Azeem Rafiq has accused Yorkshire County Cricket Club of protecting their white players, including allowing former England star Gary Ballance to miss drug tests and cover for him when he failed them.
The claims are included in Rafiq’s witness statement to an employment tribunal, which was held after he brought claims of racial harassment and bullying against the club, but the allegations have been refuted by Ballance’s representatives.
Rafiq says that while Yorkshire protected white players, they failed to offer support to their Pakistani team mates.
And the revelations come after the player’s explosive testimony to the Parliamentary Committee for Digital Culture Media and Sport, earlier on Tuesday.
In alarming evidence, Rafiq slammed English cricket as ‘institutionally racist’ and detailed his ‘inhumane’ treatment at Yorkshire.
Downing Street described his evidence to the committee as ‘concerning’.
Following the four-hour hearing, the DCMS committee released the witness statement Rafiq had made to the employment tribunal.
Azeem Rafiq gave evidence before a DCMS select committee on Tuesday in Westminster
Rafiq has claimed Yorkshire allowed Gary Ballance to skip drug tests when he played for them
In his statement to the tribunal, which Yorkshire settled with £200,000 in compensation last week, the cricketer said: ‘Over the years, YCCC protected Gary Ballance with respect to his drug and alcohol issues, allowing him to miss drug hair sample tests to avoid sanctions.
‘When he failed a recreational drug test and was forced to miss some games, the club informed the public he was missing games because he was struggling with anxiety and mental health issues.’
Ballance has tonight categorically refuted the claims made by Rafiq through his representatives.
‘As stated in his previous statement Gary does not intend on making any further public statement regarding Azeem’s allegations, however, he must correct the record relating to the egregious false allegations made in Azeem’s Witness Statement that Gary had ‘drug and alcohol issues’ and ‘miss[ed] drug hair sample tests to avoid sanctions,’ they said.
‘These allegations are categorically untrue and should never have been made. Gary has never, to his knowledge, missed a drugs test and would not do so.’
The 57-page witness statement was released by the DCMS committee.
In it, Rafiq contrasts treatment of himself with white players, suggesting that Balance, Joe Root and Alex Lees were protected when they ‘had been suspended or had difficulties during their time at the club’.
Rafiq was suspended after an incident during an England U19 series at a hotel in Scarborough in 2010, following which he embarked on an expletive-laden Twitter tirade, and claimed he was innocent and there had been no investigation.
His suspension lasted for a month and despite no stipulation to avoid Headingley, he claims he was made unwelcome at the stadium during this period.
Yorkshire Cricket Club has faced a barrage of claims of racial misconduct in recent months
During his testimony to MPs, Rafiq said the club offered him no support while his wife, Faryal, suffered a complicated pregnancy, which resulted in the death of their unborn son.
When he returned to work ‘Martyn Moxon [director of cricket] got me in a room and literally ripped the shreds off me,’ he said.
In his witness statement to the tribunal, Rafiq said: ‘It seemed obvious to me that far more support was offered to other players, for example, Gary Ballance received a lot of support through depression and anxiety and Jonny Bairstow in relation to the ongoing impact and trauma of his father’s suicide.’
And he added: ‘What I learned over the years was that incidents with white players are covered up and a positive media spin is put out to protect them, yet in the case of Pakistani players, we are criticised unfairly and everything is put on show for the media to attack us with no protection afforded by YCCC.’
Rafiq, 30, (pictured) settled a six-figure fee with Yorkshire CCC at an employment tribunal last week after accusing the club of institutional racism and bullying
The witness statement goes into detail about the alleged abuse Rafiq experienced at Yorkshire between 2008 and 2018, including from Ballance.
‘He would constantly talk down to me and make racist jokes, designed to undermine me and make me feel small, like coming up and interrupting when I was talking to girls in a club, saying ‘don’t talk to him, he’s a P***’.
Yorkshire coach Andrew Gale was included in Rafiq’s witness statement to an employment tribunal
‘I did my best to try to fit in, but it happened so much that at one point in 2012, I remember crying outside a nightclub after his constant racist taunting.’
Rafiq said the abuse also occurred on ‘YCCC trips, tours and events, and in front of YCCC coaches and staff, who did nothing to stop it and would often laugh along with Gary at the humiliating, racist comments he made towards me’.
When news broke earlier this month that Ballance was named in the report, the batsman issued a statement: ‘It has been reported that I used a racial slur and, as I told the independent enquiry, I accept that I did so and I regret doing so.
‘To be clear – I deeply regret some of the language I used in my younger years.’
Rafiq says that when he returned to Yorkshire for a second spell the situation has improved under coach Jason Gillespie, but deteriorated after the Australian left.
‘From 2017 onwards, when Andrew Gale (Coach), Tim Bresnan (Vice Captain) and Gary Ballance (Captain) either coached and / or captained the team, I became the constant target of their racist comments and alleged banter and bullying culture,’ said Rafiq.
‘It affected my mental health, my ability to get out of bed in the morning and face the world, my sense of self-worth, and later my performance –and led to further suicidal thoughts.’
In his witness statement, Rafiq highlights the alleged behaviour of Andrew Gale, who played with him and later became club captain and then team coach.
Gale is currently suspended pending an investigation into an unrelated historical tweet.
‘Andrew joined in with Gary and others in the racist banter,’ said Rafiq.
‘Throughout my time at YCCC, Andrew called me ‘Raffa the Kaffir’, ‘P***’ and so on. But it was the discriminatory treatment and bullying I felt from him that was harder for me than the name calling.’
Former Yorkshire coach Jason Gillespie has won praise for how he managed the team
And Rafiq added: ‘Things got even worse after Jason Gillespie left at the end of 2016 and Andrew became coach.
‘Before that he was a fellow player and captain, so I felt like I could ignore him as I had Jason there as our coach who supported me and looked after me. But when Andrew became coach, he had full control over my life and my career.
‘I had to communicate with him every day, he would leave me out of training sessions, he would put me down – in ways I hadn’t seen him do that to others and particularly white British players.
‘I just don’t think that we received fair and equal treatment from Andrew, as compared with white British players.’
Rafiq claims England’s Adil Rashid hasalso been targeted with racist abuse at Yorkshire
Rafiq highlighted the role played in the dressing room by former England fast bowler, Matthew Hoggard. He said Hoggard coined the term, ‘Raffa the Kaffir’, which many people called Rafiq.
‘The comments from Hoggy towards myself and the other Asian players – Adil, Ajmal and Rana –were constant, on a daily basis, and all day, every day.
‘I think he might have thought it was just dressing room banter, but we would come in in the morning and he would say things like ‘you lot sit over there’ and make us all sit together. He would also call us things like ‘elephant washers’ and ‘Paki’.
However, Rafiq said Hoggard called him after he shared his experiences in the media and apologised.
‘I thanked him and I respect him for that,’ said Rafiq, who added: ‘I genuinely liked Hoggy, but I think he was a product of the discriminatory culture he was in and the culture that was allowed to thrive at YCCC.’
Rafiq claims comments made by former England captain Michael Vaughan left him shocked
Vaughan is now fighting to salvage his reputation having guided England to Ashes glory
Rafiq also detailed an alleged incident with Michael Vaughan, former Yorkshire captain, ahead of T20 fixture against Nottinghamshire in 2009.
The all-rounder claims that the captain said to himself and three other Asian players, ‘there’s too many of you lot. We need to have a word about that’.
‘At the time, I remember being shocked and thinking, ‘did he actually just say that?’ recalled Rafiq.
‘I felt so disappointed that I felt sick. And then I felt angry. But I was so determined to play for England that I just tried to let it go. But I never forgot it.’
Vaughan ‘completely and categorically denies he said the words
In a statement to the Press Association on Monday, the former England captain said: ‘I categorically deny saying the words attributed to me by Azeem Rafiq and want to re-state this publicly because the ‘you lot’ comment simply never happened.
Former Yorkshire captain Tim Bresnan has also come in for criticism from Rafiq
Rafiq made a formal complaint against another ex-Yorkshire captain and former England player, Tim Bresnan, in 2017.
‘Tim would participate with and encourage Gary [Balance] in the racist comments and jokes that were directed at me (for example, comments like “is that your uncle’s shop?”), laughing along at such remarks,’ alleged Rafiq.
‘Tim was a senior player who had played for England. I believe that if Tim had pulled Gary up, rather than encouraging him, it would not have continued.’
And there is also criticism of Martyn Moxon, Yorkshire’s director of cricket, which extends from a lack of pastoral care after the death of his unborn son to holding back his development as a player.
‘I became depressed and suicidal,’ said Rafiq. ‘I felt that Martyn and the club were not supporting my career and were actively taking decisions which I felt were discriminatory and were limiting my opportunities. YCCC controlled my career and were not making decisions in my best interests.’
In his statement to the tribunal, Rafiq said he was motivated to come forward and tell his story to the media in August 2020 in part because of the Black Lives Matter movement.
‘I felt an obligation to speak up for future generations of Asian cricketers, so they wouldn’t go through what I did. I wanted to make sure that we create the change that is required to support them into professional cricket and that they have a positive experience in the sport,’ he said.
‘English cricket is institutionally racist’: Azeem Rafiq names players in Yorkshire racism claims as he tells MPs England captain Joe Root was present when he was called ‘P***’, use of racial slurs was ‘open secret’, and he was forced to down wine at 15
Azeem Rafiq has slammed English cricket as ‘institutionally racist’ and detailed his ‘inhumane’ treatment at Yorkshire County Cricket Club.
The spin bowler turned whistleblower claimed the word P*** was ‘used constantly’ at the side as he gave explosive testimony to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee this morning.
In one shocking claim, he gave a harrowing account of having red wine forced down his throat by older players at his local team when he was 15 and a devout Muslim – before he drank more heavily from 2012 ‘to try to fit in’.
Rafiq claimed when he first joined Yorkshire he and other Asian players were told they had to ‘sit near the toilets’ and were called ‘elephant washers’.
The athlete also launched another broadside at former teammate Gary Ballance, saying it was an open secret in the England dressing room he was racist.
Meanwhile he claimed fellow international star Alex Hales named his black Dobermann Kevin after his friend Ballance used it to refer to black people.
And he hit out at current England Test captain Joe Root, claiming the batsman was on the nights out when he was called a ‘P***’.
During the wide-ranging hearing, Rafiq blinked back tears as he opened up about the ‘inhumane’ treatment he received from coaches after his wife had a miscarriage in 2017.
His emotional testimony had to be brought to an abrupt halt by DCMS chair Julian Knight and adjourned for five minutes so the cricketer could recompose himself.
Downing Street described his evidence to the committee as ‘concerning’, with the Prime Minister’s official spokesman adding: ‘There is no place for racism in sport.’
Rafiq first alleged racial harassment and bullying against Yorkshire and accused them of institutional racism in September last year.
The club launched an investigation soon afterwards but the team’s handling of the allegations has been widely slammed.
It published summary findings of the probe in September, which found there was ‘no question’ Rafiq had been subjected to racial harassment and bullying.
Despite this, no individuals faced disciplinary action and Rafiq has since brought the spotlight down on the cricket club before receiving a payout when they settled an employment tribunal.
Among the explosive claims at the hearing, Rafiq said:
- Despite being a Muslim, aged just 15 he was pinned down in a car and had ‘red wine poured down my throat’;
- He said he was settled at the club until 2016 under captain Alex Lees and coach Jason Gillespie but not after;
- Rafiq claimed racism surged at the team when Andrew Gale came in as coach and Ballance was made captain;
- He said while he was bullied and racially abused ‘no one’ at the club had stood up for him despite witnesses;
- Rafiq claimed that the problems at Yorkshire County Cricket Club was replicated ‘up and down the country’;
- The spin bowler again tried not to cry when he said that he feels that his career has now been ‘lost’ to racism;
- The cricketer said that he does not want his son ‘anywhere near cricket’ after the trauma he went through.
Azeem Rafiq choked back tears today as he revealed the word P*** was ‘used constantly’ during his time at Yorkshire County Cricket Club
The spin bowler told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee racism was rife at the side and no one in leadership challenged it. He is pictured as he began to weep during the testimony
England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chief executive Tom Harrison (left) was among those called to give evidence before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee this morning. Right: Former Yorkshire County Cricket Club chairman Roger Hutton was grilled by MPs for his role at Yorkshire before he quit
Rafiq claimed fellow England international star Alex Hales used the word Kevin for his dog (pictured together in an Instagram post on the athlete’s Instagram) after his friend Ballance coined it for black people
Alex Hales mentions the name of his dog in the comment on the Instagram post. He has posted a number of photos and videos of him playing with the Dobermann
Rafiq told DCMS: ‘Pretty early on at the club, I joined a dressing room full of my heroes, Michael Vaughan, Matthew Hoggard, part of the 2005 Ashes team. And it was just the most surreal moment for me.
‘Pretty early on, me and other people from an Asian background…there were comments such as ‘you’ll sit over there near the toilets’, ‘elephant washers’.
‘The word P*** was used constantly. And there just seemed to be an acceptance in the institution from the leaders and no one ever stamped it out.’
Rafiq added: ‘All I wanted to do is play cricket and play for England and live my dream and live my family’s dream.’
He added: ‘In my first spell, I don’t really think I quite realised what it was. I think I was in denial.’