Cricket Azeem Rafiq insists cricket still not ready to tackle racism properly despite ‘encouraging’ Yorkshire reform and DCMS report as whistleblower points finger at ECB

Cricket Azeem Rafiq insists cricket still not ready to tackle racism properly despite ‘encouraging’ Yorkshire reform and DCMS report as whistleblower points finger at ECB

Cricket

Azeem Rafiq believes cricket still has a long way to go in its fight against racism, despite being encouraged by some signs of progress.

The ex-Yorkshire captain stunned the sporting world by revealing years of racial abuse he suffered at the county between 2008 and 2018.

Rafiq opened up to talkSPORT about the response to his claims

Yorkshire’s response to his allegations were heavily scrutinised and resulted in Headingley losing the right to host international cricket matches, while numerous sponsors cut ties with the club and senior figures departed.

Now, a report from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee has told cricket as a whole to ‘clean up its act’ or risk losing public funding.

“I’m encouraged,” Rafiq told talkSPORT in response to the report. “It shows the committee has taken the issue of racism a lot more seriously than cricket has for a very long time.”

Yorkshire have already started a rebuilding process, appointing Lord Kamlesh Patel as its new chair and talkSPORT favourite Darren Gough as director of cricket, both tasked with reforming a toxic culture.

While Rafiq is pleased with the progress being made at Yorkshire, the former spinner insists the rest of cricket needs to follow suit.

cricket Yorkshire were left in disgrace by Rafiq’s allegations

AFP

Yorkshire were left in disgrace by Rafiq’s allegations

He told talkSPORT: “I think we have to be optimistic, there has to be more, and we’ve all got to do more.

“I’m encouraged by what Lord Patel is doing at Yorkshire. But, I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen that same intent at the ECB or up and down the country.

“It’s important that some of these counties and the ECB don’t throw the book at Yorkshire to try and make themselves look good.

“We’re all in it together and it’s an issue that’s been going on for a long time, which has been made plain by the report, and we’ve got to work together.”

Rafiq believes many of his difficulties since blowing the whistle on Yorkshire stemmed from a conflict of interest at the ECB, who are tasked with promoting and regulating the game.

The DCMS report has called for a quarterly review from the ECB on tackling racism within the game, which Rafiq believes is a positive step.

cricket Rafiq had to fight back tears as he was giving evidence at the select committee in November

AFP

Rafiq had to fight back tears as he was giving evidence at the select committee in November

But the former cricketer has called for the game to learn from his two-year struggle and the mess that followed by going a step further and appointing an independent regulator.

He added: “One tangible change that I’ll be pushing for moving forwards – I don’t think the ECB can be the regulators and the promoters of the game.

“Throughout my situation, it was very confusing. It was clearly very conflicted within and that’s why we ended up in the car crash that we did.”

Rafiq suggests that his treatment throughout the saga shows the game is still not fully prepared to accept the problem and the 30-year-old believes people only started to react once there were financial consequences.

He said: “I was shouting for two years and nobody was prepared to listen, then the minute the sponsors stated leaving, everyone was prepared to listen.

“It’s a sad place where the game is at and it’s very clear that the game as a whole is in a place where money dictates their values and morals.”

cricket Rafiq is finally getting justice for what he suffered at the club

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Rafiq is finally getting justice for what he suffered at the club

He added: “Some of the things that have been going on behind the scenes have been quite outrageous, to the point there have been concerns over my physical safety.

“It’s been quite difficult and I think it was done to stop other people coming forward to talk about their experiences, which again tells me the game is still not prepared to listen properly.”

However, the ex-Yorkshire captain insists those responsible deserve a second chance if they apologise, reiterating his regret over historic anti-Semitic text messages sent by him which emerged recently.

Rafiq continued: “I’ve been very clear from the outset that if people accept and apologise, they should get a second chance.

“I was really disappointed to see a couple of people have lost their jobs and I hope my situation wasn’t the reason for it.”

He added: “The anti-Semitic stuff, there is no excuse for it whatsoever. That is something that I regret massively.

“I’ve hurt people and it’s something I’m really sorry about.”

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