Cricketer in Yorkshire racism row urges 'cultural change'

·3-min read

Pakistan-born cricketer Azeem Rafiq has demanded sweeping changes at his former English county club Yorkshire and revealed he is still suffering abuse as a row over racism deepens.

Yorkshire offered the 30-year-old off-spinner "profound and unreserved apologies" in a report into his allegations of racial abuse in September.

But last week the county said it would take no disciplinary action against any staff, unleashing a wave of criticism and prompting sponsors to turn their back on the club.

Rafiq said the row was about "institutional racism and abject failures by numerous leaders at Yorkshire County Cricket Club and in the wider game.

"The sport I love and my club desperately need reform and cultural change," he posted on Twitter. "The system and environment changes that will organically educate and bring through a new generation that make this the beautiful game it should be."

The row has drawn in British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as well as governing body the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

Johnson stepped up the pressure on the ECB on Thursday as his spokesman told reporters: "The PM's clear that racist language should never be used in any context whatsoever.

"These are serious allegations. They must be investigated thoroughly and quickly. We urge the ECB to look at this carefully."

Rafiq, Yorkshire's chairman and the county's chief executive and director of cricket have all been summoned to testify before a parliamentary committee on November 16.

Yorkshire have reportedly called an unscheduled board meeting for Friday to discuss the fall-out from the row.

- 'Sad state of affairs' -

Former England international Gary Ballance has admitted using a racial slur against Rafiq during their time together at Yorkshire, saying in a statement on Wednesday: "I regret that I used this word in immature exchanges in my younger years.

"I have to be clear that this was a situation where best friends said offensive things to each other which, outside of that context, would be considered wholly inappropriate."

However, Rafiq on Thursday said that despite the condemnation of his treatment at Yorkshire, he was still the target of abuse.

"We wonder why people don't come forward. Even after everything that is out there, there seems to be personal attacks coming. What a sad state of affairs," he said.

Ballance's admission came after publishing company Emerald ended their association with Yorkshire and their Headingley ground in Leeds over the handling of the report that found Rafiq suffered "racial harassment and bullying" at the club, with other club sponsors following suit.

Rafiq, who represented Yorkshire in two spells between 2008 and 2018, made 43 allegations and said he had been driven to thoughts of suicide by his treatment at the club.

Yorkshire's redacted report upheld seven of his claims but concluded the club was not institutionally racist.

Former England spinner Monty Panesar said Yorkshire had "completely mishandled this case".

He told ITV: "They haven't taken serious concern for Azeem Rafiq and his welfare. They've kind of termed it as banter which sits uncomfortably with me.

"The 'P' word is a racist term and should not be defined under the banter bracket.

"Yorkshire felt Azeem's allegations weren't important to them. They avoided the issues and also delayed the report."

jwp-smg/gj

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting