AZEEM Rafiq has accepted an apology for racist comments by his former Barnsley CC and Yorkshire CCC team-mate Gary Ballance who he says should ‘be allowed to get on with cricket.’

Barnsley man Rafiq’s revelations about racism at Yorkshire and the wider game led to a government inquiry and huge staff changes at Yorkshire. Ballance has admitted using racist language to Rafiq.

The pair met in London at a meeting hosted by Julian Metherell, non-executive chair at the Professional Cricketers’ Association.

Ballance took a break from the sport earlier this year but has recently returned to the Yorkshire second team.

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Ballance said: “I have wanted to meet Azeem in person for quite some time, but I had to make sure I was in a good place when I did so. Azeem has been through similar mental health challenges and understands why this has taken me a little time.

“I apologise unreservedly to Azeem for the words I used when we played together. I did use unacceptable - at times, racist - language. If I had realised how much this hurt Azeem, I would have stopped immediately. That’s why I wanted to meet him this week and be clear in person that I intended no malice. That’s not an excuse, I realise that the language I used was wrong.

“I have accepted, from the outset, the words I used were wrong and I hope this statement brings Azeem some comfort. There is no place in our sport for this behaviour and I am determined to play my part in ridding the game from racism and make it more inclusive. To do this we all need to be honest and learn from our past mistakes.”

Rafiq added: “From day one of opening up about my experiences, all I ever wanted was acceptance and apologies for what happened. Gary has been brave to admit the truth and I understand why the mental strain has made it difficult for him to make this apology any sooner. Gary must be applauded for his honesty and unreserved apology and must now be allowed to get on with his life.

“Gary got things wrong, so did many people. The main issue is cricket’s institutional racism. Gary’s courage means he is now part of the solution. I hope he can be allowed to get on with his cricket.

“I would like to thank Gary. He has done cricket and the fight against racism a great service with these words. I would also like to thank those who have been in contact with me privately to apologise for what they witnessed. It’s a good time for those who were bystanders to reflect on whether they could have done the same or even spoken publicly about what they saw.”