Azeem Rafiq has filed a legal claim against Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC) under the Equality Act.

The former under-15 and under-19 England cricket captain is claiming direct discrimination and harassment on the grounds of race, as well as victimisation and detriment as a result of his efforts to address racism at the club.

The claim sets out racist “dressing room banter”, including the following language addressed at non-white players: “Paki”, elephant washers”, “go back where you came from”, characterising players of Pakistani origin as other, different, and difficult. Team-mates nicknaming Mr Rafiq “Raffa the Kaffir”.

The claim went on to state that the club failed to respect the ethnic beliefs of Pakistani players and players of Pakistani descent, including the non-provision of Halal food facilities and attempts to enforce the drinking culture of the club on them

Mr Rafiq states that players and officials laughed when alcohol had been thrown over a Muslim child at a match

In the claim, Azeem states that he was denied professional opportunities offered to white British players, including being refused the opportunity to play 20:20 cricket in the winter.

Mr Rafiq goes on in the claim to state that the club ignored previous racism complaints he made throughout 2018.

Azeem Rafiq states that the club lacked pastoral care of its players, with none offered to Mr Rafiq when his son was stillborn. Also, the lack of coaching developmental support was lacking in comparison to white British players. The legal claim states that the treatment of him by the club led to Azeem suffering depression and contemplating suicide

Azeem Rafiq spoke out in August this year about his experience of racism at the club. His allegations have since been substantiated by former Yorkshire players and employees, including test players Tino Best and Rana Naveed-ul-Hassan.

After Mr Rafiq spoke out the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) made a number of pledges to make the sport more inclusive, including the establishment of a new Independent Commission for Equality in Cricket. Something that Yorkshire County Cricket Club gave their backing to.

Yorkshire County Cricket Club is now investigating the allegations and is expected to report early next year.

Separate to the investigation this legal claim by Azeem is to seek a declaration from the club that they acted unlawfully. The claim also makes recommendations to ensure that changes are brought about at the club to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

In particular, Mr Rafiq believes that more must be done to ensure that combating racism in cricket must start with the youngest age groups and continue throughout the junior and senior set-ups.

Speaking about the legal claim Mr Rafiq said:

“Those who have, like me, been on the receiving end of racism and discrimination will understand how hard it is to open up about the pain and suffering it causes. I feel a sense of relief to finally speak about it and that my healing process can now begin.

“I hope this claim will give me the closure I need and that the recommendations from the Tribunal will help bring about change for our future generations in cricket.”

Mr Rafiq states that he was unable to bring his claim before now because of the time it took to recover from the mental health issues that he suffered as a consequence of the racism and discrimination he suffered. Azeem was also concerned about the ramification speaking out would have om his career. It was only after the Black Lives Matter and MeToo movements that he felt he had to speak out

Dan Jarvis, Mr Rafiq’s local MP said:

“It is simply appalling that professional cricketers have suffered disgraceful racist abuse and discrimination in the workplace. Azeem Rafiq has been brave in speaking out and he has my support.

“I’m sure that Yorkshire County Cricket Club will want to engage constructively with Azeem and his legal team to resolve this matter to a satisfactory conclusion.

“I hope that all clubs – from county cricket to the grassroots – will now play their full part in supporting the ECB reforms to eradicate the scourge of racism from cricket.”

Yorkshire County Cricket Club responded regarding the investigation

“Racism has no place in our society or in our sport.  We have taken the allegations made extremely seriously, launching a thorough, independent investigation and now await the results and recommendations from this early next year. This is an important investigation for the club and a distressing time for all involved but with this process underway and the investigation team currently conducting interviews, it would be inappropriate for us to go into further detail on any ongoing legal matters at this stage.”