Azeem Rafiq predicts ‘hundreds and thousands’ could share experiences of racism

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Azeem Rafiq believes “hundreds and thousands” of cricketers could follow his lead by sharing experiences of racism in the game and warned Yorkshire cannot move forward until Andrew Gale and Martyn Moxon have left the club.

Rafiq rocked the sport with a damning parliamentary appearance in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee on Tuesday, during which he outlined in disturbing detail his own account of racial harassment and discrimination.

Between that and a newly published employment tribunal witness statement he made several fresh allegations against high-profile individuals, including ex-England players Gary Ballance, Tim Bresnan, Matthew Hoggard and Alex Hales, and expects the spotlight he has attracted to encourage others to speak up in their droves.

The Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) chair Cindy Butts said on Wednesday that over 1,000 people have already come forward since it called for evidence last week.

Rafiq told Sky Sports News: “I think you’re going to get it into the hundreds and thousands, possibly. I do feel it’s going to be a little bit of ‘floodgates’ and a lot of victims of abuse are going to come forward.”

Butts told the BBC: “Since launching part one of our call for evidence last week over 1,000 people have already come forward to share their experiences with us.

“It is crucial people across the game, many likely inspired by Azeem’s bravery, have the chance to be heard.”

A number of individuals have told their own stories through the media, including former Essex players Zoheb Sharif and Maurice Chambers in recent days, while a host of less public forums are now available.

As well as the ICEC, Yorkshire have set up a whistleblower hotline while there is a joint reporting service initiated by the England and Wales Cricket Board and Professional Cricketers’ Association.

Former White Rose spinner Rafiq, who battled tears as he told MPs how he fought depression and thoughts of suicide, said he felt an element of “closure” after his appearance, but the same may not be true for those he has accused.

Bresnan took to Twitter following the DCMS committee hearing to “apologise unreservedly” for “any part I played in contributing to Azeem Rafiq’s experience of being bullied” but stressed the accusation he frequently made racist comments was “absolutely not true”.

His current club, county champions Warwickshire, have vowed to take the claims seriously and chair Mark McCafferty says he will seek discussions with Rafiq “at the earliest opportunity” to explore the matter before taking Bresnan’s account.

Rafiq had accused Hales of calling his black dog ‘Kevin’ due to Ballance’s use of the name as a derogatory term for people of colour, but the Nottinghamshire batter has refuted that.

In a statement issued to the PA news agency, Hales said: “Having heard the allegations made against me, I categorically and absolutely deny there was any racial connotation in the naming of my dog. I entirely respect and have huge sympathy for both the stance Azeem Rafiq has taken and what he has had to endure. His evidence was harrowing.

“There is no place for racism or discrimination of any kind in cricket and I will gladly co-operate with any investigation the game’s authorities choose to hold.”

Nottinghamshire said in a statement that they had begun an internal process regarding Rafiq’s testimony and were liaising with Hales.

Somerset have also launched an investigation regarding allegations made against bowler Jack Brooks.

Rafiq claimed that Brooks, a two-time County Championship winner at Yorkshire, had started the disrespectful practice of calling India star Cheteshwar Pujara “Steve” during an overseas stint at the club.

Rafiq’s witness statement saw ex-Yorkshire captain David Byas, who left Headingley before Rafiq’s debut in 2008, accused of past racist behaviour but the latter told PA: “I deny emphatically that I have used the phrases attributed to me”.

Wednesday saw no official word from Yorkshire, but Rafiq renewed calls for the departures of Gale, who is currently suspended as head coach pending investigation over an historic tweet, and director of cricket Moxon, who is signed off work with a stress-related illness.

“I don’t think Martyn and Andrew can (continue),” Rafiq told Sky. “I don’t think it’s possible for Yorkshire to move forward with them in there, with them knowing full well what role they played in that institution.”

Neither man took up the chance to give their own evidence in Westminster, with Rafiq concluding: “They had an opportunity (on Tuesday) to come down here under parliamentary privilege to get their side of the story across and they didn’t.”

Azeem Rafiq sees no future at Yorkshire for Andrew Gale (pictured) or Martyn Moxon.
Azeem Rafiq sees no future at Yorkshire for Andrew Gale (pictured) or Martyn Moxon (Mike Egerton/PA)

Asked if the duo, or Ballance, had made contact to apologise, Rafiq added: “No, and I don’t expect them to be. I still don’t think any of them think they’ve done anything wrong, which shows them for what they are.”

Ballance has chosen not to revisit a previous statement where he admitted using a “racial slur” against Rafiq, apologising but placing his actions in the context of a long friendship. Yet Rafiq, who says their relationship turned toxic years ago, told Sky that if Ballance “apologises properly” and is “given some sort of accountability” he may still have a role in Yorkshire’s new era.

David Lloyd, the former England batter, head coach and Sky commentator, did pick up the phone after it transpired he had exchanged disparaging comments about Rafiq in private.

“David Lloyd reached out and apologised to me personally,” Rafiq told BBC Sport.

“I said to him that’s all I ever wanted and I told him that it hurt me, he was completely out of order and he doesn’t even know me. He’s deeply sorry about it and I accept his apology.”

Meanwhile, former Scotland international Majid Haq has called for the issue of racism to be formally investigated in the country.

Referring to a new equality action plan, Haq told BBC Scotland: “I think Cricket Scotland is trying to do something but there’s still a lot to be done. We need an investigation.

“How many ethnic minorities are on the board at Cricket Scotland? How many are on the coaching staff? How many are at the top level umpiring? Considering how many Asians play, is there enough representation in the national team?

“As an ethnic minority cricketer, you need to perform twice as well as a white counterpart to get the same opportunities.”

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