Azeem Rafiq: ‘What’s happened to me has happened, it will never change’
Azeem Rafiq has recounted his experiences of racism and bullying this morning before a parliamentary select committee looking into cricket’s racism problem, saying he’s “lost his career because of racism”.
Rafiq, a former bowler at Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC) appeared this morning at the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Mommittee in Westminster.
Speaking ahead of former chairman Roger Hutton, who resigned this month, and Tom Harrison, chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Rafiq recalled racist encounters at YCCC.
“What’s happened to me has happened, it will never change,” Rafiq said.
“Clearly institutional racism is something nobody wants to be associated with.
“To make one thing very clear, ‘P***’ is not banter, racism is not banter.
Rafiq on Root
On England captain and Yorkshire player Joe Root, and his comments suggesting he has never personally heard any racism at the club, Rafiq said: “Root is a good man. He never engaged in racist language.
“I found it [his comments] hurtful. He might not remember it, but it just shows how normal it was in that environment, that a good man like him can’t remember it.
“It was the norm, it’s not going to affect Joe, but it’s something I remember every day.”
In the committee hearing, Rafiq spoke of experiences where he was forced to drink alcohol as a 15-year-old boy, by a player who went on to play for Yorkshire and Hampshire, despite being underage and of muslim faith.
He also revealed that he was encouraged to sign a “confidentially form” and take a “parcel of money” from YCCC when he had less than six months on his contract – he refused.
Furthermore, Rafiq name-checked Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Middlesex as County clubs with former or current players who have been in contact with him over racist incidences.
Rafiq on Ballance, Hales and Lloyd
The bowler discussed further the comments and encounters surrounding former team mate and England batter Gary Ballance.
“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 team-mates. It happened in front of coaching staff.”
Rafiq also made an allegation that Ballance used the name ‘Kevin’ to describe anyone of colour – and that this 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 said that Alex Hales, who plays for Nottinghamshire and was close friends with Ballance, named his black dog ‘Kevin’.
Rafiq went on to say that former England coach David Lloyd, known as Bumble, disturbed him when he chose to talk about the bowler’s drinking just a week after he spoke out on racism, adding: “I thought ‘God, there are some closet racists and I need to do something about it’.”
Furthermore, Rafiq spoke of indecent treatment from YCCC following the death of his child in their infancy.
…on the ECB
Rafiq also used his committee appearance to discuss the ECB’s responsibility.
“The ECB have to take responsibility here,” he said. “It’s not about throwing the book at Yorkshire, it’s a problem up and down the country. It’s the ECB’s game, their actions of t-shirts and taking the knee, they were one of the first sports to stop.
“ECB needs to take a lot of responsibility and stop palming it off.”
Committee lead Julian Knight MP reassured Azeem Rafiq that every word of his testimony would be in the public domain, but said the committee wouldn’t publish the report because it’s “Yorkshire’s mess” legally.
Rafiq initially made allegations of racism and bullying in 2017, covering his two spells at YCCC.
The report, which hasn’t been released in full, likened the racist abuse of Rafiq to “banter” and said no disciplinary action would be taken against any of Yorkshire’s employees.
Since, sponsors have withdrawn from the club, there have been resignations, and the ECB have suspended YCCC’s right to host international cricket.
Lord Patel of Bradford has been appointed as chairman and aims to open a whistleblowing hotline for people to share their experiences.