Fighting tears and accepting that his cricket career may be over amid racism accusations against Yorkshire County Cricket Club, cricketer Azeem Rafiq revealed some horrendous tales of racist abuse to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee on Tuesday.
Rafiq said, "Pretty early on at the club, I joined a dressing room full of my heroes, Michael Vaughan, Matthew Hoggard, part of the 2005 Ashes team. And it was just the most surreal moment for me.
"Pretty early on, me and other people from an Asian background... there were comments such as, 'you'll sit over 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 ever stamped it out."
The cricketer also said that he remained in denial and wanted to focus on playing. He said there ‘seemed to be an acceptance’ of racist abuse at Yorkshire.
In an interview in September 2020, Azeem Rafiq told ESPN Cricinfo that he encountered "institutional racism" while at the Yorkshire club left him close to taking his own life. A report found former Yorkshire player Rafiq was a victim of "racial harassment and bullying" but the club said they would not discipline anyone. Rafiq, who was born in Pakistan and moved to England aged 10, played the majority of his career at Yorkshire, between 2008 and 2018. He captained England teams at the youth level and also captained Yorkshire in 2012.
Rafiq’s experiences around alcohol
Speaking on Tuesday, he said, “My first incident of drinking, I was 15, I got pinned down at my local cricket club and had red wine poured down my throat. The player played for Yorkshire and Hampshire.
“I felt like I had to drink to fit in. I regret that massively, but it has no bearing on the things I was called.
“Around the loss of my son, the attitude of Andrew Gale, I was making it out to be more than what it was.”
"There are no two sides when it comes to racism," Azeem Rafiq told MPs at the DCMS select committee hearing into allegations of racism at the Yorkshire County Cricket Club.
“Me and other people from Asian background” had comments like “you lot sit over there near the toilets, elephant washers”, Rafiq said.
Resignations and new appointments
Yorkshire chief executive Mark Arthur resigned on Thursday. Soon after which the resignation of chairman Roger Hutton followed.
Meanwhile, Essex player Maurice Chambers added that he had been regularly subjected to racist taunts at Essex and became used to one teammate offering him bananas in a mocking manner.
John Faragher resigned with immediate effect as Chair of Essex County Cricket Club following a historic allegation of racist language used by him at a Board Meeting in 2017.
Essex County Cricket Club said that it does not tolerate discrimination of any kind and will immediately consider further steps the Club must take.
While Faragher strongly denies the incident, the Club will review why it was not fully and independently investigated at the time.
Mohinderpal Sethi QC of Littleton Chambers has been appointed to lead the independent investigation process which will consider any allegations that are lodged through the hotline.
Professor Lord Patel of Bradford OBE, the newly appointed Chair of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, said: “This is an incredibly difficult day for all associated with Yorkshire County Cricket Club. The emotion of Azeem Rafiq’s compelling testimony at the Select Committee today was plain to see, and his experiences are harrowing and upsetting.
“Azeem’s courage in speaking up should be praised, and nobody should underestimate how difficult it would have been to relive all of this in public. His wish to bring a ‘voice to the voiceless’ should be an inspiration to provoke real change in the sport.
“I repeat our apology to Azeem for what he has gone through, it should never have happened and that is something that the Club has to recognise.
“I agree with Azeem that we are only at the start of a journey, which will take time. At the heart of this is listening, and going through our past – including the Fletcher Report – as well as examining our culture and taking positive steps to build to a better future, such as the progression from grassroots to the professional game. We need to own the issues collectively as a Club, and cannot hide from what has been spotlighted.”
Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s independent whistleblowing hotline is now operational.
The club said that anyone wishing to lodge a formal complaint about any form of discrimination or harassment that they have suffered as a result of any act or omission of the Club will be able to do so using the dedicated email address:
Lord Patel has had an ongoing liaison with West Yorkshire Police since his appointment about this issue. Staff have been informed how to report any incidents and will be supported throughout the process.