Reputation of English cricket in tatters as Rafiq exposes toxic racism

Zoheb Sharif says he was called ‘bomber’ in changing room

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Spinner Azeem Rafiq said “inhuman” racism cost him his career at Yorkshire County Cricket Club where he was routinely called “P***” by team-mates. In a series of shocking revelations, the Pakistan-born player gave detailed and highly damning evidence of “institutional racism” at Yorkshire to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport committee. For nearly two hours Rafiq related to a stunned group of MPs how he was told “you lot go and sit near the toilets”, routinely called the P-word or an “elephant washer”.

He also detailed how the director of professional cricket at the club Martyn Moxon “ripped the shreds off me” just a day after the death of his baby son when his wife suffered a miscarriage.

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

Even as a teenager Rafiq said he had experienced racism in cricket when, despite being a Muslim, he was pinned down and had red wine poured down his throat by team-mates at his club.

Speaking with parliamentary privilege, the 30-year-old frequently broke down in tears as he told of a “toxic” club, full of racism, abuse and bullying – and warned that he had been told similar problems were present at other counties.

“P*** is not banter. Racism is not banter,” an emotional Rafiq told MPs.

He added: “Other people [victims of racism] are still fearful to come forward. I should have never ever been treated the way I was treated.”

Towards the end of his powerful testimony, Rafiq was asked whether he believed he lost his career as a result of racism. “Yes I do,” was his pained reply.

He added: “It’s horrible. But I am a massive believer in that everything happens for a reason. And hopefully in five years’ time we are going to see a big change.”

Former England captain Michael Vaughan, as well as ex-England players Gary Ballance and Tim Bresnan, were all named by Rafiq in his evidence.

He also claimed current England captain Joe Root had been present on nights out when Rafiq was called the P-word.

He further told how former Yorkshire and England bowler Matthew Hoggard had rung him and apologised for his own behaviour and any offensive language he may have used. Ballance in particular was singled out to have been a serial racist. The Zimbabwe-born batsman was said to have referred to non-white people as “Kevin”, a name England team-mate Alex Hales went on to call his black dog.

Rafiq played for Yorkshire between 2008 and 2014 and again between 2016 and 2018.He first alleged racial harassment and bullying against the county and accused them of institutional racism in September last year.

However, an investigation found there was “no question” Rafiq had been subjected to racial harassment and bullying. No individuals faced disciplinary action. Steve Brine, one of the MPs on the committee yesterday, described the evidence given by the player as “a horror show”.

His testimony was followed by evidence from former Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton, who resigned last week. Asked why no disciplinary action had been taken against Ballance in particular, Hutton said: “I had no executive authority or responsibility in my role.”

England & Wales Cricket Board chief executive Tom Harrison also addressed MPs. He accepted there was “an awful lot more work to do” to address racism in the game. And he admitted that how Yorkshire had handled the report into Rafiq’s claims had shown institutional racism.

Boris Johnson has called on the cricket authorities to take “immediate action” in response to the revelations.

Meanwhile, David Lloyd has apologised to Rafiq who claimed that the ex-England coach and Sky Sports pundit had attempted to “smear” him in messages sent to a colleague last year. Sky will now investigate the 74-year-old’s comments.

Vaughan has denied he had referred to Asian players at Yorkshire, including Rafiq as “too many of you lot”.

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