Huge response to study on equity in cricket after Azeem Rafiq’s racism revelations

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Huge response to study on equity in cricket after Azeem Rafiq’s racism revelations
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English cricket has seen more than 1,000 people respond to a survey about equity in cricket in the last week following Azeem Rafiq’s revelations about racism in his time at Yorkshire.

Rafiq, 30, spoke with Parliamentary privilege before the Department of Digital Culture, Media and Sport’s Select Committee yesterday, along with former Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton and a delegation from the England and Wales Cricket Board, led by chief executive Tom Harrison.

On a painful day for the game, Rafiq was able to lay bare his experiences for the first time, with allegations against a number of high-profile figures in the sport.

Some have apologised (such as Tim Bresnan) and some have denied (such as Michael Vaughan). Others have been silent (such as Matthew Hoggard and Alex Hales), although Rafiq noted that Hoggard apologised to him in 2020.

Last week, the five-strong — including former England all-rounder Zafar Ansari — Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) put out a “call for evidence”. Since then, more than 1,000 people have responded to a survey taking in race, gender, class and other issues of equity in the game.

Cindy Butts, the ICEC’s Chair, told the Daily Telegraph that: “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.

“As an independent body that has been established to examine the state of equity in cricket, we will go where the evidence takes us.

“We continue to urge anyone who has experienced discrimination to respond to our call for evidence.”

Counties, including Surrey and Middlesex, have also put out calls for former players to come forward.

Meanwhile, MP Julian Knight, who led the DCMS hearing yesterday, has praised Rafiq’s appearance, telling talkSPORT: “He was total class I thought and utterly humbling for anyone listening.”

Knight said his committee would continue to hold the ECB and Yorkshire to account.

“Obviously we are going to hold the ECB’s feet to the fire over the coming weeks and months,” he said. “We want to see genuine, demonstrable, quick action on this.

“But also frankly my view is the game needs a truth and reconciliation. It needs this out in the domain and people who have partaken in this vile, racist, what they term banter but it isn’t banter, they need to come forward, apologise and we need basically an understanding of the lived experiences of players from black and Asian backgrounds.

“We need a better perception of them. They need to be front and centre of this.”

Knight called for the introduction of an organisation like football’s “Kick It Out” to stamp out racism in the game.

Azeem Rafiq became emotional during his evidence (House of Commons/PA) (PA Media)
Azeem Rafiq became emotional during his evidence (House of Commons/PA) (PA Media)

“We need to have serious reform at Yorkshire, but also, having spoken to the ECB and hearing the stories that are now coming out, it is clear that the game needs a Kick It Out if you like, a Kick It Out of cricket,” he said. “This is an existential moment for the game.

“I think Yorkshire is in the gutter and it’s not looking at the stars, as Oscar Wilde used to say. But I think that Lord Patel, who also appeared before us as we asked him as he was in the gallery and he gave some evidence, was very straight.

“He was setting out a course for the future, at least an initial course. But the thing is, what also came out of the committee, is the fact that the chair alone can’t do this. There needs to be fundamental reforms in the way in which Yorkshire is governed and that, I think, needs the ECB to step in and to ensure that Lord Patel has the power to his elbow to bring about change.”

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that he believed Yorkshire was institutionally racist. “Listening to Azeem Rafiq, it was hard-rending testimony,” he said. “I want to think him for his bravery, for being so open about the racism he’s suffered.

“When I was listening to him it reminded me of much of the racism I suffered as a child. If that was 30/40 years ago, thankfully the country has come a long way.”

“It is obvious that Yorkshire County Cricket Club is obviously institutionally racist, and something needs to be done. I hope anyone that is still involved from his time at the club is reflecting on his testimony and why they turned a blind eye to what he was suffering.”

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