Prominent businesses across Bradford have signed a petition on Change.org supporting Azeem Rafiq’s allegations of racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club.
The former England Youth Captain who had two spells at Headingly walked away from the sport after his last stint in Yorkshire spoke out against the club last week.
In an interview the off spinner Rafiq – the off spinner said he felt that, as a Muslim, he was made to feel like an outsider and left on the brink of suicide.
“At my worst, I was right on the edge, stood on my balcony. I would regularly come home from training and cry all day. It was a very difficult time for me.
“In one of my first few games, we were going onto the field at Trent Bridge and there was me, Adil Rashid, Ajmal Shahzad and Rana Naved and one of the senior players said: ‘there’s too many of you lot, it’s something we need to have a word about’.
The petition from British Asians Against Racism states:
Last week we were disturbed to hear the account of Azeem Rafiq, who claims the “institutional racism” he experienced at Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC) left him “on the brink of suicide.”
These are serious allegations which have dealt a severe blow to the confidence which the local Asian community places within YCCC.
In this country, we believe in justice and equality for all. We know diversity is the strength of any thriving society. We hold these values dearly. Racism is at the root of inhibiting the progression of any of these values and must be stopped immediately.
Cricket is synonymous with both English and South Asian culture. Our shared love of the sport is something which should unite our communities. It should never create divisions between us. The Asian community has strong roots in Yorkshire. We also play a pivotal role in the popularity of cricket within the region and make significant contributions to the club as sponsors, fans and players.
However, with a fractured relationship, we fear both YCCC and young Asian cricketers will suffer adversely.
We understand YCCC is now conducting an enquiry into this matter. However, the apparent lack of independence of the investigator does not inspire confidence in the process. Therefore, we strongly request the YCCC Board to take the following actions:
Carry out a full independent investigation (as the club promised) of allegations made by Azeem, at all levels of Yorkshire cricket.
Create an independent task force to implement the findings, including removing the perpetrators from YCCC.
Appoint a representative by mutual agreement to act as an independent observer to the investigation.
Make the results of the said investigation both transparent and public.
Develop education and racial awareness programmes within the organisation.
Implement a “Zero Tolerance” policy adopted by other sports to help ensure racism is eliminated at members and supporters’ level.
Work with the diverse Yorkshire community to ensure justice and equality prevail at all levels of Yorkshire cricket in the future.
The signatories of this petition are keen to engage with YCCC as a matter of urgency. We are ready to offer our help and support to ensure this matter is appropriately resolved in a timely manner.
The petition has gained support from prominent business, like, Akbars Restaurants, Bradford Decorating Centre, Highgate Beds, Nafees Bakery, SKB Law and many more.
The call for an independent investigation was launched shortly before Yorkshire CCC released a statement appointing a sub committee to carry out a review.
The clubs statement read:
The Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s Board has appointed a sub-committee to carry out a review following allegations made in the media by Azeem Rafiq.
The sub-committee will want advice in this process. They have considered the credentials of Squire Patton Boggs to provide legal advice, and are in agreement that they are appointed by the Club, to assist in this matter.
The sub-committee has co-opted Dr Samir Pathak who will act as Chair. Dr Pathak is a Trustee of the MCC Foundation, a member of the MCC cricket committee, an Academic Clinical Lecturer at the University of Bristol, and a Liver and Pancreas Surgeon at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust.
Dr Pathak has a great passion for playing cricket and has also represented England Universities, playing as a wicketkeeper batsman.
Gulfraz Riaz has also been co-opted onto the sub-committee. Mr Riaz is the Chairman of the National Asian Cricket Council (NACC) and has worked as a Cricket Development Manager at Club Cricket Conference for the past eight years.
Stephen Willis, Chief Financial Officer at Durham University and Senior Independent Director at The Yorkshire County Cricket Club will join the sub-committee, along with Hanif Malik OBE.
Mr Malik is an Independent Director at The Yorkshire County Cricket Club and was founder of the Hamara Healthy Living Centre in Leeds, spending 20 years working as Chief Executive. Mr Malik also held the title of Non-Executive Director at Sport England for six years.
Commenting on his appointment as Chair, Dr Pathak said: “Being of British-Indian heritage and having been born in Yorkshire, it is an honour to chair this sub-committee which will review the serious grievances raised.
“There is a need for all organisations to be diverse and inclusive. My heritage means that I have a deep-rooted interest in equality within sport and society, and I aim to be as impartial as possible throughout this fair and independent investigation.”
On behalf of the NACC, Mr Riaz added: “The National Asian Cricket Council is grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to what is an important review for Azeem, Yorkshire County Cricket Club and the game more broadly.
“In the first instance, it will be crucial to understand the precise nature of Azeem’s grievances and to ensure that following a thorough and transparent review, a suitable outcome is reached.
“Beyond that, the National Asian Cricket Council looks forward to being able to contribute more holistically to recommendations that move us all closer to best practice. We feel strongly that cricket is a game for everyone.”