Azeem Rafiq said it was ‘time for truths’ as he heads to London today to address MPs over the racism scandal at Yorkshire Cricket Club.
The county’s former spinner issued the message via a tweet yesterday as he prepared for the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee hearing in Westminster.
Protected by parliamentary privilege, Rafiq will be able to comment on all aspects of his wide-ranging allegations of institutional racism at Yorkshire without fear of legal reprisal.
The 30-year-old, whose second spell at Headingley ended in 2018, initially voiced his claims in an interview in September 2020.
A protracted investigation by Yorkshire eventually concluded he was he was a victim of ‘racial harassment and bullying’ but, controversially, that nobody would be disciplined.
Their report into the matter has not been made public and the county’s handling of the case attracted heavy criticism, prompting the DCMS committee to become involved.
Rafiq kickstarted the racism row by launching a fierce backlash to the conclusion of Yorkshire CCC’s probe into his allegations earlier this year.
The club apologised to him and they later reached a settlement in his employment tribunal to try to put the case to bed.
Gary Ballance and Michael Vaughan revealed they were some of the stars accused of being racist between 2008 and 2018.
But Rafiq has continued to blast the club and accused it of being institutionally racist.
Azeem Rafiq said it was ‘time for truths’ as he heads to London today to address MPs over the racism scandal at Yorkshire Cricket Club
The county’s former spinner issued the message via a tweet yesterday as he prepared for the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee hearing in Westminster
Yorkshire Cricket Club scandal timeline:
2008-2018: Azeem Rafiq spends 10 years at Yorkshire CCC, becoming their youngest-ever captain and first of Asian origin in 2012.
September 2020: Yorkshire launch investigation as Rafiq reveals that ‘deep-rooted’ racism at the club left him ‘close to committing suicide’. ‘I would regularly come home from training and cry all day,’ he said. Accusations included people saying there was ‘too many of you lot’ referring to Rafiq and Asian team-mates.
December 2020: Rafiq files legal claim against the county, claiming he suffered ‘direct discrimination and harassment on the grounds of race, as well as victimisation and detriment as a result of his efforts to address racism at the club’.
June 2021: Report is delayed and Rafiq’s lawyer says the pushbacks ‘create a lack of faith in the entire process’. Employment tribunal is held but parties fail to resolve the dispute.
August 2021: Yorkshire issue ‘profound apologies’ to Rafiq as report finds he was ‘the victim of inappropriate behaviour’. But they do not accept the claim of institutional racism – Rafiq accuses the county of ‘fudging’ his claims and promised he was ‘not going away’.
September 2021: ECB are ‘very concerned’ with the summary of the panel’s findings, with Yorkshire admitting Rafiq was the victim of ‘racial harassment and bullying’.
But just seven of the 43 allegations made are upheld, with Yorkshire saying they do not intend to publish a full report.
October 2021: Yorkshire say they will not take disciplinary action against any of its employees following the report. Rafiq writes on Twitter that the club is ’embarrassing’, saying it gives a ‘green light’ to racism.
Last week: Details of the report are published by ESPNcricinfo, including a senior player’s admission that he repeatedly used the word ‘P***’ in reference to Rafiq, which was deemed ‘banter’. Health secretary Sajid Javid said ‘heads should roll’, with the Prime Minister asking the ECB to investigate.
Last week: MailOnline reveals the player was Rafiq’s former Yorkshire team-mate, England batsman Gary Ballance. Sponsors Anchor Butter, Yorkshire Tea and Emerald all cut ties with the club.
What’s next?: Rafiq, Yorkshire now ex-chairman Roger Hutton and director of cricket Martyn Moxon will give evidence to the DCMS committee on November 16. ‘Time for the full truth,’ said Rafiq on Tuesday. Yorkshire are facing commercial pressure with sponsors ending association, while legal claims are still not resolved.
Rafiq will be followed in giving evidence by former Yorkshire chair Roger Hutton, who resigned in the aftermath of the episode.
Former chief executive Mark Arthur and director of medical services Wayne Morton had initially been listed to attend but their names were not on a revised call list on Monday.
It was already anticipated that director of cricket Martyn Moxon would not be attending having recently been signed off from work due to a stress-related illness.
The cross-party committee hearing, which will be chaired by Conservative MP Julian Knight and shown live on the BBC Parliament channel, will also take evidence from England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive Tom Harrison. Other figures from the governing body will also appear.
Rafiq’s lawyer, Jen Robinson, told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme this morning: ‘This is the first time Azeem will be able to tell his story.
‘There has been an investigation in Yorkshire but that has been kept quiet…I think people will be surprised at what they hear he suffered at the club.
‘There’s a lot more to be said about the culture of racism and institutional racism at Yorkshire.
‘Of course Azeem has gone through so much, he was encouraged to speak out after the Black Lives Matter movement and for the past year the club has done nothing but try to sweep it under the carpet and keep it quiet and this is the first time he can really tell his story.
‘This is the first part of what he wants to see change which is to acknowledge the problem, talk about the problem and break the silence around racism in cricket.
‘He wants to make sure kids coming through cricket don’t go through what he went through.
‘This has never really been about individual players or individual people, for Azeem this has always been about taking on institutional racism and taking on a culture at Yorkshire where it was not only accepted to use racial slurs, it had almost become normalised.
‘He may well give examples at the committee today and it’s important people understand what happened. It’s about changing the way people are treated in the sport and making sure people feel comfortable to come forward to speak out about the racism they suffer and to create a space for everyone in the game which is more inclusive and diverse.
‘This is really the first vital step. Already we’ve seen the club is implementing an anonymous whistleblowing system where players and staff can come forward and feel comfortable to speak about their experiences and already we’re seeing other clubs around the country considering the same sort of system.’
Rafiq appeared to be embracing his opportunity on Monday, tweeting a video clip of a motorway trip captioned ‘time for TRUTHS’. The implication was that he was travelling south with new details to share.
It comes as footage has emerged of the moment Michael Vaughan shakes hands with Yorkshire’s Asian cricket stars ahead of the same 2009 match where he is accused of racially abusing them.
Vaughan says the Sky Sports footage shows a completely different version to the one given by Rafiq who has accused Vaughan of saying: ‘There are too many of you lot.’
The comment was allegedly made ahead of the 2009 T20 match between Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire and the footage shows Vaughan shaking hands with four Yorkshire team-mates – Adil Rashid, Azeem Rafiq, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, and Ajmal Shahzad.
Rafiq’s claims have been bolstered by current England spin bowler Adil Rashid who said Vaughan made the comments to ‘a group of us Asian players’.
Former England captain Vaughan has categorically denied the claim and issued a statement in which he described the accusations as ‘extremely upsetting’.
He said: ‘I remember the match clearly because it was the first time in Yorkshire’s history that four players of Asian heritage had been selected in the same team.
‘I made a point of shaking all four players’ hands that day because I recognised it was a significant moment.’
The statement, included in full below, went on to say that being confronted by the allegations 11 years after it happened ‘is the worst thing [he has] ever experienced’.
It comes as the racism row continues to rip through English cricket, with Essex the latest club to be rocked with accusations.
ECB bosses vowed to investigate claims they failed to pursue allegations at the side that were lodged three years ago.
John Faragher resigned as its chairman following a claim he used racist language at a board meeting in 2017.
Rashid said he has finally spoken out on the alleged incident with Vaughan in a bid to ‘stamp out the cancer’ of racism in professional sport.
He told the Cricketer: ‘I wanted to concentrate as much as possible on my cricket and to avoid distractions to the detriment of the team but I can confirm Azeem Rafiq’s recollection of Michael Vaughan’s comments to a group of us Asian players.
‘I’m encouraged by the fact that a parliamentary committee seems to be trying to improve the situation, whether that’s holding people accountable or getting changes made at an institutional level.
‘These can only be positive developments. I will of course be more than happy to support any official efforts when the time is right.’
Gary Ballance is among the cricket stars accused of being racist between 2008 and 2018
Former England captain Michael Vaughan has categorically denied the claim and issued a statement in which he described the accusations as ‘extremely upsetting’
Rafiq claimed Vaughan said in a 2009 County Championship match: ‘There are too many of you lot. We need to do something about it.’
Ex-Pakistan bowler Naved-ul-Hasan said he backed Rafiq’s claim but former seamer Ajmal Shahzad said he did not hear the exchange at which he was present.
Vaughan was stood down from his BBC Radio 5 Live show after saying he was named in the independent report into Yorkshire’s treatment of Rafiq.
But he is still set to commentate on the Ashes this winter after receiving the backing of Australian rights-holders Fox Sports, who will provide the audio to BT Sport.
BBC executives are nervous of siding with Vaughan due to the sensitivity of the allegations against him.
But the 47-year-old has a long-term contract with Fox, who even paid him last winter despite border restrictions preventing him from travelling to Australia.
Vaughan strongly denied the claims against him, releasing a fresh statement yesterday afternoon.
He said: ‘It is extremely upsetting that this completely false accusation has been made against me by a former teammate, apparently supported by two other players. For some time, Ajmal Shazad has been on record as saying that he never heard me say what has been suggested. I have been in contact with the six other players from that team and not one of them has any recollection of the remark being made.
‘I fully accept that perspectives differ, and I have great sympathy for what Azeem Rafiq has gone through, but I hope everyone understands why I cannot allow this to go unchallenged or my reputation to be trashed unfairly.’
Social media users have been split on how to view Vaughan after the claims emerged.
Some dug up old tweets where he appeared to make controversial comments, with one in 2010 saying: ‘Not many English people live in London.. I need to learn a new language.’
But others highlighted comments made in his book which span a positive light on Yorkshire’s first match with four Asian men featuring.
The passage reads: ‘The first match against Nottinghamshire on Monday 22 June was quietly significant because it was the first time that we had four players of Asian heritage featuring for Yorkshire.
‘This is going to be the shape of things to come for Yorkshire, as many of our most promising players come from the Asian community and it ought to be a good thing for our cricket.’
Key questions ahead of today’s meeting between Rafiq and MPs
Who else will be there?
Roger Hutton, who resigned as Yorkshire chair, will follow Rafiq, who begins at 9.30am on Tuesday.
The DCMS website also suggested Mark Arthur, who quit as chief executive last week, would appear, along with Wayne Morton, the club’s head of medical services.
Azeem Rafiq will be quizzed by MPs in Westminster amid his allegations of racism in cricket
Former Yorkshire cricket chief Roger Hutton will follow Rafiq after his appearance at 9.30am
That no longer appears to be the case. Martyn Moxon, Yorkshire’s director of cricket, was already ruled out on health grounds. Another absentee due to illness is acting ECB chair Barry O’Brien, who has had a Covid test.
Alan Dickinson, another ECB board member, will deputise. The other members of the ECB facing questions on its process for dealing with complaints of racism are chief executive Tom Harrison, Meena Botros, the governing body’s director of legal and integrity and Kate Miller, its chief diversity and communications officer.
What other key areas will the hearing focus on?
Rafiq has made clear that his focus is not on individuals but the failure of the club to follow its own procedures when he reported racism.
Rafiq says he will not discuss individuals but rather the failure of the club to follow protocol
But the lack of sanctions for individuals is also likely to be at the forefront of discussion after the investigation found he had been subjected to racial harassment and bullying yet Yorkshire deemed that nobody should face disciplinary action.
The DCMS committee may also wish to examine in greater detail some of the allegations not upheld by the report, such as Gary Ballance’s admission that he regularly used the word ‘P**i’ — which the inquiry dismissed as ‘banter’.
Will Joe Root take part?
No. He is in Australia preparing for the Ashes but Rafiq, who captained Root at Under 19 level, may challenge last week’s claim by the 30-year-old that he had not witnessed or heard of racism during his two decades at the club.
And Michael Vaughan?
He is not involved either but the timing of Adil Rashid’s statement on Monday backing Rafiq’s claims means it is sure to be one of the main episodes discussed.