Azeem Rafiq believes individuals within the sport of football have shown where cricket – and wider society – needs to follow their example.
Speaking at a DCMS hearing on Tuesday morning, Rafiq recounted several horrific instances of racist abuse he had suffered while playing with Yorkshire, revealing “the word P*** was used constantly” and highlighting other comments made by individuals in the game which pointed to a systemic problem within the sport.
He also reiterated that it was not a Yorkshire-only issue, as he had been contacted by other players from other counties who had informed him of suffering similar abuse in the sport.
In trying to establish whether there was a link, Rafiq was asked why representation of minorities has decreased in cricket where it has increased in football. He replied that an obvious change in mentality in the other sport had seen prominent individuals from leading from the front, including England pair Marcus Rashford, a striker at Manchester United, and Jordan Henderson, the Liverpool captain.
“I’m not fully in tune with football but what I’ve seen over the last year and a half is some high-profile footballers showing the world how to behave, with Marcus Rashford and Jordan Henderson,” he said.
“Clearly there has been some sort of shift in football.
“A lot of people said this to me at the start: ‘we would have never expected this from cricket’.
“Cricket has been allowed for a long time, it’s a boys’ network, people that come in as a player in ‘92 and are still director of cricket at Yorkshire now. It shows how closed that network is.
“No-one has ever been a whistleblower, no-one has ever had the courage to come forward because of the fear of not being believed.”
Building on his comment of cricket being a “boys’ network”, the point was made that very few females were in attendance at the DCMS meeting.
Rafiq pointed out that it was down to there not being an inclusive nature as a whole within the sport of cricket, an over-arching theme encapsulated by the treatment he had received.
“The women are not here because the game doesn’t invite women. It’s easy to look at it [and say] ‘they’re not interested’, but actually, is the game doing enough? Are the leaders within the game doing enough?
“I lost my career to racism. It’s horrible.”
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