Azeem Rafiq expects ‘hundreds and thousands’ to share experiences of racism
Azeem Rafiq believes “hundreds and thousands” of cricketers could follow his lead by sharing experiences of racism in the game and warned Yorkshire cannot move forward until Andrew Gale and Martyn Moxon have left the club.
Rafiq rocked the sport with a damning parliamentary appearance in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee on Tuesday, during which he outlined in disturbing detail his own account of racial harassment and discrimination.
He made several fresh allegations against high-profile individuals, including ex-England players Gary Ballance, Tim Bresnan, Matthew Hoggard and Alex Hales, and expects the spotlight he has attracted to encourage others to speak up in their droves.
He told Sky Sports News: “I think you’re going to get it into the hundreds and thousands, possibly. I do feel it’s going to be a little bit of ‘floodgates’ and a lot of victims of abuse are going to come forward.”
A number of individuals have told their own stories through the media, including former Essex players Zoheb Sharif and Maurice Chambers in recent days, while a host of less public forums are now available.
Yorkshire have set up a whistleblower hotline, there is a joint reporting service initiated by the England and Wales Cricket Board and Professional Cricketers’ Association and the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket has already taken over 1,000 calls since opening its appeal for information.
Former White Rose spinner Rafiq, who battled tears as he told MPs how he fought depression and thoughts of suicide, said he felt an element of “closure” after his appearance, but the same may not be true for those he has accused.
He now wants more departures at Yorkshire, following that of former chair Roger Hutton, whose showing at the DCMS committee was described by Rafiq as “very weak”, and chief executive Mark Arthur.
Rafiq specifically believes Gale, who is currently suspended as head coach pending investigation over an historic tweet, and director of cricket Moxon, who is signed off work with a stress-related illness, are in untenable positions.
Both featured heavily in his written and verbal submissions, with Gale accused of constant racial abuse and Moxon of systematic bullying, including an outburst on Rafiq’s first day back following the stillbirth of his son.
“I don’t think Martyn and Andrew can (continue),” Rafiq said. “I don’t think it’s possible for Yorkshire to move forward with them in there, with them knowing full well what role they played in that institution.”
Neither man took up the chance to give their own evidence in Westminster, with Rafiq concluding: “They had an opportunity (on Tuesday) to come down here under parliamentary privilege to get their side of the story across and they didn’t.”
Asked if the duo, or Ballance, had made contact to apologise, Rafiq added: “No, and I don’t expect them to be. I still don’t think any of them think they’ve done anything wrong, which shows them for what they are.”
Earlier this month Ballance admitted using “racial slurs” against Rafiq, who says the former Test batter routinely used phrases including “P***”, “Raffa the Kaffir” and called all people of colour “Kevin” in derogatory fashion.
Yet Rafiq suggested to Sky that if Ballance “apologises properly” and is “given some sort of accountability” he may still have a role in Yorkshire’s new era.
David Lloyd, the former England batter, head coach and Sky commentator, did pick up the phone after it transpired he had exchanged disparaging comments about Rafiq in private.
“David Lloyd reached out and apologised to me personally,” Rafiq told BBC Sport.
“I said to him that’s all I ever wanted and I told him that it hurt me, he was completely out of order and he doesn’t even know me. He’s deeply sorry about it and I accept his apology.”
Bresnan apologised “unreservedly” via Twitter for “any part I played in contributing to Azeem Rafiq’s experience of being bullied” but stressed the accusation he frequently made racist comments was “absolutely not true”.
His current club, county champions Warwickshire, have vowed to take the claims seriously and chair Mark McCafferty says he will seek discussions with Rafiq “at the earliest opportunity” to explore the matter before taking Bresnan’s account.
Meanwhile, former Scotland international Majid Haq has called for the issue of racism to be formally investigated in the country.
Referring to a new equality action plan, Haq told BBC Scotland: “I think Cricket Scotland is trying to do something but there’s still a lot to be done. We need an investigation.
“How many ethnic minorities are on the board at Cricket Scotland? How many are on the coaching staff? How many are at the top level umpiring? Considering how many Asians play, is there enough representation in the national team?
“As an ethnic minority cricketer, you need to perform twice as well as a white counterpart to get the same opportunities.”
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