Azeem Rafiq has no idea when Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s investigation into racism against him will be concluded while saying English cricket ‘has no interest in sorting these issues out whatsoever.’
The 30-year-old Gawber man, who spent more than a decade at Yorkshire CCC, claimed last year that he had been a victim of sustained racism at the Headingley club, which left him considering suicide. Yorkshire launched an investigation, which they said in March would be concluded by early May.
But Rafiq told the Chronicle: “We still don’t know what is happening or when the investigation will be finished.
“Last time I spoke to them, they said they were at the final stages, but the communication with us has been almost non-existent.
“We have had to chase and chase and chase then just get a dead reply like: ‘it’s taken longer than expected but we’re happy with the timing of it.’
“When I spoke out, I thought it would be the start of a healing process for me but it’s been anything but.
“It’s disappointing to see where the game is at behind the scenes.
“It has taken me back to the dark days and my mental health has suffered.
“But I know I have to get through it for the sake of my kids and everyone else.
“I have had other cricketers telling me I’ve done what they always wanted to do but never had the guts to.
“I can understand why they haven’t because it doesn’t seem to me as though English cricket has any interest in sorting these issues out whatsoever.
“I haven’t really had much support throughout this whole process, from anywhere in the game. That’s what has disappointed me the most. It’s uncomfortable for a lot of people.
“The whole process has made me see why victims of all abuse don’t come forward because the system makes it so difficult to be listened to and believed.
“It doesn’t sit well with me to have to sit on a Zoom call and prove to random people that I had been close to committing suicide.”
Rafiq has questioned the independence of the investigation, which has been arranged and funded by Yorkshire whose chairmen Roger Hutton allegedly used to work for the law firm running the investigation – Squire, Patton, Boggs.
ESPN recently reported that people who came forward to back up Rafiq’s claims such as ex-players, coaches and supporters have never heard back from the investigation.
“What can I say to that? It was difficult for me to trust them in the first place but I tried. That just leads me to think that there will be no truth in the end.”
A Yorkshire statement read: “We have always taken the claims made by our former player Azeem Rafiq extremely seriously. In September last year we began an investigation, supported by an independent panel, to look into both Azeem’s experiences and also to conduct a wider review into the club’s policies and culture. We’re very grateful to all of those witnesses who have given their time and energy in providing their testimonies to the investigation team.
“In recent weeks further witnesses have come forward and the team have been determined to hear their experiences and ensure their contributions are heard. It’s been very important to the investigation team, the panel and the club that this process be conducted sensitively and thoroughly.
“Whilst we hope to share the findings of the investigation and recommendations of the panel in the coming weeks, we’re sorry that this has taken longer than we should have anticipated.”
When the pandemic hit last year, Azeem, with his mother and sisters, started cooking Pakistani food for NHS workers and to raise money for charity.
That has now been turned into business called Matki Chai which began in Rotherham but has spawned five more franchises throughout the country.
Rafiq – who played more than 150 matches for Yorkshire – has been out of professional cricket since being released by Yorkshire in 2018, but has been pursuing his coaching qualifications.
“I have just finished my level four coaching course and I will be one of the youngest to do that. I am incredibly passionate about coaching and I have lived and breathed cricket my whole life.
“But, at the moment, I don’t want anything to do with the game until it listens and makes meaningful changes.
“It’s not something I want to be part of or my kids to be part of until I am confident that the game actually cares about me and people like me.
“I see the slogan ‘game for everyone’ but nothing in my experience tells me that is the case.”