Azim Rafiq 'incredibly proud' of Scotland cricketers Majid Haq and Qasim Sheikh for their fight against institutional racism
Scottish cricket found to be 'institutionally racist' by independent review published on Monday; review conducted after allegations made by Scotland's all-time leading wicket-taker Majid Haq; Azeem Rafiq: "I hope today gives some sense of closure and that they've been fully vindicated"
Last Updated: 26/07/22 9:03pm
Azeem Rafiq said he was "incredibly proud" of former Scotland cricketers Majid Haq and Qasim Sheikh for speaking out over the racist abuse they suffered during their international careers.
On Monday, the findings of an independent review into racism in Scottish cricket were published, with the governance and leadership practices of Cricket Scotland found to be institutionally racist.
Rafiq made his own allegations of institutional racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club after revealing in 2020 that he was suicidal due to the repeated racism he was subjected to while involved in cricket.
"I've got quite close to Majid and Qasim since I spoke out," Rafiq told Sky Sports. "I'm just incredibly proud of them and everyone else that played a part in the review.
"I hope today gives them some sense of closure and that they've been fully vindicated."
He added: "Today is a start. The one thing I would be a little bit hesitant about is let's not look too far into the future straight away.
"It's very important to stay in the problem. There's a lot of people that have suffered a lot of abuse over a lot of years.
"There's got to be an attempt to build those bridges back, speak to them, re-engage them, apologise. Once that is done, and only then, it's important to look to the future - and how we do that.
"As I've seen over the last nine months or so, there's a lot of words, a lot of ticked boxes and a lot of attempts to show that things are happening but actually, deep down, fundamentally things are not changing."
The review, conducted by Plan4Sport - an equality and diversity organisation - found 448 indicators of institutional racism. Of 31 'tests' used to measure the problem, Cricket Scotland - the game's governing body - failed on 29 and only partially met the required standard on the remaining two.
Participants in the survey cited:
- Inappropriate use of language, in some cases, which would be racist but considered simply as "banter."
- Concern that sledging is being used as an excuse to racially abuse opposition players.
- Lack of understanding of the impact of language and behaviour on individuals.
- Inadequate systems to report racism on and off the pitch.
- No willingness, in some instances, to deal with discriminatory incidents.
- Lack of diversity of players, coaches nd umpires within the game.
Sixty-eight individual concerns have been referred for further investigation, including 31 allegations of racism against 15 different people, two clubs and one regional association.
But Rafiq doesn't think Cricket Scotland's funding should be cut at this stage, saying: "If there's an acceptance and an apology, then they need to supported to make sure the change comes - and comes quicker.
"If things don't change and if there's a resistance to change, then I think at that point sportscotland need to come down a lot harsher.
"But I think at this stage it's really important that we support the game in getting the change that we all want."
The review was undertaken following complaints of institutional racism by Majid and Qasim, both of whom said the issue had blighted their careers.
Majid: Report findings a massive relief
Majid, who played 54 one-day internationals and 21 T20Is for Scotland between 2002 and 2015, is the country's all-time leading wicket-taker, but was sent home from the 2015 Cricket World Cup after posting a tweet which said: "Always tougher when you're in the minority!"
Majid told Sky Sports: "It's a massive relief. I've been thinking about that for a long, long time, so for it to actually be confirmed in black and white, there in a report, I was very relieved when I heard the news.
"It just shows you that it's not just one or two individuals. There have been several hundreds of people who have helped shape this investigation. I've got to thank everyone who has come forward and been brave enough."
He added: "Getting sent home from a World Cup was a really tough time for me and my family. My mental health was at its lowest - I had thoughts of taking my own life.
"I spoke to a couple of members of the Cricket Scotland support staff about getting counselling, but their reply was, 'there's no funding available for psychological help', which was completely devastating at that time in my life, when I really needed somebody to speak to."
Majid also praised the role Rafiq had in getting him to come forward and share his experiences, saying: "This investigation wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for Azeem Rafiq's issue with Yorkshire.
"He deserves a lot of credit, he was almost by himself at times. He has gone through so much and, speaking to him, he is an amazing, amazing guy."
Qasim: Watershed moment for cricket in Scotland
Qasim, who played seven one-day internationals for Scotland between 2008 and 2010, before seeing his international career ended at 25 after speaking out to the press, also praised Rafiq and hopes his stand against racism "goes down in history.''
"I think that young man is made of steel, to be honest," Qasim told Sky Sports. "He is extremely brave - the sheer backlash he has taken and the way he has not given up.
"I have got to know Azeem since the early days when he spoke out and I can call him a friend and like a younger brother now - although he is like the older brother, advising me, because he has been through these experiences.
"He is the catalyst of change in cricket. I hope his name goes down in history for the right reasons, that he changed cricket for the better.
"What he did has allowed the opportunity for the issues to be brought to light here in Scotland as well, and I'm grateful to him for that."
Qasim added: "It's a watershed moment for cricket in Scotland. A bittersweet moment, but at the same time, I'm relieved.
"We're not going to come back and play on a cricket pitch for Scotland tomorrow, but all I want to see is that current and future generations get fair and equal opportunity.
"That's the outcome I seek so I hope it's the start of positive things in Scottish cricket."
Maqsood: I hope Cricket Scotland can change its culture
Scotland cricketer Abtaha Maqsood, who plays for Birmingham Phoenix in The Hundred, took part in review and was shocked at the findings.
She said: "It's really worrying, as I said I was completely shocked and those numbers are just appalling aren't they? It just means that hopefully this is a good opportunity for us to get some positive change into our organisation, which is clearly much-needed and hopefully that happens sooner rather than later."
Maqsood is hopeful that Cricket Scotland can become more inclusive going forward. She said: "Everybody has their ability to change and I don't see why Cricket Scotland should be any different. It's a shame that some of the board members like Sue Stracken had to leave when she was one of the people that was really open and honest and open to learning.
"But hopefully there's more members of Cricket Scotland in there who are just like her and very open to change. I hope this does bring some positive change to the organisation."
She added: "I think it's going to be very different now, there's going to be loads of changes coming. I don't think this is something that's going to change overnight, I think it's going to take a few months, maybe even a year or so, before things are getting back to normal. But hopefully there is a lot of positive change and it can be a sport for everyone."