English cricket is ‘rife with racism’, British parliamentary panel is told

FORMER Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq broke down in tears on Tuesday as he told a British parliamentary committee of “inhuman” treatment at the cricket club and described the sport in England as riddled with racism.

n more than an hour of testimony, Rafiq (30) a former England Under-19s captain of Pakistani descent, catalogued a culture of widespread racism at Yorkshire.

He and other players with Asian backgrounds were subjected to racial slurs such as “You lot sit over there” and referred to as “Paki” and “elephant washers”, Rafiq said.

“I felt isolated, humiliated at times,” he said during emotional testimony to the parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) panel.

The scandal has shaken English sport, cost Yorkshire sponsors and the right to host England internationals, seen the club’s top brass quit, and embroiled former England captain Michael Vaughan and present England skipper Joe Root.

Rafiq, a Muslim offspin bowler who played for Yorkshire from 2008-14 and again from 2016-18, recounted having red wine poured down his throat as a 15-year-old and spoke of Asian players being singled out for mistakes while they were fasting.

Rafiq broke down as he recounted how, the day he had returned to the club in 2018 after his baby son was stillborn, director of cricket Martyn Moxon had “ripped the shreds off me” in a meeting.

“Some of the club officials were inhuman,” said Rafiq. “They weren’t really bothered about the fact that I was at training one day and I get a phone call to say there’s no heartbeat.”

He also said the racism he endured at Yorkshire was “without a shadow of doubt” replicated across the country, and said British Asian representation in the professional game had dropped 40pc since 2010. He told the hearing he would not want his son “anywhere near cricket” and that players from other counties had contacted him with similar experiences.

Former Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton, who resigned following Yorkshire’s failure to discipline anyone in response to a club report into Rafiq’s allegations, said the ECB should have carried out the investigation.

“It would have been far better had they done that. This was a whistleblowing claim from 2007 to 2018, against the executive of the club,” Hutton told the hearing.

Rafiq said there was a toxic atmosphere at Yorkshire under captain Gary Ballance, vice-captain Tim Bresnan, head coach Andrew Gale and Moxon, saying the constant racist abuse let him have suicidal thoughts.

Recalling a night out during a 2017 pre-season tour, Rafiq said: “We were in a place and Gary Ballance walks over and goes: ‘Why are you talking to him? You know he’s a Paki.’ This happened in front of teammates. It happened in front of coaching staff.”

In a November 4 statement Ballance, who played 23 tests for England, acknowledged he used racial slurs and said he deeply regretted some of the language he used when he was younger.

Yorkshire said last week that Moxon was off work with a stress-related illness, while Gale had been suspended for an alleged anti-Semitic tweet he sent in 2010.

Reuters has been unable to reach either for comment.

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