Northern Ireland North West Warriors cricketer Steve Lazars alleges racist taunts over name and age

A cricket player has spoken out about alleged racial discrimination he says he experienced during his time at a provincial club in Northern Ireland, after accounts by Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq brought back memories for him.

Steve Lazars has claimed he was subjected to racist treatment during his time at the North West Warriors club between January 2017 and May 2018.

The Indian born player, who first came to Northern Ireland as a player over a decade ago, has told UTV it has caused him untold mental distress.

Cricketing authorities said they have investigated Steve's claims with diligence and found no basis to his allegations.

Steve Lazars, who's 38, has alleged he was treated differently from others from his first day at the club.

"It was really taunted at me - 'is Steve really your name? Tell me your actual name'. And then 'what is your age' and I said here is my age ... And he said, 'oh you're part of the world that's got a reputation for fudging the age.'"

He said: "The way it started manifesting itself was you're not given a chance while training to actually bat or bowl."

Steve claimed one person "ended up farting on my face."

"I had to take it as a joke, you know, but that person was not doing it to any other people," Steve said.

Cricket Ireland and the NW Cricket Union who run the NW Warriors confirmed a complaint from Steve Lazars was sent in May 2018.

In a statement they said: "The NWCU immediately sought support from Cricket Ireland in 2018 to properly work through the allegations, and consequently a thorough investigation was undertaken at the time, led by the Chair of the CI Disciplinary Committee, supported by an independent HR consultant.

"No basis to the allegations was found from this investigation, and Mr Lazars elected not to appeal the decision."

A report found former player Azeem Rafiq was the victim of racist harassment and bullying at Yorkshire. Credit: PA

"Mr Lazars then launched legal proceedings to an Industrial Tribunal against the NWCU and Cricket Ireland - the matter was then referred to mediation in the first instance. Before the allegations received a full hearing or mediation occured, we were informed Mr Lazars had withdrawn the claim.

The Cricketing body insisted the case was treated "with complete care and diligence."

They also said that an independent barrister recently reviewed it and was "satisfied" with the conclusions reached.

Steve Lazars now plays for Bready and still dreams of representing Ireland.

He said his mental health has suffered over the last few years.

"The one word that comes to mind is that you felt like a piece of dirt because you were experiencing such isolation. Jenny, who's my wife, lost the person I was for nearly 2 years."