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Azeem Rafiq expects 'floodgates' to open on cricket racism crisis after DCMS hearing

Azeem Rafiq: "A lot of victims of abuse are going to come forward and we need to listen to them, hear them, support them and work out a plan to make sure this doesn't happen again"; the Professional Cricketers' Association holds "constructive conversation" with Rafiq

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Azeem Rafiq says cricket's racism scandal will open the floodgates for others coming forward who have been targetted whilst involved in the sport

Azeem Rafiq believes the "floodgates" are about to open on cricket's racism crisis the day after delivering a damning testimony on the abuse and bullying he suffered during his time at Yorkshire.

Rafiq told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee on Tuesday that this included having red wine poured down his throat as a 15-year-old and that there was constant use of racist language across his two spells at the county.

There have already been allegations of racism at Essex within the last week while Nottinghamshire, Middlesex and Leicestershire were also named during the DCMS hearing, and Rafiq believes more stories regarding other counties will emerge in the coming days.

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Rafiq tells MPs about the names and racial slurs used in the Yorkshire and England dressing rooms (warning: video contains offensive and upsetting content)

"I don't think I'm still aware of how much it's struck home with so many people. We've got to make sure this doesn't become about me and it's about how now we listen," Rafiq told Sky Sports.

"I do feel now it's going to be a little bit of floodgates and a lot of victims of abuse are going to come forward and we need to listen to them, hear them, support them and work out a plan to make sure this doesn't happen again.

"I think you're going to get it [complaints] into the hundreds and thousands, possibly, and I think it's the way they handle it. We've got here because of Yorkshire's handling of this.

"Yes, what happened was completely unacceptable but the way they've handled it has made it a lot bigger and showed them for what they are, so it depends how the game and individual counties handle it.

Gary Ballance during a County Championship match for Yorkshire at Headingley back in June
Image: Gary Ballance during a County Championship match for Yorkshire at Headingley back in June

"I think the ECB have realised they messed up as well and they're not going to let another episode like this occur."

Rafiq's allegations named a number of high-profile figures including former England players Michael Vaughan, Tim Bresnan and Gary Ballance and current Yorkshire head coach Andrew Gale and director of cricket Martyn Moxon.

Former Yorkshire and England bowler Matthew Hoggard has already called Rafiq to apologise but no one else from the county has contacted him.

Rafiq believes the positions of Moxon and Gale are untenable but there is potentially a route back for Ballance.

"They need to hear from me the effect their behaviour left me in and I'd like to hear from them why - why they felt that was alright. But it's important we don't go to individuals and think about the institution, because these guys came into this place and were shaped by the culture and the environment," he said.

"I don't think Martyn and Andrew can [continue in their roles]. I think Gary - if he apologises properly and has some sort of acceptance and accountability - he should be allowed to play.

"But in terms of Andrew and Martyn, I don't think it's possible for Yorkshire to move forward with them still in there knowing full well what sort of role they played in that institution."

England captain Joe Root was also mentioned in Tuesday's hearing having denied ever hearing any racist language used at Yorkshire, including by his former room-mate Ballance.

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The Cricketer's George Dobell believes that Rafiq's testimony will encourage others with similar experiences to speak out

Rafiq re-emphasised that Root had never been part of any abuse, but said that now not calling out any behaviour of that nature is also part of the problem.

"Rooty is a good man but it just shows how bad that institution and environment was that even a good man like him didn't see it, didn't feel like it was right to stop it probably and doesn't remember it probably because it won't mean anything to him," Rafiq said.

"The bystanders - from now on - if you continue to just be bystanders you're as much of a problem as the guys who are perpetrators."

PCA holds 'constructive conversation' with Rafiq

The Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA), the body which represents past and present first-class cricketers in England and Wales, says it held a "constructive conversation" with Rafiq on Wednesday.

The PCA says it will continue those discussions in the coming weeks.

"He has agreed to meet with us in-person in the coming weeks to discuss how the PCA, and the wider professional game can learn from his experiences," read a PCA statement.

"We believe listening and learning from people like Azeem is vital in the game's journey to be become a fully inclusive and welcoming environment for every player."

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 people have contacted an inquiry into discrimination in cricket in the past week.

The Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) issued a call for evidence on November 9, urging individuals to share their experiences of discrimination in the sport.

"Since launching part one of our Call for Evidence last week over one thousand people have already come forward to share their experiences with us," said ICEC chair Cindy Butts.

"It is crucial people across the game, many likely inspired by Azeem's bravery, have the chance to be heard. As an independent body 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."

Hales denies Rafiq claims on 'Kevin' dog name

Nottinghamshire say they have begun an "internal process" following Rafiq's allegation that Alex Hales gave a racist name to a dog as part of a "joke" he had with Ballance.

Rafiq accused Ballance of referring to "people of colour" as "Kevin", adding that Hales gave his dog - which was black - the same name after growing close to Ballance during their time together with England.

Hales has denied the allegation and said he will "co-operate with any investigation".

"Having heard the allegations made against me, I categorically and absolutely deny there was any racial connotation in the naming of my dog," Hales said in a statement.

"I entirely respect and have huge sympathy for both the stance Azeem Rafiq has taken and what he has had to endure. His evidence was harrowing.

"There is no place for racism or discrimination of any kind in cricket and I will gladly co-operate with any investigation the game's authorities choose to hold.

"Neither I nor my representatives will be making any further comment on the matter."

Image: Alex Hales has played for England in all three formats of the game

During his appearance in front of the DCMS select committee, Rafiq also said he had been contacted by at least one person who had played for Nottinghamshire and had endured racism during their time there.

In response, Nottinghamshire said it "remains totally committed to making cricket in our county, at every level, welcoming and accessible for all."

The club added: "We have always tried to create positive and fulfilling cricketing experiences for people from a wide spectrum of backgrounds, and we will continue to do so.

"We acknowledge that, given the experiences recently being shared within the wider game, individuals may not have felt comfortable in voicing their concerns in the past.

"We would encourage anyone who wishes to share concerns or discuss their experiences to come forward and speak freely, either directly to the club or via the ICEC (Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket)'s recent call for evidence. It is vital that individuals do so, in order for the game of cricket to learn and move forward together.

"Should anyone wish to share concerns, we have well-established processes and policies in place to deal with any issues raised. Anyone that comes forward will be treated with the utmost respect and confidentiality."

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