Azeem Rafiq does not want son ‘anywhere near cricket’ after racism at Yorkshire

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Azeem Rafiq speaking to the parliamentary committee (AP)
Azeem Rafiq speaking to the parliamentary committee (AP)

Azeem Rafiq says he would not want his son “anywhere near cricket” after the former Yorkshire bowler’s experiences of racism in the game.

Rafiq was speaking to a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday which is investigating a culture of racism in the sport, in the wake of a series of allegations he made about his time at Yorkshire, several of which were upheld by an independent inquiry.

The former spinner, who is of Pakistani heritage, detailed his harrowing experiences at the club and how the word ‘P***’ was regularly used towards him and other Asian players.

“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’,” Rafiq told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee. “The word P*** was used constantly. There just seemed to be an acceptance in the institution from the leaders and no one ever stamped it out.”

Rafiq, 30, said he would not want his own children involved in the game of cricket until fundamental changes were made.

“I don’t want my son to go anywhere near cricket,” he told the hearing. “This is where the ECB [England and Wales Cricket Board] can use this as an opportunity for change. As a parent, I would say keep an eye on your kids, because this is reality. People go from playing to coaching and they do not know how to behave in front of kids.”

Since the revelations about Yorkshire, which have implicated the former England captain Michael Vaughan who denies claims he told a group of Asian players ‘too many of your lot, we need to do something about it’, current and former players from other counties have reached out to Rafiq to share their own experiences of racism in the game.

“I’ve had messages from Leicestershire, a guy at Middlesex, people at Nottinghamshire, messages from quite a few. Some people are obviously pretty scared to talk about it. Some still say ‘should I have called it out?’, ‘is it racism?’ The reoccurrence is the word P*** was used a lot.

“I want to become the voice of the voiceless. I want to help people who are suffering with this, without it getting to the point it got to with me. I want to help people coming into the game to get them ready for counties but also to change these cultures so they can achieve their dreams.

“I think it’s important that now I have been brave – or stupid, whatever you want to call it – to stand up to institutions, I can help young people achieve their dreams.”

Rafiq believes deep-rooted discrimination within cricket has caused a major talent drain in the English game.

“We’ve missed out on a hell of a lot of talent, and a better representation of the country. There’s a lot of Asian cricketers that have been subject to this, and not just Asian but black cricketers as well. The representation of black cricketers is worrying, from where it was. The ECB needs to look at that and start doing something tangible.”

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