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Azeem Rafiq: Key revelations from cricketer's evidence to MPs on racism at Yorkshire CCC

This article contains comments some readers may find upsetting; protected by parliamentary privilege, Azeem Rafiq has been revealing all aspects of his wide-ranging allegations of institutional racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club without fear of any legal reprisal

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Azeem Rafiq was in tears recalling racism

Ahead of Azeem Rafiq's appearance before MPs, the former Yorkshire cricketer insisted it was "time for truths".

Protected by parliamentary privilege, Rafiq has been revealing all aspects of his wide-ranging allegations of institutional racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club without fear of legal reprisal.

The 30-year-old initially voiced his claims in an interview in September 2020.

A protracted investigation by Yorkshire eventually concluded he was a victim of "racial harassment and bullying" but, controversially, nobody would be disciplined.

Their report into the matter has not been made public and the county's handling of the case attracted heavy criticism, prompting the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee to become involved.

Below are some of the key comments from Rafiq in Tuesday's hearing about his two spells at the club.

Dressing room atmosphere

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"Pretty early on, me and other people from an Asian background... there were comments such as 'you'll sit over there near the toilets', 'elephant washers'. The word p*** was used constantly. And there just seemed to be an acceptance in the institution from the leaders and no one ever stamped it out."

Rafiq, who is a Muslim, also described his harrowing first experience of alcohol at the age of 15.

"I got pinned down at my local cricket club and had red wine poured down my throat, literally down my throat," he said.

Relationship with Gary Ballance

Championships - Division One - Day One - Headingley
Gary Ballance
Image: Gary Ballance admitted using a 'racial slur'

Former England batter Gary Ballance admitted using a "racial slur" towards Rafiq in a lengthy statement issued earlier this month, apologising but framing it as part of a long and deep friendship.

Rafiq told the committee that was not an accurate depiction of their relationship, saying it went downhill from 2013 onwards and had become toxic by 2017.

Rafiq described his experience on a 2017 pre-season tour: "We were in a place and Gary Ballance walks over and goes, 'Why are you talking to him? You know he's a p***'. This happened in front of team-mates. It happened in front of coaching staff."

Being called 'Kevin'

Asked by chair Julian Knight about the term 'Kevin', Rafiq said it was an offensive, racist term that reached the very top of the game.

"Kevin was a something Gary (Ballance) used to describe anyone of colour in a very derogatory manner. It was an open secret in the England dressing room," he said.

"Anyone who came across Gary would know that was a phrase he would use to describe people of colour."

On former England player Alex Hales

Alex Hales was with his teammate when the incident occurred
Image: Alex Hales was named in the report

"Gary and Alex Hales got really close to each other when they played for England together. I wasn't present in that dressing room, but what I understand (is) that Alex went on to name his dog 'Kevin' because it was black. It's disgusting how much of a joke it was."

On England Test captain Joe Root

Sky's Tom Parmenter asked England test captain and senior Yorkshire CCC player Joe Root about witnessing racism at the club.
Image: England Test captain Joe Root

Root released a statement on the scandal calling for lasting change at Headingley. However, his claim that he could not recall witnessing examples of racism left Rafiq feeling "incredibly hurt".

He said: "Rooty is a good man. He never engaged in racist language.

"I found it hurtful because Rooty was Gary (Ballance)'s housemate and had been involved in a lot of the socialising where I was called a 'p***'.

"It shows how normal it was that even a good man like him doesn't see it for what it was. It's not going to affect Joe, but it's something I remember every day."

On former England captain Michael Vaughan

Cricket - England v South Africa - ICC Champions Trophy 2013 Semi Final - Kia Oval - 19/6/13 Former England captain / commentator Michael Vaughan Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Jason Cairnduff
Image: Michael Vaughan has denied the allegations against him

Vaughan is named in the independent report into Rafiq's claims, but has strenuously denied allegations he told four Asian team-mates: "(There's) too many of your lot, we need to do something about it."

Rafiq, Adil Rashid and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan all say they remember those words, while the fourth player Ajmal Shahzad has said he cannot recall any racism at the club.

Rafiq told MPs: "Michael might not remember it... three of us, Adil, myself and Rana remember it.

"He clearly had a snippet of my statement. He used his platform at the Daily Telegraph to tell everyone he hadn't said these things. To go on and put a snippet of my statement out and talk about other things, I thought was completely wrong.

"He probably doesn't remember it because it doesn't mean anything to him."

On racism within the wider game

Chief Executive Officer of the ECB, Tom Harrison arrives for the DCMS Select Committee Hearing at the Portcullis House, London. Picture date: Tuesday November 16, 2021.
Image: Chief Executive Officer of the ECB, Tom Harrison, arrives for the DCMS select committee hearing

Rafiq said the problem at Yorkshire was replicated "up and down the country".

Asked about the fact others, such as former Essex and Northamptonshire player Maurice Chambers, had now spoken out, Rafiq said: "I would like to see it as progress that people are feeling like they can come forward and they are going to be heard and not just be discredited, smeared about, briefed about."

He described England and Wales Cricket Board initiatives on diversity as "box-ticking" exercises and "tokenism".

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