Rafiq is asked to contrast his everyday experiences with those within cricket
My everyday life for as long as I have known has just been cricket. Cricket and professional sport in general it’s a lot worse than society. The thing I hear a lot is ‘it’s a societal problem’. Cricket is part of the same society. If we make changes within cricket, we make changes within society.
It’s such a cop out to go ‘but it’s a societal problem’. Every one of us is responsible for the society we live in. Cricket is where I was, cricket is where the ECB is… let’s sort out where we are every day and hopefully that will have the impact in society in the long term.
The ECB will face very tough questions soon about their reporting procedures and how seriously they take racism. Rafiq says he received messages from players at Leicestershire, Middlesex and Nottinghamshire who have experienced racism.
He says one recurrence is the word P—. Devastating for cricket that word is being used in the modern era. These are not historic allegations going back to the 1980s. This is now.
“Some people are still scared to talk about it. Some still say should I have called it out? Is it racism? One recurrence is the word Paki was used a lot,” he said. Tom Harrison, ECB chief executive, will be interviewed by the panel later today.
After my Sky interview I took a phone call from Matthew Hoggard [former Yorkshire and England bowler] and he basically said ‘I didn’t realise… I’m really sorry if some of the comments I made, made you feel the way you described it, I just want to apologise’. When someone does that I was like ‘mate, thank you, really appreciate it’.
I bumped into a friend a few months after and he said ‘look, we didn’t realise we were having that effect on you. If you’d have said to us we would have stopped.’
Really that’s all I wanted… an acceptance, an apology. All I’ve ever wanted is some sort of acceptance. And let’s work together so that it doesn’t happen to my kids and I can let my kids go and play cricket.
Nick Hoult reports on Rafiq’s testimony on what he claims are organisations’ failings
Rafiq has focused mainly on organisations in the second half of his testimony, and not individuals. He is damning about the care received by PCA and the regulatory processes of the ECB, as well as the quality of the report.
He has remained calm, and composed throughout. This has been a damning testimony for the Professional Cricketers’ Association, the ECB and Yorkshire, as well as the quality of the report.
The PCA, he claims, reported him missing to the police last winter when he was at a low ebb even when he was sat at home with his wife as a “tick box in case I killed myself.” He adds: I found the PCA stance incredibly inept”.
The ECB was asked several times to step in by Yorkshire but says as the regulatory body it was compromised and should take action after the report.
I think it’s important on Michael that we don’t make it all about Michael. It was a long time ago. Michael might not remember it but three of us have… we remember it. I have spoken to Adil [Rashid, Yorkshire team-mate and England cricketer] at length about it.
Michael to use his platform… to try and discredit before even anything had been spoken about. He used his platform at the Daily Telegraph to tell everyone that he hadn’t said these things but then to go on and put a snippet of my statement out and then talk about other things I thought was completely wrong.
I didn’t see that Gary actually apologised in that statement. I want to make sure that it doesn’t become about [individuals]. Even on the day that Gary got named I actually tried for him not to get named. I knew once people started [being named] it would become an uncomfortable place for a lot of people.
I think the responsibility here and for where we are at are at the hands of Yorkshire chief executive Mark Arthur, Martyn Moxon and the lawyers, Squire Patton Boggs.
It’s staggering. There’s a lot of things in there which beggars belief. I hope the report can be published so people… not only the people who were perpetrators but the people who have excused this sort of behaviour can be held accountable.
That’s a problem that the ECB, the PCA, the counties have never wanted to deal with. I’d like an answer for that because they’ve got enough evidence there to show that there is a problem. Is it that they’ve just never wanted to deal with the problem?
Rafiq is asked if he thinks the problem in cricket is institutional
He says he does.
Other people’s experiences now … I have had enough people talk about experiences up and down the country. I think here the ECB has got to take a bit of responsibility as well. It’s all well and good throwing the book at Yorkshire – it is still my club. Whether people believe it or not I still have a sense of wantign to make sure that it’s not everyone throws the book at Yorkshire. It’s the ECB’s game… I think their actions in the last few years of the t-shirts… even around taking the knee, they were one of the first sporting teams to just stop. I think ECB needs to take a lot of responsibility and stop palming [responsibility] off.
Rafiq on how difficult it was to come to terms with the reality he faced
Until 2017 I didn’t really know it for what it was. I was in denial. The thing was for me right at the end… I talked about instances [throughout my time] which show it as institutional. Right up to 2017 I didn’t believe it and nor did I want to believe it. Even in 2017, I reported it as bullying. For me to actually believe that I was being treated in this way because of my colour or race was quite a difficult thing to digest.
The England management were dreading Joe Root being dragged into this today and Rafiq says he is the epitome of the problem.
Rafiq says Root has never said anything racist but the fact he “might not remember” sums up the problem.
“I found it hurtful because Root was not only Gary’s housemate but involved in socialising nights out where I was called a P—. He might not remember it, but it shows how normal it was as an institution that a good man like him doesn’t remember it.”
If Yorkshire had seen this as an opportunity to become leaders in this space, seen this as an opportunity to actually make a real difference in society and in the game, this could have gone a completely different direction.
They didn’t do that. It comes with the platform that I have now. It’s important that I have that responsibility and I continue to fulfil that for people who are not being heard… and there’s plenty of them.
It is inarguable that cricket has a major problem with race and Asian cricketers. Rafiq rightly points out the lack of Asian cricketers in the county game. He is correct to say the ECB face answers.
“It is not about everyone throwing the book at Yorkshire. It is a problem up and down the country. The ECB are the regulators, they provide funding, and need to take responsibility and bring things in house and stop palming things off to advisory bodies.”
ECB have tried with their South Asian Action Plan which is led by Lord Patel, the new chair of Yorkshire. Rafiq will surely now have a prominent role in this going forward.
Rafiq reveals the cover ups and denials he has faced including a text message from David Lloyd, the former England coach and Sky commentator, who is now being linked to the first the first time. Rafiq says he sent him a text message after he did an interview outlining his allegation towards Yorkshire.
“Sky were doing work bringing racism to the front, within a week of me speaking out this is what I got sent to me. There are some closet racists and we need to do something about it.”
Rafiq speaks about the representation of British Asians in professional cricket
There is a drop-off from the grass roots to professional level he says.
Within our community the problem is not at recreational level. But when we get to that… and we have to go from academy to professional game, everything I’ve spoken about are a challenge. I would hope [those running the game] would be able to look at that.
Whenever there’s an initiative… it goes right to the grass roots because that box is already ticked. They can tell everyone how great they’ve been.
Box ticking… a lot of tokenism, which is setting us back and doesn’t really deal with the issue which is in the dressing room… on the ground. Because up to now, nobody has felt like they can come forward and talk about it… when you do, it’s ‘he’s a problem… he’s a trouble maker’.
So far Rafiq’s testimony about Yorkshire has revealed new names in Tim Bresnan, accused of bullying, and Steve Patterson, the current captain. But is his line about the England team that will really worry the ECB. Rafiq says England players used to use “Kevin” as a name for Afro-Caribbean people. “It is disgusting how much of a joke it was,” says Rafiq. He says Alex Hales named his dog Kevin because the name was in circulation so much while he was playing for England.
To make one thing very clear: P— is not banter. Racism is not banter. And for a person of colour – I think there’s three people of colour on that panel – and one of them I think either associated with Asian Cricket Council and CEO of London Tigers… and for him to come out do again an article where he stands by the finding that ‘P—‘ was used as banter just shows the scale of the problem that we have.
Julian Knight calls the report a “Venn diagram of stupidity in the way it’s structure”.
Rafiq responds to how the report has been handled.
I only got it a week ago. It seems like that some people who had been accused… got my stuff before I even got it and they used the platform at the Daily Telegraph to show the world that… from the offset what I wanted to do is try and talk about the institution. Try and talk about what a went through and try and present my evidence in a way that it can be seen as ‘look there are things that are not right and we can really all learn from it’.
What’s happened to me has happened. It has never changed.
My aim was to try and see if my experience can help others. Clearly the word institutional racism is something no-one wants to be associated with. The lawyers Squire Patton Boggs having connection with Roger from the offset sets you off on a bad road. They were brilliant at the start, so respectful. Wanted to hear everything I had to say… as soon as they got my evidence they were like ‘wow, we’ve got a problem here’.
Suddenly it felt like it went away from the institutional and… working with the club… it went towards individuals. And that’s why the last couple of weeks some individuals have had a really tough time. But I didn’t present my evidence like that. It was never intended like that and that was never the allegation but that was that the club, the panel and the lawyers have tried to do.
Did the attitude of Yorkshire change the moment Rafiq complained about racial harassment?
I first raised it as bullying in 2017. I’ve seen board minutes now a month before and it calls me as a leader… potential captain… driver on the field. Someone that potentially we should build a team around, especially in white ball cricket.
I raised that complaint about Tim Bresnan and I knew there was potentially going to be real trouble. Everyone complained so it would be the same for everyone but the board minutes say I’m a problem, a troublemaker and an issue that needs to be resolved.
I feel that then [binded] them to how they treated me through the pregnancy and the loss of my son. The first day back after [the loss of his son], Martyn Moxon literally got me in a room and ripped the shreds off me. I’ve never seen him speak to anyone like that through my time at the club. I couldn’t believe it.
Really, me raising the complaints that I did at the time… [he raises it with numerous boards and people].
2017 onwards when Gary took over as captain he found it a real struggle… I tried to help Gary and the team but in the end it became evident that even though Steve [Patterson, a player who was left out] caused a lot of issues, that I was going to be the one that got picked on.
Six or seven players made a complaint about Tim Bresnan that year but I was the only one that got the repercussions of that and I was the only person of colour….
Did Ballance use the P word during Rafiq’s second spell, Rafiq is asked
Yes. During the 2017 pre-season tour and throughout, Rafiq says.
I want to address Gary’s statement. There was a narrative there that we were the best of mates… when Gary came to the club from Derby. I saw in him what I saw in myself and that was ‘outsiders’. A lot of the players at the time called Gary a lot of things which were completely out of order. Again, it was such a norm that no-one said anything.
Mine and Gary’s relationship started to deteriorate around 2013 due to Gary’s conduct. It’s not… I mean, he at one point his behaviour around his personal relationships was so disgusting that I raised it with an agent that we shared and said this needs to be sorted out before it gets quite silly. Even after that we were amicable. We were team-mates but we never shared the same relationship.
End of 2017 we had a really difficult pregnancy and through that time the treatment that I received from some of the club officials was inhuman. They were not really bothered about the fact that I was training one day and I get a phone call to say there’s no heartbeat…
He tears up before taking a moment to gather himself.
Rafiq on the comments he claims he faced on a regular basis
We were on a bus trip in London to Surrey and we went past a couple of men with beard and it was like ‘oh, is that your dad?’. If we’d go past a corner shop it was ‘oh does your uncle own that?’. And this happened in front of Martyn Moxon, Andrew Gale… club officials. It never got stamped out. Everyone saw it. But because of the institution and the environment it becomes such a norm in there.
Jason [Gillespie, head coach] left in 2016 and it felt as if the temperature had been turned up. You’ve got Andrew Gale coming in as coach and Gary Ballance as captain and these guys, for me, were Yorkshire through and through and the white rose values were embedded in them.
For the first time I started to see it for what it was. Felt isolated, humiliated at times. Constant use of the word P—. In the 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—?’ Or ‘he’s not a sheikh, he’s got no oil’. This happened in front of team-mates, it happened in front of coaching staff.
I was a young kid from Pakistan living in Barnsley with a dream to represent England. Early on in my career I joined a dressing room full of my heroes. It was a surreal moment for me. Pretty early on there was comments such as ‘you lot sit over there… elephant washers’, the word P— was used.
In my first spell I don’t think I realised for what it was. I looked the other way just like everyone else did. Really for me, playing cricket was the most important thing. I knew there was something wrong [towards the end of my first spell]. I started taking medication for my mental health. It was tough.
I felt like I did that [went away working on mental health] and I felt I got an opportunity to get back at the club [through my performances]. The first few months I came back I thought ‘things have changed here’.
Robinson, who counts the Clooneys among her celebrity friends, was questioned about Michael Vaughan’s claim yesterday that seven former Yorkshire teammates have no recollection of the “you lot” comment Rafiq alleges he made.
“It remains to be seen what more Azeem will say to the parliamentary committee today,” she said when pressed on what he might say about the former England captain. “And there are other players who have supported him [Rafiq] in his recollection. This is not about an individual player. It is about what happened at Yorkshire.”
Vaughan strenuously denies Rafiq’s allegation that he made a racially insensitive comment in 2009. Rafiq is also certain to be asked about Gary Ballance’s admission that he called him a “P—” as banter. Robinson, however, added that the hearing today was “a vital” step of “something much bigger” than “individuals” at the club.
“This is about a culture within the club, a culture which Lord Patel, as the incoming chair, said was a culture of institutional racism… He has thanked him [Rafiq] for his bravery in coming forward. This is about something much bigger than any individual player. And we’re seeing this already. We’re seeing more players coming forward with their experiences of racism. And this is a really important moment for cricket. And I think to leave it down to one individual player is just not the correct way to look at it. This is about something much bigger.”
This is just the start for Rafiq’s mission to rid cricket of racism
By Tom Morgan
Azeem Rafiq’s racism evidence to MPs will be a “really important moment for cricket” – but he is intent on exposing institutional failings rather than individuals at Yorkshire, his counsel has claimed.
“I think people be surprised what they have to hear about what he suffered at the club,” said Jen Robinson, a high-flying lawyer who counts Julian Assange among clients.
Speaking ahead of his appearance before the select committee, Robinson said it was “just the start” for Rafiq’s mission to rid the game of racism. In an interview with Radio 4’s Today programme, she said Rafiq was willing to “give examples” of the abuse he faced but “this has never really been about individual players or individual people”.
“For Azeem, this has always been about taking on institutional racism and taking on a culture at Yorkshire where it was not only accepted to use racial slurs, but it almost had become normalised and so I think it’s important that he may well give examples,” she said.
“It’s important that people understand what happened to him. But again, this was for him, not about individuals – it’s about the institutional culture. It’s about changing the way that people are treated within the sport. It’s about making sure that people feel comfortable to come forward to speak out about the racism they suffer and so that we create a space for everyone in the game, which is more inclusive and diverse.”
Cricket braced for more ‘bombshells’ as Rafiq is ready to reveal all to MPs
Azeem Rafiq declared it was “time for truths” ahead of today’s landmark parliamentary session, in which “more bombshells” are expected to rock cricket.
A third ex-England international is among Yorkshire figures fearing they will follow Michael Vaughan and Gary Ballance in being named as among those accused by Rafiq. Sources close to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee declared ahead of the meeting that more major revelations were guaranteed for a sport already in turmoil. “Expect more bombshells,” said one insider last night.
Rafiq, who travelled down to London yesterday ahead of his appearance at Westminster’s Portcullis House, is ready to lay bare his hurt when he is questioned about Joe Root’s claim last week that he never saw any abuse at the club. MPs are keen to get Rafiq’s version of events as both the England Test captain and Ballance, who admits calling Rafiq a “P” as “banter”, were previously his housemates. Vaughan strenuously denies referring to Rafiq and three other Asian players as “you lot” in 2009. Ballance admits calling Rafiq a “P—“, but claims he did not realise the term was causing offence.
With no current Yorkshire employees due to give evidence, Roger Hutton, who resigned as chairman ten days’ ago, will be the only figure forced to answer directly to the charge that the club is institutionally racist. As a result, it is the England and Wales Cricket Board that is braced to face the fiercest attacks head on, especially after ministers questioned last week whether the governing body was still “fit for purpose”. Tom Harrison, the ECB’s CEO, and Barry O’Brien, interim chair, will be quizzed at length over the body’s perceived failures to intervene in historic racism at Yorkshire and at other clubs, such as Essex.
The select committee, led by chairman Julian Knight MP, is attempting to establish evidence that extends beyond the 100-page report which outlines investigations into Rafiq’s dossier of claims. It is understood allegations raised by other players are likely to be explored, including one that non-white players were known as “Steve” as part of a pejorative in-joke between players. Telegraph Sport revealed last week how Ballance is accused of calling people of colour “Kevins”. However, other Asian players have previously alleged they were called “Steve” at Yorkshire, with team-mates joking their real names were too difficult to pronounce.
Rafiq, the former off spinner who first raised allegations internally in 2018, is understood to have told friends he is willing to name those he accused, but only if MPs ask him to.
Evidence is protected by parliamentary privilege, meaning he is free to outline his experiences during two spells at Yorkshire between 2008 and 2018 without fear of legal reprisal. The 30-year-old, who last week settled his employment case with Yorkshire and received a six-figure payout, yesterday posted on social media in reference to the hearing: “Time for truths.”
MPs may well express their dismay over a poor turnout from Yorkshire, however, with only Hutton, the chair who resigned 10 days ago, on the official list with 24 hours left. The absence of Mark Arthur, the chief executive who quit last week, and Martyn Moxon, the director of cricket, is a blow to the committee, given they face fierce criticism in the unreleased report for their inaction. Moxon has been signed off with stress and cannot be called, while Arthur pulled out at the 11th hour after resigning from the club. Wayne Morton, the club’s director of medical services, had been listed on the call for evidence, but has said that he does not want to appear.