Azeem Rafiq’s allegations of racism against Yorkshire Cricket Club have been corroborated by former teammates.
Tino Best and Rana Naveed-ul-Hassan who played in the test format have come forward to back Mr Rafiq’s claims of racism within the club.
Other former staff members across the club have given evidence to the investigation into the club and its institutional racism.
Tino Best, who played 25 test matches and 26 one-day internationals for the West Indies, provided a statement to say: “My time at Yorkshire was a mixed bag some of the things I saw towards the players of Pakistani descent wasn’t good. Every day I could hear them complaining about how they were being treated these three guys never looked settled or happy and that was hurtful to see.”
Rana Naveed-ul-Hassan a former Pakistan international, pointed to systematic taunting at Yorkshire in a September 2020 statement, which followed Mr Rafiq’s disclosures. He said: “I agree with each and every statement of Azeem, many Asian players were affected by Yorkshire County Cricket Clubs bad attitude including me and Azeem.”
Taj Butt, who was employed by Yorkshire between 2014 to 2017 within the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation, offered his resignation within six weeks of joining because of the use of racist language at Yorkshire.
He stated: “Continuous references to taxi drivers and restaurant workers when referring to Asian Community they called every person of colour ‘Steve’. Even Indian Test Player Cheteshwar Pujara, who joined as an overseas professional, was called Steve because they could not pronounce his name.”
Tony Bowry, who was a coach at YCCC until 1996 and cultural diversity officer at the Yorkshire Cricket Board in 1996-2011. He was then the first cricket development manager to be appointed to develop the game for black minority communities, said: “Many youngsters struggled to make progress, and the few that did found the environment of the dressing rooms very difficult and unwelcoming, as a direct result of racism they faced, it affected performance they were labelled trouble makers.”
Yorkshire County Cricket Club launched an investigation into the allegations of institutional racism. Mr Rafiq has submitted written evidence and was interviewed by the investigating team on 13 November. The process is expected to be concluded by the end of the year, with a report published in early 2021.
Dr Samir Pathak, Chairman of the investigation panel said: “The process of contacting potential witnesses and agreeing on a timetable of interviews is in progress. Both the investigation team and the panel are aware that this is a difficult time for all parties and are determined that the investigation will be concluded before the end of the year.”
The revelations by Azeem Rafiq led to the England & Wales Cricket Board announcing measures to make the sport more inclusive.
A new independent Commission for Equality in Cricket: to assist the ECB Board in assessing the evidence of inequalities and discrimination of all forms within cricket, and the actions needed to tackle these issues. This will be led by an independent Chair and will have independent members.
A Forum for Race in Cricket: to provide a confidential, safe space through which the ECB can listen to, and learn from, the lived experiences of people from across the game. Building on work done this year and through our South Asian Action Plan, the Board has agreed that it is critical that we continue to listen and learn from these lived experiences so that we can assess the future action required.
A new Equality Code of Conduct: to be adopted and enforced by all cricket organisations operating under the ECB’s jurisdiction, enabling discriminatory behaviour to be sanctioned through disciplinary processes. The Code is now being finalised in consultation with the wider game for implementation before the 2021 season.
Commenting on the initiatives that have been supported by Yorkshire County Cricket Club and the support by his former teammates and colleagues.
Mr Rafiq said: “I want to thank my former Yorkshire colleagues for supporting me and speaking out about their experiences. I know from personal experience how difficult this is, but we’re all working hard to make sure the sport we love – a sport that famously bridges cultures from the Caribbean to Europe, Africa to Asia – can be enjoyed by everyone who want to play.
“I’m grateful to the ECB for following-up after reading my submitted evidence by reviewing the way it promotes multi-culturalism and tackles racism in cricket, while Yorkshire County Cricket Club has clearly acknowledged the issues I raised by endorsing those measures. Part of the problem I faced was that my concerns and complaints fell on deaf ears. I raised complaints about racism, including with the head of diversity, and no-one took action. The key to change is to listen and then to keep listening.
“But these reforms must only be the start. I will be seeking an urgent meeting with the ECB to discuss how we can instil cultural and racial acceptance through all age groups. No one must feel left out playing this sport, which for me is the real beautiful game.”
Yorkshire County Cricket Club have been contacted for comment.