How Azeem Rafiq’s testimony on racist abuse shines light on the sport’s deep-rooted problems

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November 16, 2021 might come to be remembered as cricket’s day of reckoning; within the aftermath of Rafiq’s testimony, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) — the game’s regulator in these two international locations — spoke of taking the “crucial motion” and the necessity to “be taught classes as a recreation.”

The ECB has fairly a job on its fingers.

Rafiq’s detailed account of his time at Yorkshire County Cricket Membership hardly shocked Taj Butt, who labored for the Yorkshire Cricket Basis, the membership’s charity and group arm, between 2014 and 2017.

“As miserable because it was listening to him … among the issues he confronted did not come as a shock to most individuals concerned within the recreation, whether or not it is at a grassroots stage or on the highest stage,” Butt tells CNN Sport.

“These are the type of issues that sadly do nonetheless occur on an on a regular basis foundation.”

Throughout his testimony to UK lawmakers on Tuesday, Rafiq detailed among the appalling conduct he was subjected to whereas taking part in for Yorkshire, including that he believes he misplaced his cricket profession to racism.

In an interview with CNN, Rafiq additionally said he would cease his kids from moving into cricket as he would not need his “son or daughter to be in ache.”

The hours-long testimony was the end result of a 16-month interval, throughout which Yorkshire undertook an impartial overview into greater than 40 allegations of racism and bullying made by Rafiq.

Following the overview, the membership accepted that Rafiq had been the “sufferer of inappropriate conduct” at Yorkshire, though nobody on the membership was disciplined because of the impartial investigation.

On Tuesday, former Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton, who resigned from his position amid the dealing with of Rafiq’s allegations, mentioned the membership is institutionally racist. Hutton mentioned that the ECB “declined to assist” when he approached the governing physique after studying of Rafiq’s allegations.

For Butt, who has been concerned within the sport within the Yorkshire space for a lot of his life, the shortage of accountability in response to Rafiq’s allegations has been stark.

“The establishment has been fairly smug about the truth that they felt they may truly get away with out having to do something,” he says.

“That is truly proven in the best way they’ve handled Azeem Rafiq and the entire scenario. We definitely hope that the very first thing they do is acknowledge that there’s a downside.

“That is one factor they’ve by no means completed, they’ve by no means seen it as an issue … However I feel they’re nonetheless at that denial stage.”

CNN has contacted Yorkshire for a response to Butt’s feedback.

Rafiq plays a shot against Middlesex in September 2016.
On Thursday, Rafiq apologized for anti-Semitic feedback he mentioned he made in 2011 following the emergence of a screenshot of messages.

“I’m extremely offended at myself and I apologise to the Jewish group and everybody who’s rightly offended by this,” Rafiq mentioned.

In response to the apology, Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, mentioned: “Azeem Rafiq has suffered terribly by the hands of racists in cricket so he’ll properly perceive the damage this change will trigger to Jews who’ve supported him.

“His apology definitely appears heartfelt and we have now no motive to imagine he isn’t utterly honest.”

Kamlesh Patel, who not too long ago took over from Hutton as chair of Yorkshire, has vowed that the membership will change.

“There isn’t a fast repair to the clear issues which have been recognized, and the problems are advanced, not least the cost of institutional racism which have to be addressed head on,” he mentioned in a statement.

“Azeem famous that this isn’t about people, however reasonably the construction and processes of the Membership, and we have to sort out this.

“It’s clear that we have now good folks at Yorkshire County Cricket Membership and that provides me hope that we are able to.”

‘Glass ceiling’

Whereas Rafiq’s testimony has made headlines this week, Butt says the Yorkshire area has been mistreating South Asian cricketers for many years, even at a grassroots stage.

He presently serves as chair of the Quaid-e-Azam Sunday Cricket League (QeASCL), which was shaped in 1980 in an try to create extra alternatives for Asian cricketers in Yorkshire and its surrounding areas.

“For a younger Asian individual to go and be a part of the native membership, that was merely a no-go space for them,” Butt explains of the explanations behind the league’s formation.

He provides: “Within the sport of cricket, there’s a nice divide should you occur to be from the South Asian group and from an inner-city space and do not go to a [fee-paying] public faculty.

“You will face an ideal drawback in participation within the sport of cricket as a result of your entry to services, grounds and all the opposite issues that go on to make issues extra accessible sadly is missing.”

Over time, a handful of gamers who starred for groups within the QeASCL have gone on to play skilled cricket, together with Yorkshire and England’s Adil Rashid.

Yorkshire is residence to a big South Asian inhabitants, however the county facet solely lifted its rule of choosing Yorkshire-born gamers in 1992.

“We have all the time identified for our younger folks to progress, they are going to should be twice pretty much as good as their White counterparts in an effort to develop additional,” says Butt.

“Clearly, as soon as they get into the system and the upper up they go … there appear to be boundaries, there nonetheless appears to be that cup ceiling. And clearly, younger persons are nonetheless being discriminated towards.”

Yorkshire County Cricket Club has promised to address racism problems within the organization.

Pathway restrictions will not be simply distinctive to Yorkshire. In response to the ECB, South Asian communities account for 30% of all cricket gamers in England and Wales, however simply 4% of top notch county cricketers are of South Asian origin.

The ECB operates a South Asian Action Plan to create extra alternatives for — and to higher interact with — South Asian communities.

‘Vital second for change’

The week earlier than Rafiq’s testimony in UK Parliament, throughout which he described cricket’s racism downside as “worse than society,” these with expertise of discrimination within the sport have been urged to submit their perceptions and experiences to the Unbiased Fee for Fairness on Cricket (ICEC).

Cindy Butts, chair of the ICEC, told the BBC that greater than 1,000 folks got here ahead to share their experiences within the week after the decision for proof was made.
“In years to come back, we are going to see this as a major second for change in cricket and society,” former England cricketer Monty Panesar told CNN this week.

“Azeem Rafiq ought to be applauded for his courageous feedback. He is prepared to work with the ECB and Yorkshire County Cricket Membership to deal with among the points in our recreation.”

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