Cricket chiefs 'apologise unreservedly' for 'blight' of racism in game after Azeem Rafiq testimony

ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott reports on cricket's crisis summit

England's major cricketing bodies have apologised "unreservedly" for anyone who has suffered racism in the game, as they vowed to eradicate the "scourge" of discrimination from the sport.

Following a crisis summit with cricket's leading decision makers, the attendees promised to take action in a joint statement, but stopped short of revealing specific proposals, which will be unveiled next week.

"Azeem Rafiq has shone a light on our game that has shocked, shamed and saddened us all. Racism and discrimination is a blight on our game," the statement, which was read out by England and Wales's (ECB) chief executive Tom Harrison, said.

"To Azeem and all of those who have suffered or experienced any form of discrimination in our sport we are truly sorry.

"Our sport did not welcome you, our game did not accept you, as we should have done. We apologise unreservedly for the suffering you have faced."

"We are united as a sport to do whatever it takes to eradicate this scourge from our game."

Representatives from the ECB, the Professional Cricketers' Association, Marylebone Cricket Club, the National Counties Cricket Association and the First Class and Recreational County Cricket network attended Friday's meeting at The Oval in London.

But despite facing intense scrutiny over his handling of the sport's ongoing racism scandal, Tom Harrison, the ECB’s under-pressure chief executive, said he has no intention of stepping down.

Instead, Mr Harrison said he wants to help cricket address its problem with racism.

“I did receive the backing of the game today,” he said following the meeting at the Kia Oval. “I feel very determined to lead this change through the game and make sure this plight is addressed in the game."

"I don’t think there is one person in English and Welsh Cricket that doesn’t feel the necessity to take these steps and to make the initial changes to eradicate this situation of racism in cricket and take it out forever," he added.

Former Yorkshire spinner Rafiq gave a moving testimony to the parliamentary committee on Tuesday recalling how racial slurs were "used constantly" at his two spells at Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC), leaving him feeling "humiliated" in front of other players.

The former all-rounder, ex-England U-19s and Yorkshire captain said he started medication due to his deteriorating mental health and left Yorkshire for the first time in 2014. He also said Yorkshire's treatment of him was "inhuman" after his son was still-born in 2017.

Former Yorkshire chair Roger Hutton, who stepped down over the scandal, appeared to point the finger at some of the powerful investors who support the club over why Yorkshire did not take firmer action against racism.

Rafiq earlier this week gave tearful testimony to MPs about the racism he had faced when playing for Yorkshire.

Mr Hutton said he had been blocked from removing senior members from the board over allegations of racism because the Colin Graves Trust vetoed it.

Hutton said he wanted to remove them "as a consequence of the failure to understand the gravity of the situation (regarding Rafiq) and failing to apologise, and particularly for their failings and to move on the recommendations".

Boris Johnson on Thursday told ITV News he feels "horror" over recent revelations from Rafiq about racism in his sport and suggested the government needs to intervene in order to combat abuse.

Rafiq was forced to make an apology of his own on Thursday after admitting he sent anti-Semitic messages more than a decade ago.

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