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‘Incredibly hurt’ Azeem Rafiq unimpressed as Joe Root says he wants changes at Yorkshire cricket club

Azeem Rafiq said he is “incredibly hurt” after Joe Root responded to the racism allegations that have rocked Yorkshire Country Cricket Club.

In a news conference, Root, who England’s test captain and a player at the club, told reporters he had never personally witnessed incidents of racism at the club.

He added he will speak to new chairman Lord Patel, who replaced Roger Hutton following his resignation last week, at “some point in the future”.

Within hours, Rafiq wrote on Twitter: “Disappointed is not even the feeling. Incredibly hurt.

“But uncomfortable truths are hard to accept it seems.”

In an earlier statement Root said he wants to “see change and action” following the recent racism scandal that the sport has been mired in and added that the allegations have “fractured our game and torn lives apart”.

“We must now recover and come back together as fans, players, media, and those who work within cricket. We have an opportunity to make the sport I love better for everyone,” he added.

It comes after a report found former player Azeem Rafiq was a victim of “racial harassment and bullying” at Yorkshire CCC but the club said it would not discipline anyone.

The club has been widely criticised, with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) suspending their right to host international matches and other major games, while several sponsors have ended their association with the club.

In his statement, Root added: “I just want the sport to be a place where everyone is enjoying it for the beautiful game it is and feels equal and safe.

“It hurts knowing this has happened at YCCC so close to home. It’s my club that I care passionately about it. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting. There is no debate about racism, no one side or other. It is simply intolerable.

“We need to educate, unify and reset. I will reach out to YCCC new Chair, Lord Patel, to offer support however I’m able.

“We have to find a way to move forward and make sure this never happens again. In my opinion, this is a societal issue and needs addressing further afield than just cricket.”

He added that cricket as a sport has to “do more” and “we need to educate more and earlier; we must call it out straight away and have our eyes and ears open more”.

“With the Ashes fast approaching, I’d really like the fans back home to unite and get behind us as a team. We will be playing for you all,” he said.

Rafiq said he was subject to racism at YCCC while he was playing there between 2008 and 2018 but an inquiry found the conduct didn’t warrant any “disciplinary action”.

Rafiq, who told Sky News last year that he had felt suicidal because of “deep-rooted” racism at the club, had tweeted his disbelief at the statement and called on the ECB to take appropriate action.

A leaked report later suggested that the use of “the P word” towards Rafiq was made in the context of “friendly banter”.

Following the revelations in October, YCCC was criticised by MPs and key sponsors dropped their deals with the club, including Nike and Yorkshire Tea.

Former England batsman Gary Ballance, who plays country cricket at YCCC, admitted using a racial slur against Rafiq.

The ECB suspended Ballance from selection for the national team, although he has not played for England since 2017, while former England captain Michael Vaughan missed his BBC radio show after allegations against him, which he denies.

On 5 November, Lord Kamlesh Patel of Bradford was appointed as the new chairman of the club after former chair Roger Hutton, Hanif Malik OBE and Stephen Wills stepped down from their roles at the club.

Andrew Gale, a first-team coach at the club, has also been suspended over a historical tweet and director of cricket Martyn Moxon was signed off with a “stress-related illness”.

Lord Patel announced that Rafiq accepted a six-figure settlement from the club, putting an end to the employment tribunal claim he launched and he is due to appear before MPs later this month.

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