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." Rafiq 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 that 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
Rafiq said, “My first incident of drinking was when I was 15, I got pinned down at my local cricket club and had red wine poured down my throat. 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.”
"There are no two sides when it comes to racism," Rafiq told MPs at the DCMS select committee hearing into allegations of racism at the 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 last week. 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 Cricket Club, said: “We need to listen to those who have experienced discrimination or harassment to help guide how we move forward as a Club. Since my appointment, I have urged others to come forward to share their experiences and I thank all of those who have spoken up so far.”
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:
More information about the hotline can be found here:
"I can confirm Rafiq's recollection of Michael Vaughan's comments to a group of us Asian players," Adil Rashid, who has played for Yorkshire since 2006, said in a statement. In response to the recent statement made by Adil, Lord Patel said: “I have been in touch with Adil personally so that we can talk through the issues as soon as he is ready and able.”