Two years after a formal meeting at Headingley and 12 months since Azeem Rafiq publicly spoke about his experiences of racism at Yorkshire, the club finally acknowledged the former player’s accusations this week. However, the former England Under-19 and Yorkshire captain remains unhappy with the continued delays in the publication of the report.
Yorkshire commissioned an independent investigation last September after Rafiq alleged he suffered racist abuse during his time at the club which left him feeling suicidal.
The enquiry has been completed and a 100-page report was sent to the club last weekend with a set of recommendations, but so far there is no timeline for publication. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) intervened on Thursday to urge the club to provide the governing body with a copy and set out the next steps in the process.
“The fact that the report has still not been published is frustrating, annoying and it makes me angry,” Rafiq tells i.
“We’ve waited 12 months and now we just get the statement from Yorkshire. I believe those responsible for the preparation of the report have given Yorkshire the green light to carry on the way they have. It’s not acceptable and some of the excuses for the delays have been a disgrace.
“I’ve been chasing members of the panel and they’ve not even had the courtesy to reply to me. I’ve given all those involved in the investigations and the report ample opportunity to do the right thing, but just when you think they couldn’t do anything worse they find a way to do it.”
Rafiq is particularly incensed about some of the wording within the statement from Yorkshire which concedes that he was “the victim of inappropriate behaviour” instead of admitting to allegations of racism that the player made as far back as August 2018.
“The statement from Yorkshire CCC is a disgrace and it’s shambolic. To turn racism into ‘inappropriate behaviour’ is a slap in the face of everyone who has ever suffered any sort of racism. They have brushed my allegations under the carpet and by labelling racism as inappropriate behaviour is a kick in the teeth. They’ve attempted to make it look like some sort of apology, but then at the same time they’ve tried to twist the allegations away from racism.”
ECB chairman Ian Watmore said on Thursday: “Now that the club has a full copy of the report, we have today written to Yorkshire to formally request a copy, together with a timeline for publication.” But while Rafiq echoes the sentiments of the ECB, he feels the delays in the publication may confirm his deeper fears of a cover-up.
“I want to see the full report, but it seems they don’t want to show the full report to me, and I feel that instead they want to cover some of it up. I understand there are legal issues and implications but I’m pretty sure even I won’t get to see the full report. What the hell have I waited the last 12 months for? It certainly wasn’t to see an incomplete report. I urge Yorkshire CCC to publish this sham of an investigation.”
In Rafiq’s view, the uncomfortable truths which may have been discovered by the report could put those who are currently in positions of power in the club in an awkward situation and may well be the reason for the hesitation for publishing the report in full.
“One of my biggest concerns always was and remains so, is that most of my allegations were based around the second half of my career and are against people that are still at Yorkshire County Cricket Club in leadership positions and still have a lot of power at the club. Despite this, I’ve tried to give the club ample opportunities to do the right thing, but they’ve not taken up those opportunities.”
The allegations made by Rafiq have effectively made the positions of some of Yorkshire executives untenable and he is adamant that action, even at a governmental level if needed, is taken against these individuals if the club is to preserve any semblance of integrity.
“There has to be accountability and there are individuals at Yorkshire County Cricket Club such as the chief executive, director of cricket and the inclusivity and diversity manager, and people within the Professional Cricketers’ Association who have to resign, they have to go. If this needs to go above them to ministerial level and Parliament, then so be it, let them investigate, as this is where I believe this needs to go.”
At the very least, the statement from Yorkshire is an acceptance of some of the issues raised by Rafiq. Despite his frustrations and concerns he is ready to step up and continue the fight if he feels that the ECB and the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) are not doing their part in this regard.
“The ECB needs to step in as do the PCA if they’ve both got the stomach for a fight, or I will come out publicly and talk about every single one of my allegations and speak about every little detail with my evidence and let people decide for themselves. I’m tired of this, I’m exhausted, why should I keep mentally torturing myself when on the other hand the ECB is giving opportunities to individuals implicated in my allegations.”
While the publication of the report will confirm some of the player’s allegations, Rafiq believes that actions will eventually count more than mere words as he urges the ECB to carry out their duties for the good of the game.
“It’s taken the ECB 12 months to do something regarding my allegations, but now it’s high time they did a lot more than just issue statements if they want to genuinely protect the integrity of the game of cricket in this country.”
Rafiq has always been keen to ensure that allegations of institutional racism at the club, corroborated by Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and Tino Best, as well as former employees of Yorkshire, were taken seriously by all concerned and he feels that he has given ample proof of his intentions by sacrificing his own career in the process.
“My intentions from the word go were to talk about my experiences, for the club to learn from them, take appropriate action and to seek an apology from the club, but Yorkshire CCC had different intentions. For me it was about making people aware of what I faced and to keep banging the drum as I have realised that there are a lot of people out there frightened of institutions and scared to take them on. If I have sacrificed myself and my future career, so be it, but I won’t stay quiet and I will carry on demanding justice and clarity till my last breath for myself and for future generations of ethnic minority cricketers.”
Some have questioned Rafiq’s motives for exposing the actions of his former club by insinuating that he had only financial gain in his mind when he made his claims of racism, but he is clear in his own mind about why he went public and is satisfied with how history will judge him.
“It never was about the money; it still isn’t about the money, and it never will be about the money,” he says in reference to reports that he was offered £100,000 and asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement by Yorkshire. “I hope that I have shot down some of the narratives that accused me of just wanting a pay-off.”