Azeem Rafiq has made his first statement into the investigation into institutional racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC). An inquiry was initiated after Rafiq, inspired and encouraged by the Black Lives Matter movement, spoke out publicly in September about the racism and bullying he faced while playing for the club.
Speaking out in September Rafiq outlined the racist comments and discriminatory treatment he and other Asian players at YCCC suffered while playing for the club, which left him “isolated, lonely, bullied and targeted because of my race”. This, in turn, affected his performance and mental health, leaving him “feeling suicidal”. It also led to the end of his bright career in cricket, leaving Rafiq having “lost hope injustice” and wanting to “run away from everything associated with cricket”.
In response, Yorkshire CCC launched a formal investigation into Rafiq’s allegations and a wider review of the club’s policies and culture.
Speaking to the investigation Azeem raised concerns about the treatment he and his Asian teammates received at the club, in terms of coaching, discipline, and care to player’s wellbeing. He also stated the different opportunities Asian players were given permission to partake in outside of cricket. He also mentioned the prevalence of racial language passed off as banter. Mr Rafiq mentions being called ‘elephant washers’ and that none white players were told to “go back to where you came from”. At the investigation, Azeem spoke of the drinking culture at the cricket club and peer pressure to participate despite religious beliefs. There were also incidents mentioned of racism by Yorkshire County Cricket Clubs where alcohol was thrown over players which were not investigated. There was a culture that Asian players, their families, and supporters were treated differently and not included.
At the inquiry, Mr Rafiq said: “I have spoken out about the racism I faced because I don’t want kids to go through what I did. I want to see kids starting off their journey in cricket in a culture of acceptance and respect, where they are judged on their talent and not on their culture and identity. I hope that the investigation will result in meaningful change at the club and in the sport. I am grateful for the outpouring of support and words of encouragement I have received, in particular from parents who have shared their concerns about how their kids have been treated and who want to see change.”
His lawyer, Asma Iqbal of Chadwick Lawrence LLP said: “Having now disclosed Azeem’s evidence to the investigating panel, it remains to be seen how the investigation will progress. There were serious concerns about the initial handling of Azeem’s complaint and the people appointed to be involved in that process. After concerns were raised, people were removed from the process. We are now concerned to ensure that the investigation is fair, complies with due process, and properly considers all of the facts to ensure natural justice prevails.”
In response, a statement from Yorkshire Cricket Club said “We have taken the claims made by our former player, Azeem Rafiq, very seriously and a full investigation conducted by Squire Patton Boggs, an independent law firm, began in September,”
“Mr Rafiq’s written statement was made available last week and he will give further verbal evidence today. These statements will then be made available to the club to provide a response to as part of the next phase of the process.
“We realise that this is a difficult time for all parties involved but it is important that these matters are investigated thoroughly and swiftly.
“In addition, and recognising that this process is as much about the future as it is in the past, we have convened an independent panel to support the investigation and to publish recommendations on steps the club may need to take as a result of the investigation’s findings.
Azeem Rafiq has started a Crowd Justice page to raise awareness in the hope to end racism in cricket and bring about real change. https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/azeem-rafiq/