Azeem Rafiq returns to Yorkshire's cricket ground Headingley
‘Nervous’ Azeem Rafiq returns to Yorkshire’s cricket ground Headingley for the first time since accusing the club of institutional racism as he cheers on England against New Zealand
- Rafiq attended day three of the third test between England and New Zealand
- He accepted a White Rose invitation to a game that was almost relocated
- Yorkshire’s right to host was suspended after Rafiq’s harrowing testimony
- The 31-year-old had argued that Yorkshire should not lose their host status
Azeem Rafiq returned to Yorkshire’s cricket ground today for the first time since he went public with claims of institutional racism at the club.
Rafiq attended day three of the Headingley Test between England and New Zealand as Yorkshire’s guest and enjoyed Saturday’s action from a balcony at the Pavilion End.
He accepted a White Rose invitation to a game that was almost relocated at the height of the racism scandal set in motion by his whistleblowing.
Yorkshire’s right to host international fixtures was suspended by the England and Wales Cricket Board after Rafiq’s explosive and harrowing testimony in front of a parliamentary select committee last year.
The sanction was only lifted four months ago, in recognition of a new leadership regime led by chair Lord Kamlesh Patel and the work it had done to address failures of the past.
Former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq speaks to Yorkshire Chair, Lord Patel, during day three of the third test match at Headingley
He returned to Yorkshire’s cricket ground for the first time since he went public with claims of institutional racism at the club
Patel told BBC’s Test Match Special on day one that the very existence of the club would have been in doubt had the England team been kept away, such is the commercial value attached to such fixtures.
Rafiq, who represented Yorkshire in two spells between 2008 and 2018, had argued that Yorkshire should not lose their host status.
He suggested Lord Patel’s reforms should be rewarded and warned that going out of business would be counter-productive to hopes of becoming a fully inclusive club for all parts of the community.
The 31-year-old was also present at Lord’s for the first Test of the summer but it is understood concerns were raised about him advertising his return to Headingley.
He sent a solitary tweet in the morning, with just one word: ‘nervous’.
Yorkshire’s right to host international fixtures was suspended by the England and Wales Cricket Board after Rafiq’s explosive and harrowing testimony in front of a parliamentary select committee last year
The sanction was only lifted four months ago, in recognition of a new leadership regime led by chair Lord Kamlesh Patel (pictured) and the work it had done to address failures of the past
Rafiq, who represented Yorkshire in two spells between 2008 and 2018, had argued that Yorkshire should not lose their host status
The ECB most recently came under fire when it was accused of a ‘dereliction of duty’ after declining to pursue claims that a former player called a teammate a ‘smelly P***’.
A witness statement alleges that the former player used the term on a daily basis to denigrate a colleague in the Yorkshire Academy – but the ECB have refused to charge the individual in question.
The England and Wales Cricket Board have no intention of charging individuals involved in incidents related to the period before the board’s formation.
The ECB’s Legal and Integrity department told the complainant in an email: ‘In terms of the allegations you have raised in relation to [redacted] and [redacted], they pre-date the ECB’s formation on 1 January 1997 and therefore the ECB will not have regulatory jurisdiction over those acts.
‘Another body, the TCCB, was the governing body of English cricket at the time of your allegations and it ceased to exist when the ECB was formed.’
The ECB’s email comes shortly after a witness came forward to testify of racial abuse that he and others suffered during their time at Yorkshire Academy.
A witness statement suggests that a number of players suffered racial abuse at Yorkshire
MPs have gotten involved in the issue and claim that the ECB are showing a ‘dereliction of duty’
The statement read: ‘I experienced casual racism whilst I was at the Yorkshire Academy. The word ‘P***’ was often used towards me, alongside other derogatory comments. In addition, black players would be referred to using the racial slur ‘Spook’.
‘This racist language was used on a very regular basis throughout my three years at the Yorkshire Academy by a wide range of people, including Yorkshire players and coaches as well as parents and spectators.
‘However, the experiences that I had were not as bad as those faced by [redacted], some of which I personally witnessed. The way he was treated was disgraceful. He was living away from home to attend the Yorkshire Academy so was effectively there on his own. I witnessed him regularly being referred to as ‘Smelly P***’ whilst at the Yorkshire Academy or ‘SP’ or ‘S’ for short.
‘Two people who I recall used these phrases were [redacted]… and [redacted]. I think they were threatened by [redacted’s] potential and that motivated their behaviour towards him.
‘They would use these names towards him in person on a daily basis at the Bradford Park Avenue ground where the Yorkshire Academy team was based.’
The ECB’s decision did not resonate well with Navendu Mishra, MP for Stockport, who said the organisation are searching for a ‘bureaucratic hiding place on this matter.’
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