EXCLUSIVE: Azeem Rafiq's gambling debts were paid off by the PCA

EXCLUSIVE: Azeem Rafiq had gambling debts that ran into THOUSANDS paid off by the Professional Cricketers’ Association – and they also provided counselling for the ex-Yorkshire star who criticised the body in legal battle over racist abuse

  • The Professional Cricket Association paid off Azeem Rafiq’s gambling debts 
  • Rafiq, 30, has been very critical of the PCA during his legal battle with Yorkshire 
  • The spinner has previously benefitted from financial and emotional assistance
  • Rafiq’s spokesperson said that the former Yorkshire cricketer has acknowledged the PCA have helped him with several other matters during his career

Azeem Rafiq had his gambling debts paid off by the Professional Cricketers’ Association — and the players’ union also arranged for him to have counselling.

Former Yorkshire off-spinner Rafiq has been critical of the PCA for failing to support him in his legal battle with the county over racist abuse, and in his emotional testimony before a parliamentary committee last month he claimed the union had not backed his case for financial reasons.

Sportsmail has learned, however, that Rafiq previously benefited from financial and emotional assistance from the PCA’s charity arm, the Professional Cricketers’ Trust (PCT), which was set up to provide medical and pastoral support for current and former first-class cricketers.

It is understood that in 2015 the PCT helped Rafiq clear gambling debts of several thousand pounds, as well as facilitating medical treatment, as they do for many players each year.

Rafiq has been open about many of his youthful indiscretions and, in his parliamentary evidence, said that as a young player at Yorkshire he had often drunk heavily with team-mates to fit in.

The Professional Cricketers’ Association paid off Azeem Rafiq’s gambling debts and provided the ex-Yorkshire star with counselling, Sportsmail understands

The 30-year-old also issued a heartfelt apology and met Jewish community leaders to say sorry last month after the emergence of anti-Semitic messages he posted on social media in 2011.

Rafiq has been a repeated critic of the PCA’s lack of support over the racism allegations he made against players and coaching staff at Yorkshire, seven of which were upheld by an independent report.

In his appearance before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee last month, he was scathing in his criticism of the union, claiming they refused to support his legal claim against Yorkshire for financial reasons and that their only concern for his mental health during a period when he was suicidal last winter was due to ‘box-ticking’.

‘I had a phone call with one of their lawyers for three minutes, and he turned round to me and said, “You don’t have a case”,’ Rafiq said at the hearing.

The 30-year-old has been critical of the PCA’s support during his legal battle with Yorkshire

Rafiq lifted the lid on racism at the county cricket club during a select committee hearing

‘It was incredibly hurtful, particularly when I found out later that the reason was, if they’d backed me, it would have taken their whole budget.

‘I would have rather he said to me, “Look, we can’t afford it”, than saying I didn’t have a case. It made me feel like no one believed me.

‘On a human point, if someone else had told me they were suicidal and ringing to ask for help, I would forget the constitution and help the human. There have been dark moments over the winter.

‘At one point, the PCA called the police and reported me missing. I was sat with my family. I felt that was done to tick a box in case I killed myself.’

In an interview with Sky Sports News in January, Rafiq claimed that no one at the PCA had contacted him in five months since he made his initial complaint against Yorkshire — although he did say they had helped him during his playing career.

He has been open about many youthful indiscretions including drinking alcohol as a youngster

‘There’s a hell of a lot of bodies out there, organisations, that are meant to be helping these things not happen.

‘But I can speak from personal experience — the last five months after the initial contact, I’ve not really had any support from these organisations,’ Rafiq said.

‘Has anyone in the last few months rung me to see how I am? No, it’s been tough.

‘I’m struggling. I’ve found it really difficult. And I ask the question of the authorities, the PCA, the ECB, and further — what are we waiting for?

‘The PCA have been a support to me throughout my career in a lot of different other aspects, but in terms of this case, it was made pretty clear to me that the support wasn’t there, and that’s just a straight fact.’

Following the DCMS hearing, PCA chief executive Rob Lynch said that the union needed to learn lessons from the way Rafiq’s complaints were handled.

A spokesperson for Rafiq said: ‘As Azeem has made clear on several occasions over the past 16 months, the PCA has provided him with support on different matters throughout his career and he thanks them for that support.’

In addition, the professional development manager responsible for dealing with Rafiq’s case on behalf of the PCA, former Yorkshire batsman Matt Wood, left the organisation last month.

A spokesperson for Rafiq said on Thursday night: ‘As Azeem has made clear on several occasions over the past 16 months, the PCA have provided him with support on different matters throughout his career and he thanks them for that support.

‘However, Azeem feels he was let down by the PCA when he raised the bullying and racism he experienced at Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

‘We are also concerned that confidential support appears to have been leaked, which will be a worry to anyone who has ever sought help from the PCA.’

The PCA declined to comment on a confidential matter.

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