Azeem Rafiq inquiry concludes racism in cricket is 'deep-seated'

The inquiry heard Azeem Rafiq had been subjected to regular abuse during two spells at Yorkshire Credit: PA Images

A damning report into discrimination in cricket has concluded that there is a "deep-seated issue of racism" within the game.

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee launched an inquiry after claims by the former Yorkshire County Cricket Club player Azeem Rafiq.

He gave emotional testimony to the committee in November about the racist abuse he suffered across two spells at the county club.

Today the committee called on cricket to "clean up its act" and said public funding should be withheld unless the sport's authorities can prove they have dealt with the problem.

After taking evidence from numerous officials, their report said: "It is evident to us that there is a deep-seated issue of racism in cricket."

Cricketer Azeem Rafiq held back tears as he gave evidence to MPs about the racism he has suffered. Credit: House of Commons

Rafiq's claims led to the biggest crisis in the history of Yorkshire Cricket.

An internal investigation initially found he had been the victim of bullying and racial harassment, but concluded that no-one would face disciplinary action.

But there was a huge backlash, prompting county chairman Roger Hutton and chief executive Mark Arthur to resign in November.

Giving evidence the same month, Rafiq told the DCMS Committee he had been the victim of racial slurs being "used constantly" at his two spells at the club, leaving him feeling "humiliated" in front of other players.

He said: “Pretty early on, me and other people from an Asian background…there were comments such as ‘you’ll sit over there near the toilets’."

Rafiq said other racial slurs were used constantly and he felt "isolated, humiliated at times" due to the persistent racism he says he suffered.

Following the hearing, director of cricket Martyn Moxon and first-team coach Andrew Gale were dismissed in early December, along with 14 other members of staff.

Andrew Gale was dismissed in the wake of Rafiq's allegations Credit: PA

In their report, the DCMS Committee pointed to the language used in correspondence with them and attempts to "discredit" Rafiq in the media as evidence that a "long and difficult road" lay ahead for the sport.

Chairman Julian Knight said: “The powerful evidence given to this committee by Azeem Rafiq convinced us that his story was typical of an endemic problem across the whole of cricket.

"We commend him for having the courage to blow the whistle on unacceptable and discriminatory behaviour.

"We have been shocked by language people used in correspondence with us after the hearing.

"That, together with stories run in the media to discredit him, demonstrate that eradicating racism from the game will be a long and difficult road. However, this is a watershed for cricket in this country.

"Those who love and support the game are part of the solution and must play their part."

The committee called on the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to set itself areas of improvement and provide updates to the committee every quarter on its progress – or face a cut to government funding.

The ECB and Yorkshire will be called to give evidence on their progress early this year, the committee said.

"We recommend that the government ensures that any future public funds for cricket are dependent on continuous, demonstrable progress in getting rid of racism in both the dressing rooms and on the stands," they said.

It comes after the sports Minister Nigel Huddlesto

n told the committee on 18 November that an independent regulator for cricket to oversee the flow of public money into the sport was the "nuclear option".

The ECB has been told to prove it is making progress Credit: PA

The ECB published a game-wide, 12-point plan to tackle discrimination on 26 November, with its under-fire chief executive Tom Harrison describing the racism allegations from Rafiq and players from other counties as an "earthquake" that had hit the sport.

The plan included a review of dressing-room culture, diversity training for all those involved in the sport, a governance review, a drive to remove barriers to playing top-level cricket, localised equality, diversity and inclusion for clubs, counties and governing bodies and examining how stadia can be made more welcoming to people from diverse backgrounds.

Rafiq today praised the committee's report saying: "It is absolutely brilliant that [committee chairman] Julian Knight and his colleagues on the committee are going to hold the ECB to account every quarter.

"This shows just how seriously politicians are taking an issue that too many people in cricket ignored for so long. The committee understands how important it is to clean-up the game."