‘Floodgates will open’: Azeem Rafiq warns ‘thousands’ of cricketers could come forward with claims of racist abuse as he calls for ‘total clear-out’ of Yorkshire leadership and reveals he’s faced death threats

  • The ex-bowler claimed there will be an opening of the ‘floodgates’ of claimants
  • It comes as English cricket starts to pick up the pieces following damning claims
  • Rafiq’s testimony for the DCMS committee slapped down huge stars of the game
  • He made claims at Tim Bresnan, Matthew Hoggard, Alex Hales and Gary Ballance

Azeem Rafiq has said he thinks ‘hundreds and thousands’ of cricketers will come forward to share their stories of racism after his explosive interview yesterday.

The spin bowler turned whistleblower claimed there will be an opening of the ‘floodgates’ where victims of alleged abuse fight back.

He also opened up for the first time on the huge number of death threats he has received, with one person saying they would blow him up.

It comes as English cricket starts to pick up the pieces following his damning claims about racism in the game.

Rafiq’s testimony for the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee slapped down some of first class cricket’s biggest stars.

He made racial discrimination claims against Tim Bresnan, Matthew Hoggard, Alex Hales, Gary Ballance and David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd.

He also warned Yorkshire CCC cannot move forward until Andrew Gale and Martyn Moxon have left the club and it has a ‘total clear out’.

Azeem Rafiq choked back tears yesterday as he revealed the word P*** was ‘used constantly’ during his time at Yorkshire County Cricket Club

Rafiq of Yorkshire bowls during the NatWest T20 Blast Semi Final against Durham at Edgbaston in 2016

1,000 step forward with race, gender and disability claims in ONE WEEK since a call for evidence

Azeem Rafiq’s bravery in speaking out against racism has been credited for encouraging more than 1,000 people coming forward with their own experiences of discrimination. 

The Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket began an open call for evidence last week and has been inundated with online survey submissions since from individuals who have been subjected to prejudice on grounds of race, gender or disability.

Chaired by Cindy Butts, a member of the Kick It Out board and a former deputy chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, ICEC is exploring the lack of progression of black and Asian players across talent pathways and the professional game as well as scrutinising the leadership of the England and Wales Cricket Board when it comes to matters of equity.

Rafiq told Sky News this afternoon: ‘I think you’re going to get it into the hundreds and thousands, possibly.

‘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.’

Rafiq said he felt an element of ‘closure’ after his appearance, but the same may not be true for those he has accused.

He now wants more departures at Yorkshire after former chair Roger Hutton, whose showing at the DCMS committee was described by Rafiq as ‘very weak’.

Rafiq specifically believes Gale, who is currently suspended as head coach, and director of cricket Moxon, who is off with a stress-related illness, are untenable.

Both featured heavily in his allegations, with Gale accused of constant racial abuse and Moxon of systematic bullying.

He continued: ‘I don’t think Martyn and Andrew can (continue). I don’t think it’s possible for Yorkshire to move forward with them in there, with them knowing full well what role they played in that institution.’

Rafiq said: ‘They had an opportunity yesterday to come down here under parliamentary privilege to get their side of the story across and they didn’t.’

He added to the BBC he had received a number of death threats since telling his story.

He said: ‘We’ve had threats throughout, different types, but it comes with the territory. You’ve got a lot of people in denial and it’s sad but hopefully we can get through it.’

George Dobell, the journalist who first published his claims, earlier said: ‘He had one on Friday when someone came into his fish and chip shop and said they were going to detonate a bomb. He’s put up with a lot but he’s prevailed.’

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.

Rafiq yesterday told MPs over the course of almost an hour and 40 minutes of explosive, emotional evidence that he wished to become ‘the voice of the voiceless’ in the issue of race in cricket and used his platform to give a disturbing account of his own experiences.

He claimed Ballance’s derogatory use of the term ‘Kevin’ as a blanket term for all people of colour was ‘an open secret in the England dressing room’ and further alleged that Hales had given the name to his black dog.

Ballance, Bresnan, Hoggard and Gale are all accused of making racist comments to Rafiq on a regular basis in front of team-mates and club employees.

Bresnan later apologised unreservedly for ‘any part I played in contributing to Azeem Rafiq’s experience of being bullied’ but stressed the accusation he frequently made racist comments was ‘absolutely not true’.

But his current club, county champions Warwickshire, have vowed to take the claims seriously and chair Mark McCafferty says he will seek discussions with Rafiq ‘at the earliest opportunity’ to explore the matter.

Hoggard, Hales and Gale have yet to respond to requests for comment, while Ballance has opted not to add to his own previous statement on his relationship with Rafiq, which included an apology. Rafiq also revealed that Hoggard had phoned him to say sorry last year.

Former England batter, coach and current Sky commentator Lloyd did decide to make a public statement after he was mentioned at the DCMS session. Rafiq suggested Lloyd exchanged disparaging messages about him in private – a symptom of what he saw as a wider attempt to discredit his story.

Sky has said it is investigating the matter and Lloyd posted on Twitter: ‘I deeply regret my actions, and I apologise most sincerely to Azeem and to the Asian cricket community for doing this, and for any offence caused.’

England captain Joe Root was deemed a ‘good man’ by Rafiq, and exonerated of using any racist language, but Rafiq has clearly stated he was there when such abuse occurred – contrary to his own recollections.

‘I found it hurtful because Rooty was Gary’s housemate and had been involved in a lot of the socialising where I was called a ‘P***’,’ he said.

‘It shows how normal it was that even a good man like him doesn’t see it for what it was. It’s not going to affect Joe, but it’s something I remember every day.’

Baroness Warsi, the first British Muslim cabinet minister and now serving in the House of Lords, has called on the England and Wales Cricket Board to lead a period of change.

Apparently unimpressed by the select committee appearance of an ECB delegation after Rafiq, led by chief executive Tom Harrison, she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘What was disappointing for me yesterday was the way in which the ECB felt they could step aside in the past because the clubs accused of racism wanted to mark their own homework.

Gary Ballance  (pictured playing for England against South Africa in July 2017) is among the cricket stars accused of being racist between 2008 and 2018 by Rafiq

Rafiq hit out at England Test captain Joe Root (left), claiming he was on those nights out where he was called a ‘P***’. But he later said Root was a good man. He claimed fellow international star Hales (right) named his black dog Kevin after Ballance often used it as a term for black people

Rafiq also made claims over Tim Bresnan’s (left) behaviour at the club, saying he was among ‘six or seven’ players to have made a bullying complaint against the star in 2017. Rafiq said Matthew Hoggard (right) had apologised to him after watching him being interviewed about his experience at Yorkshire

Former England captain Michael Vaughan (pictured in 2018) has categorically denied the claims made by Rafiq against him and issued a statement in which he described the accusations as ‘extremely upsetting’

‘So it is time for the ECB to be involved with a full inquiry which includes a truth and reconciliation process that allows anonymity because that is what players want.

‘What happened to Azeem was the tip of the iceberg in Yorkshire and what we are seeing happening in Yorkshire is the tip of the iceberg as to what is happening in English cricket.

‘I have spoken, as has Azeem and others, to many young and talented players – players who have now given up cricket because of what they have faced in other counties and clubs up and down the country and this is an endemic issue.’

Former Essex player Zoheb Sharif revisited his own recent allegations of racism at Essex, calling on the club, and others, to act decisively.

He told GMB: ‘It is really sad that it still goes on and hopefully now with Azeem talking, and a few others talking, we can put an end to this once and for all.

‘I don’t think Essex have formally launched an investigation yet. I spoke a little bit to the chairman at Essex.

‘I hope they are (taking it seriously), especially with Azeem’s case. It is not just me, there are others at Essex who have come out, too.’

Essex chair John Stephenson acknowledged Sharif’s claims, saying he was ‘shocked and saddened’ and outlining a ‘zero tolerance policy towards racism’ at Chelmsford.

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