Azeem Rafiq details racist abuse suffered with Yorkshire in DCMS committee meeting

‘There just seemed to be an acceptance in the institution from the leaders and no one ever stamped it out’

Karl Matchett
Tuesday 16 November 2021 18:14
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<p>Former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq fights back tears while testifying in front of a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee in London on Tuesday </p>

Former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq fights back tears while testifying in front of a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee in London on Tuesday

Azeem Rafiq opened his account of experiencing constant racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club by telling a DCMS committee that he was regularly refered to as a “P***” and detailing several specific instances where he had suffered indignity and “humiliation” at the hands of those at the club.

Yorkshire has been widely criticised over the racism scandal, which saw chairman Roger Hutton resign earlier in November and several directors later follow suit.

Rafiq told the DCMS meeting that derogatory terms were commonplace and a culture of racist abuse was almost non-stop throughout his time with Yorkshire.

"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,” he said.

“There just seemed to be an acceptance in the institution from the leaders and no one ever stamped it out.”

Rafiq departed Yorkshire in 2014 before returning thereafter. Following a change in leadership and coach Jason Gillespie departing, he says things took a significant turn for the worse.

"All I wanted to do is play cricket and play for England and live my dream and live my family’s dream. In my first spell, I don’t really think I quite realised what it was. I think I was in denial.

“You had Andrew Gale coming in as coach and Gary Ballance as captain. For the first time I started to see for what it was – I felt isolated, humiliated at times. Constant use of the word ‘P***’.”

A further allegation from Rafiq was that Ballance had racially abused him during a pre-season tour in 2017, while another derogatory term was used by him as an “open secret” of demeaning “anyone of colour” within the squad or even with the opposition.

“We were in a place and Gary Ballance walks over and goes, ‘Why are you talking to him? You know he’s a P***’. This happened in front of teammates. It happened in front of coaching staff.

“A ‘Kevin’ was something Gary used to describe anyone of colour in a very derogatory manner. It was an open secret in the England dressing room. Anyone who came across Gary would know that was a phrase he would use to describe people of colour.”

Rafiq also alleged that former England international Alex Hales had involvement in the continuation of the line even outside the confines of the sport.

“Gary and Alex Hales got really close to each other when they played for England together. I wasn’t present in that dressing room, but what I understand [is] that Alex went on to name his dog Kevin because it was black. It’s disgusting how much of a joke it was.”

Rafiq concluded that racial discrimination, and his decision to take a stand against it, had cost him his career in a sport that he feels has ingrained problems above and beyond his own story.

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