English cricket is institutionally racist, Rafiq tells MPs

By Sports Desk November 16, 2021

Former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq has told a parliamentary select committee he believes English cricket has a racism problem "up and down the country".

Rafiq's recent allegations against Yorkshire were followed by the resignations of chairman Roger Hutton and chief executive Mark Arthur, and when asked by the committee on Tuesday if he believes English cricket is "institutionally racist", he replied: "Yes".

The 30-year-old was close to tears on numerous occasions during his testimony, adding that he feels he lost his career to racism, but hopes that by speaking out, the game can achieve "massive change" in future.

"I just wanted to live my dream and my family's dream," Rafiq told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee.

"I felt isolated, humiliated at times. On tour, Gary Ballance walked over and said, 'Why are you talking to him?'. Going past a corner shop, I was asked if my uncle owned it.

"Martyn Moxon [current Yorkshire director of cricket] and Andrew Gale [current Yorkshire head coach] were there. It never got stamped out."

The committee raised sections of Yorkshire's independent report into the matter that described Rafiq as a heavy drinker.

"I have been clear from the offset that I wasn't perfect. There were things I did that I felt I had to do to fit in, and I am not proud of them," Rafiq said.

"But that has no relation to racism. I should never, ever have been treated the way I was. When I spoke, I should have been listened to.

"But Yorkshire CCC, and the game as a whole, has a problem listening to the victim. There is no 'yeah, but...' to racism. There is no two sides to racism.

"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.

"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."

When asked if it would be fair to say what he has seen at Yorkshire is replicated at other counties, Rafiq said: "Without a shadow of a doubt. This is replicated up and down the country.

"I would like to see it as progress that people feel they can come forward and not be smeared against and discredited."

Representatives of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) were also giving evidence on Tuesday.

Rafiq was also asked where he found the strength to come forward in the first place, and added: "I have a bit of Karachi and a bit of Barnsley in me. The pain I went through those few months, no one can put me through that again.

"I thought there may be some humanity left, but no. It was all about discredit, discredit, discredit.

"All I wanted was an acceptance, an apology, an understanding, and let's try and work together to ensure it never happens again.

"If Yorkshire had seen this as an opportunity to make a real difference in society and the game, this could have gone in a completely different direction.

"They didn't do that, and that is why we are where we are."

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