English cricket is racist ‘institutionally’ – Rafiq

Azeem Rafiq played for Yorkshire between 2008 and 2018 and was county captain in 2012

English cricket is racist “institutionally”, says former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq.

Rafiq, 30, told a select committee from Digital, Culture, Media and Sport that racist language was used “constantly” during his time in Yorkshire.

In emotional testimony, he said he was treated “inhumanely” by the club after his stillborn son in 2017.

He added that the problems he faced in Yorkshire are “without a shadow of a doubt” widespread in national cricket.

Rafiq said he had lost his career to racism, which is a “horrible feeling”, but that “hopefully” speaking there will bring about “massive change within five years”.

In a wide-ranging testimony, Rafiq also said:

  • All he ever wanted to do was realize his “dream” of playing for England.
  • Racist language, including terms directed at his Pakistani heritage and that of others, was used “constantly” and “never removed” during his stay in Yorkshire.
  • The use of those terms is racist and not “joking”, as the report had concluded.
  • It left him feeling “isolated” and “humiliated”, with racist comments made by others in front of his teammates and the coaching staff, but not challenged.
  • The use of that language was so common that it “became the norm” and the people of the club “did not think it was wrong”.
  • He “did not realize” and was “in denial” about the scale of the problem for most of his first stint in Yorkshire, until 2014.
  • He thought “things had changed” when he returned for his second spell in 2016.
  • But the atmosphere turned “toxic” after Gary Ballance took over as captain that same year, shortly after former hitter Andrew Gale replaced Jason Gillespie as head coach.
  • At age 15, a senior player pinned him down at his local cricket club and had red wine poured into his mouth.
  • He said he didn’t drink again until “around 2012” when he felt he had to “fit in” in Yorkshire.
  • He said he was “not perfect” and “was not proud” of some of the things he did and said while drinking, but that they were “unrelated” to the racism he was subjected to.
  • The reporting on their allegations was “shoddy at best” and the panel did not speak to key witnesses.

Rafiq was giving testimony to MPs after a report found he was the victim of “racial harassment and intimidation,” but the club said they would not discipline anyone.

Former Yorkshire President Roger Hutton is speaking to MPs now, and representatives from the Cricket Board of England and Wales (ECB) will speak later.

When asked by MP Damian Green if he thought cricket was institutionally racist, Rafiq replied, “Yes, I do.”

Responding to a question from Deputy Julian Knight, chairman of the DCMS select committee, whether the problems he faced were “replicated” in other counties, Rafiq said: “It is a nationwide problem.”

Rafiq said that the day after his son’s death, Yorkshire cricket director Martyn Moxon “tore him apart” in a way he had never seen Moxon address anyone else at the club.

He also said he was part of a group of “six or seven” players who filed a complaint about former England player Tim Bresnan in 2017, after which he said the club viewed him as a “troublemaker.”

He added that he was the only player of color in that group and was “the only one to have an impact.”

Moxon is currently absent from work due to a “stress-related illness” and Yorkshire said he will “receive the necessary support.”

BBC Sport is reaching out to Bresnan for comment.

Rafiq spoke for the first time last year, claiming that “institutional racism” in Yorkshire left him on the brink of taking his own life.

Seven of the 43 allegations were confirmed by an independent panel last month and the report found that he had been the victim of “racial harassment and intimidation” at the club.

However, Yorkshire said they will not take disciplinary action against any player, employee or executive.

Hutton and former CEO Mark Arthur subsequently resigned, and Hutton’s replacement as chairman, Lord Patel, apologized “wholeheartedly” to Rafiq.

More to follow.


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