Azeem Rafiq believes the floodgates have opened on cricket’s racism scandal and that thousands of victims will follow his lead in sharing their experiences of discrimination.
More than 1,000 people have already responded to a call for evidence, with the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket inundated with complaints to their new reporting system from those who have been subjected to prejudice.
And the man whose allegations of institutionalised racism at Yorkshire have rocked the game insisted on Wednesday there are many more to come.
Azeem Rafiq gave evidence about his experiences of racism in cricket during a parliamentary hearing in London on Tuesday
‘It’s going to get into the hundreds and thousands,’ said Rafiq, as cricket began coming to terms with the fall-out from the former Yorkshire off-spinner’s powerful testimony before MPs at a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee hearing.
‘I do feel it’s going to be a little bit of “floodgates” and a lot of victims of abuse are going to come forward,’ he added.
Yorkshire have already opened a whistleblowing hotline and Essex, the second county hit by serious allegations of racist behaviour by players, a coach and their former chairman John Faragher, are set to follow suit.
Now the commission, formed by the ECB and chaired by Cindy Butts, a member of the Kick It Out board, are exploring the lack of progression of black and Asian players across talent pathways and the professional game, as well as scrutinising ECB leadership on equity.
‘Since launching part one of our call for evidence last week, over 1,000 people have already come forward to share their experiences with us,’ said Butts, a former deputy chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority.
‘It is crucial people across the game, many likely inspired by Azeem’s bravery, have the chance to be heard. We continue to urge anyone who has experienced discrimination to respond to our call. We will go where the evidence takes us.’
The spin bowler told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee that racism was rife at Yorkshire and no one in leadership challenged it
Rafiq said racism had seeped into the England dressing room, where it was an ‘open secret’ that the England and Yorkshire player Gary Ballance (pictured) used the word ‘Kevin’ as a derogatory word for black and Asian players, an allegation Ballance has denied
Ballance was friends with another England batsman Alex Hales (pictured) and the committee heard how Hales named his dog Kevin because it was black
Rafiq also criticised other players not directly involved in racist behaviour for failing to recognise the damaging culture and doing nothing to stamp it out. They included England test captain Joe Root (pictured) – described by Rafiq as ‘a good man’ – who was present when racist slurs were made
Another seismic day for the game saw Rafiq follow up his appearance in front of MPs by calling for more heads to roll at his home county, after the resignations of chief executive Mark Arthur and chair Roger Hutton.
The ECB’s chief executive Tom Harrison is also under pressure after his car crash performance before MPs went down particularly badly with the 18 counties.
Rafiq was joined in his condemnation of Yorkshire by Ismail Dawood, the first British Asian to play first-class cricket for the White Rose county, who slammed the ‘sub-human’ culture at Headingley.
Rafiq, who on Wednesday described Hutton’s performance at the hearing as ‘very weak’, now believes the positions of coach Andrew Gale and director of cricket Martyn Moxon, both accused of racist behaviour at the club, are untenable.
‘I don’t think Andrew and Martyn can continue,’ Rafiq told Sky News. ‘I don’t think it’s possible for Yorkshire to move forward with them in there, with them both knowing full well what role they played in that institution.’
Gale is currently suspended by Yorkshire over an historic anti-semitic tweet and Moxon has been signed off work suffering from stress. Their jobs are on the line and neither took the chance to explain themselves to MPs, a move condemned by Rafiq.
‘They had an opportunity to come down here under parliamentary privilege to get their side of the story across and they didn’t,’ he said.
Neither Gale and Moxon, nor former captain Gary Ballance, three of the most heavily implicated figures in the affair, have followed the examples of Matthew Hoggard and, latterly, Tim Bresnan in apologising to Rafiq. ‘They haven’t been in touch and I don’t expect them to,’ said Rafiq.
Rafiq (second right) pictured in his playing days at Yorkshire between Ballance (right) and Root (third right) who is now captain of the England Test side
‘I still don’t think any of them think they’ve done anything wrong, which shows them for what they are.’ But Rafiq stopped short of advocating the sack for Ballance, perhaps the man who came out worst from the evidence revealed on Tuesday. The former England batsman repeatedly used the word P**i to describe Rafiq.
‘I think Gary, if he apologises properly and has some sort of acceptance, should be given some sort of accountability, whatever that may be. I think he should be allowed to play,’ he said.
One man who did pick up the phone after his name was brought up by Rafiq over remarks made during a private Twitter conversation was Sky commentator and Sportsmail contributor David Lloyd.
‘He rang me and I told him honestly what I thought about his comments. They were completely out of order,’ said Rafiq. ‘But the over-riding thing is that he rang, he apologised and I accepted his apology. Anyone who apologises, that’s all I ever wanted.’
Rafiq said ‘action is needed now’ and that he does not want his son ‘anywhere near’ cricket
Dawood, who played for Yorkshire in 2004 and 2005, backed up Rafiq’s claims when he said the club ‘stuck its head in the sand and never tackled the problems of the culture at its heart’.
He added on BBC 5 Live: ‘Some of the things that went off there would never be accepted in any other environment. It was a rather toxic environment then and it seems as though it still is.
‘Yorkshire have never accepted they have a problem. They always felt they were better than others and the debacle is there for all to see. It’s really difficult for Azeem to talk about and it’s also difficult for me because it’s bringing back memories of how many of us were treated as sub-human.’
HIS DAMNING REVELATIONS OF YEARS OF ABUSE
- Azeem Rafiq says he had wine poured down his throat aged 15 by a senior county player
- He was ‘ripped to shreds’ by the coaching director on his return to the club after his unborn son died
- Asian players were regularly called P*** and ‘elephant washers’
- England international Gary Ballance ‘called all players of colour Kevin’
- Test captain Joe Root was present when racial slurs were made but failed to intervene
- Rafiq was labelled a ‘troublemaker’ after reporting bowler Tim Bresnan for bullying
- Bosses at Yorkshire tried to smear and discredit him after he went public with racism claims
- There is racism across the county game but other players are ‘too scared’ to speak out
- The sport’s ruling body’s race initiatives were ‘box-ticking’ exercises when ‘action’ was needed
- The players’ association was ‘inept’ and failed to support Rafiq during his ordeal