Former Yorkshire cricketer speaks out on years of ‘disgusting’ racist abuse at club

Tabassum Bhatti, a former academy player for Yorkshire County Cricket Club, tells ITV News's Steve Scott about abuse he suffered while playing as a teenager for the team

The latest player to go public with allegations about racism against Yorkshire County Cricket Club has told of years of abuse he suffered, including being urinated on, in his first interview.

Speaking exclusively to ITV News, Tabassum Bhatti, a former academy player for the county, said he was called a P*** among other racist comments by teammates during his five years playing for the Club as a teen.

Bhatti, who was signed to YCCC in 1998 when he was 14 years old, said racist "banter" was "the norm" and that "it's self-evident not a lot has been done in 20 years" to tackle the issue, not only at the Club, but in the sport as a whole.

He said it was a "dream" to play for YCCC and England, but added: "The way I was treated wasn't right."

"There was an occasion where - I use the word teammate because he was - he urinated on my head," the former player told ITV News.

Bhatti said he told his coach about the incident at the time - but was told they'll "deal with it"

"They were in the hotel room, I was leaning out the hotel room on the phone to somebody and there were a couple of players in the hotel room bedroom above, and they urinated on my head from the window.

"I was angry, sad at the time but it's not something I ever mentioned to my parents. I mentioned it to the coach at the time, he said 'don't worry I'll deal with it'."

Bhatti said the same teammate would "intentionally" throw the ball so hard from close-range that it would bruise his hands in warm up sessions before games.

"There were always comments about the colour of my skin," said Bhatti

"This was on purpose," he said. "The coaches were all present but, in their words, I'd 'have to toughen up'."

Bhatti said he believes he was "singled out" and that much of the abuse he suffered was racially motivated.

"There were always comments about the colour of your skin, P***... there was always stuff about my appearance," he recalled.

Bhatti said other players of colour also suffered "disgusting" abuse and that he once overheard teammates saying they had desecrated a Muslim cricketer's prayer mat.

Recalling another player's abuse, he added: "We had a West Indian player at the club and when they used to see a dark rain cloud, they wouldn't say a dark rain cloud is coming, they'd say this player's name is coming - this is a black player.

"It gives you an insight into what they deemed as banter. This was the norm.

"It's absolutely not. How can it be? But when you're 14 years old, who do you turn to? Who do you speak to? Even when I've mentioned to coaches before about incidents, they've said they'll 'deal with it'."

"It's self-evident not a lot has been done. I was there in 1998. We're talking 20 years ago and stuff is still happening today," said Bhatti

Bhatti said he never wanted to go public with his experiences but is "willing to make the sacrifice" to support former player Azeem Rafiq's case, and to bring about change for the Asian community as a whole and the game of cricket.

"It's self-evident not a lot has been done. I was there in 1998. We're talking 20 years ago and stuff is still happening today," he added.

"There's been a mentality in the Asian community of just getting on with it... Racism exists to this day in all walks of life. It's not something I wanted to do but it's got to a stage where things really need to change."

Azeem Rafiq said he was driven to tears from racial abuse he suffered while playing at Yorkshire County Cricket Club. Credit: PA Images

Bhatti said part of his motivation behind speaking out is that he does not want his six-year-old son and two-year-old daughter to go through what he, Rafiq and others have been through. He added that he would "definitely not" want them ever affiliated with YCCC.

Along with Yorkshire, the former player also called out the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), who he described as "negligent", and said change must come from "the top down".

He said: "There's even clubs that will specify, we don't want any more than four or five Asian players in the team, so where do you start?

"A strong message needs to be sent by the ECB, who have been very reluctant in all of this, let's be honest about it.

"The ECB needs to have along hard look at itself, I think Yorkshire needs to have a long hard look at itself because me as a player there 20 years ago, those faces in the organisation are still at the club."

The former player said he's speaking out about his experiences in the hopes that others do not have to go through what he, Rafiq and others have

Following Yorkshire's handling of Rafiq's racism allegations, the ECB banned the Club from hosting international and major fixes and that it would have to "address the root causes" of the issues. "There is no place for racism or any form of discrimination in cricket and where it is found, swift action must be taken," it said.

An independent whistleblowing hotline will also be set up to create a "safe place" for people to report concerns, alongside a review of processes and procedures at the club.

A Yorkshire statement in response read: "This kind of behaviour would be completely unacceptable to the club.

"Now we are aware of it, it goes without saying that we will investigate the allegation thoroughly."