More players alleged to support Azeem Rafiq in claim against Yorkshire CCC

AZEEM RAFIQ has claimed that his allegations of institutional racism against Yorkshire County Cricket Club have been corroborated by two leading former players and said that he is seeking an urgent meeting with the England and Wales Cricket Board in an effort to make the sport more inclusive.

Azeem Rafiq (Picture: SWpix.com)

Rafiq said his claims have been endorsed by the former Yorkshire and international stars Tino Best and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, plus “a host of former Yorkshire employees” after he alleged in September that he was driven to the brink of suicide by the racism that he experienced while playing for the club between 2008 and 2018.

The claims, which Yorkshire deny, are the subject of an ongoing independent investigation which is expected to publish its findings early next year.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

In the meantime, Rafiq is seeking immediate talks with the ECB to “develop further safeguards against racism for all age groups” after the governing body last month announced new game-wide equality measures in response to accusations that it is also institutionally racist, charges levelled by the former umpires John Holder and Ismail Dawood, the ex-Yorkshire wicketkeeper.

West Indies' Tino Best (Picture: PA)

Rafiq, a former Yorkshire and England age-group captain, was interviewed by the panel investigating his own allegations on November 13 and concurrently issued a press statement in which he alleged that Asian players at Yorkshire had been called “Pakis”, “elephant washers” and told to “go back to where you came from”, claiming that he was “bullied and targeted because of my race”.

Now the 29-year-old has issued another press statement through his legal representatives with quotes attributed to the ex-West Indies fast bowler Best, who played for Yorkshire in 2010, which alleged: “My time at Yorkshire… was a mixed bag… some of the things I saw towards the players of Pakistani descent wasn’t good. Every day I could hear them complaining about how they were being treated…. these three guys never looked settled or happy and that was hurtful to see.”

Quotes in the same statement attributed to Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, who represented Yorkshire in 2008/2009, referenced “systematic taunting” at Yorkshire and the comment: “I agree with each and every statement of Azeem… many Asian players were affected by their (Yorkshire’s) bad attitude, including me and Azeem.” Rafiq’s press release also contained comments attributed to others who have worked within Yorkshire cricket, Taj Butt and Tony Bowry, which alleged racist prejudice.

Rafiq said: “I want to thank my former Yorkshire colleagues for supporting me and speaking out about their experiences. I know from personal experience how difficult this is, but we’re all working hard to make sure the sport we love – a sport that famously bridges cultures from the Caribbean to Europe, Africa to Asia – can be enjoyed by everyone who wants to play.”

Rafiq claimed his experiences directly led to the ECB measures announced last month, which include a new independent commission for equality in cricket, a forum for race in cricket and a new equality code of conduct.

He said he was “pleased that these initiatives have also been endorsed by Yorkshire County Cricket Club”, which is to appoint a Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the New Year, but said such reforms “must only be the start”, adding: “I will be seeking an urgent meeting with the ECB to discuss how we can instil cultural and racial acceptance through all age groups.

“No one must feel left out playing this sport, which for me is the real beautiful game.”

In response to Rafiq’s latest press release, Yorkshire issued a statement which read: “We recognise that county clubs, with their vast pipeline of talent across age groups, are crucial to ensuring equality and addressing issues of racism in cricket. We wholeheartedly support the recently announced ECB initiatives and want to be part of meaningful change across all levels of the game.

“In addition to the ECB measures, we will also seek to implement the recommendations due to be made by the independent investigation panel considering the allegations made by our former player, Azeem Rafiq.

“We appreciate that this is a distressing time for all involved, but this is an important investigation and we have committed to a full and thorough process to provide an in-depth set of recommendations which we will publish in early 2021.

“Cricket is enjoyed by diverse audiences throughout the UK and around the world, but it is clear that we must do much more to improve inclusion, address issues of inequality and truly reflect and embrace the many communities who contribute so much to our sport.”