allegedly said in front of a group of Yorkshire players of Asian ethnicity in 2009: "Too many of you lot, we need to do something about it."

Vaughan has "categorically" denied making the comment.

"To be confronted with this allegation 11 years after it was supposed to have happened is the worst thing I have ever experienced," he said in a statement.

The new Yorkshire chairman Kamlesh Patel welcomed Rashid's "courage in speaking up" and said he would be listening to the DCMS committee hearing with great interest.

(With inputs from AP and BBC)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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