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Yorkshire to launch investigation into racism allegations following Azeem Rafiq Wisden.com interview

by Wisden Staff 4 minute read

Yorkshire have announced they will launch a formal investigation following allegations made by their former off-spinner Azeem Rafiq regarding racism he experienced during his time at the club.

In an interview published in August on Wisden.com, Rafiq, who was released by Yorkshire for a second time in 2018, was asked about his experiences coming up through the pathway system at the club as a British Asian; born in Pakistan before moving to Barnsley as a child, Rafiq made his first-team debut in 2008 and captained the club in 2012 at the age of 21.

“There’s one comment that stands out for me,” Rafiq said, recounting one of his experiences at the club. “And I remember it to this day. It was around the time of my debut. There was me, Adil Rashid, Ajmal Shahzad and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan. We’re walking onto the field and one player said: ‘There’s too many of you lot. We need to have a word about that.’

“You can imagine the sort of thing that leaves on you, and you hear these things all day, every day.”

Rafiq detailed his experiences further on the Cricket Badger podcast, and in an interview with ESPNcricinfo, published on Wednesday, the 29-year-old revealed that his experiences of racism at the club nearly drove him to suicide.

On Thursday, a statement from Roger Hutton, chairman of the club, said the club will be “approaching impartial external parties” to form part of the investigation.

“On Monday this week the club took the decision to launch a formal investigation into the specific allegations made by Azeem Rafiq, and a wider review of YCCC’s policies and culture,” said Hutton. “We are in the process of finalising the structure of this investigation and we will be approaching impartial external parties to be part of the review to ensure complete transparency. Further announcements will be made to detail this process in the coming days.”

“We fully acknowledge that just as in many walks of life, sport, including cricket and Yorkshire as a club, must do better to fully promote a culture of zero tolerance to racism or any form of prejudice. We accepted a long time ago that change was needed at Headingley to improve diversity, especially in terms of racial inclusivity. Since 2014 we’ve prioritised community engagement with numerous groups right across the county, and across many cultures and ethnicities. While as an organisation we’ve made real efforts to that end, we are not perfect and it’s a work in progress.

“As a player and former captain, Azeem was extremely highly respected and well regarded by the club and its supporters alike. Azeem was a gifted bowler and a respected leader of our team, and that was why he became the first British South Asian captain of the Yorkshire T20 side, and the youngest ever captain of the team.

“We have tried to make contact with Azeem this week to discuss his experiences, and will make further contact in the weeks ahead as it’s important that we hear his grievances in as much detail as possible.

“The future direction of our organisation’s culture will be best-shaped with the understanding and the input of players, staff and supporters from all minorities and genders, and we will continue this process with the formal investigation that will start in a matter of days and be conducted thoroughly, impartially, and with urgency.”

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