Azeem Rafiq recalls experiences of racism at Yorkshire as details emerge

County Cricket
Azeem Rafiq

Yorkshire whistleblower Azeem Rafiq delivered an emotional and explosive account of his harrowing experience of racism in cricket to MPs on Tuesday, with a series of new and shocking allegations that implicate a handful of high-profile former England players.

Over the course of a lengthy appearance in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee he offered up a damning, and damaging account of his life in English cricket before the publication of a written statement escalated matters even further.

Over the course of what could go down as a watershed day for the sport, ex-internationals Matthew Hoggard, Tim Bresnan, Alex Hales and Gary Ballance had all been subject to fresh claims of racial discrimination that paint a torrid picture of how Rafiq’s dream career turned into a battle against depression.

Azeem Rafiq spoke candidly on Tuesday
Azeem Rafiq spoke candidly on Tuesday (PA)

In the published written statement from his now-settled employment tribunal with Yorkshire, Rafiq said that Bresnan’s treatment of him led to “suicidal thoughts” in 2017, with a later apology from Bresnan described by Rafiq as “lip service”.

Elsewhere he restated an existing allegation against former England captain Michael Vaughan and also aired a long list of complaints against Yorkshire’s director of Martyn Moxon and head coach Andrew Gale. Neither of the pair are currently active in their posts, with Moxon signed off with a stress-related illness and Gale suspended pending an investigation into an offensive historic tweet.

Rafiq said he wished to become “the voice of the voiceless” as he reflected on cricket’s wider problems around race, making it clear that he felt the shortcomings go right to the very top.

Disturbing details

As well as going into disturbing details of his time at Headingley, the 30-year-old claimed Ballance’s derogatory use of the term ‘Kevin’ as a blanket term for all people of colour was “an open secret in the England dressing room”. He further alleged that another former England batter, Alex Hales, had named his dog Kevin because it was black.

Ballance has previously admitted using a “racial slur” against Rafiq over the course of a deep friendship but the latter rejected that assertion. Instead he says Ballance coined the unwanted and offensive nickname “Raffa the kaffir” and would “constantly talk down to me and make racist jokes, designed to undermine me and make me feel small”. Examples involved references to corner shops, Sheikhs and being related to other Asian men.

Rafiq has made a number of allegations against Gary Ballance
Rafiq has made a number of allegations against Gary Ballance (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Ballance is accused of repeatedly calling Rafiq ‘P***’, an allegation that is also levelled individually at Hoggard, Bresnan and Gale.

Hoggard is also said to have used the phrase “elephant washer”, subjecting Rafiq to such abuse “on a daily basis…all day, every day” and making players of Asian heritage sit together in the changing room. During his oral evidence, Rafiq credited Hoggard with reaching out to apologise.

No such mitigation was offered for Bresnan, of whom Rafiq wrote: “Tim frequently made racist comments and was unduly harsh towards me compared to white British players, which became so unbearable that I made a formal complaint against him in 2017”.

Gale is also alleged to have used a variety of racial slurs as well using his leadership positions to subject Rafiq to “discriminatory treatment and bullying” which held back his career.