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Azeem Rafiq hits out at ECB for lack of support over racism scandal: ‘I have been driven out of the country’ | Cricket News

Azeem Rafiq has told MPs that he has not received any support from the England and Wales Cricket Board since he first gave evidence of the racism he faced while at Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

The former bowler appeared before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee on Tuesday for the first time since November 2021 and said he has been forced to leave the UK because of the abuse he has received.

Rafiq gave powerful testimony to the DCMS last November about his experience of abuse and bullying at Yorkshire, and spoke to the committee again, detailing the fallout of last year’s testimony.

“I haven’t felt supported at all. In the last couple of months, I have received 24/7 security, but I have been forced to leave. Providing of security has been good throughout, but there was no protection at times,” the 31-year-old said.

“I have felt even the ECB has been involved in the leaking and planting of stories about me. My medical information and data has been shared. I have made that point to the new chair [Richard Thompson, appointed in August 2022].

“I have felt that when there has been any chance to discredit my experiences, I felt like even the ECB has tried to do that. For me, I don’t think it’s about individuals. The structural problems within cricket are a lot bigger.

“If I was to look at 13 months on from me opening my heart out, all that’s changed really is that me and my family have been driven out of the country. And that’s a sad element of it.”

Rafiq recounted some of the abuse he has received, including a man defecating outside his parents’ house.

He added: “The way I’ve been attacked and abused, why would you speak out? I’ve got a little hope in the new (ECB) leadership, but it’s very little at the minute.”

‘Cricket is very much in denial’

In June, the ECB charged a number of individuals in relation to Rafiq’s allegations of abuse, along with Yorkshire for its handling of those allegations.

However, the Cricket Discipline Commission has yet to hear the case after a dispute over whether it should take place in public or private.

During his latest testimony, Rafiq, who apologised for historical antisemitic social media posts last year, was critical of the “cricket establishment”, who tried to make “this about me and a lot of it was to stop other people from coming forward”.

He also criticised the Yorkshire Post for a series of articles which he felt tried to discredit him.

Former Essex County Cricket Club cricketer Jahid Ahmed and former Yorkshire County Cricket Club cricketer Azeem Rafiq in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee at the House of Commons, London, on the subject of racism in cricket. Picture date: Tuesday December 13, 2022.
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Jahid Ahmed also gave evidence on Tuesday

“I have been forced to leave, and one reason that has happened was the Yorkshire Post’s writing,” he said.

“I would be willing to sit down with them (editors of the Yorkshire Post) as the Jewish community have with me.”

Former Sky Sports commentator David Lloyd apologised last year after being named by Rafiq during his DCMS testimony.

Lloyd subsequently parted company with Sky and Rafiq was critical of the way the situation was handled.

“I talked about David Lloyd here last year, I received an apology, and we talked on the phone. David wanted to make sure he was part of the solution.

“Sky Cricket got rid of him and that was a bad decision.”

Rafiq added that he thinks “cricket is very much in denial”, saying the ECB’s work until now feels “superficial”.

Sky Sports News has approached Sky, the ECB and the Yorkshire Post for comment.

Former Essex County all-rounder Jahid Ahmed also appeared before the DCMS and said he hasn’t received any support from the county since speaking out.

He revealed that when he was on the books at Essex, players would use racial slurs. He added that other Asian team members advised him to ignore the comments, but he felt like he had to speak out “to support Azeem”.

‘I don’t know how Azeem gets the strength to carry on’

YCCC’s chair Lord Kamlesh Patel also spoke to the select committee, and he accused the ECB of failing to support him when he faced criticism over the reforms at the county club.

Lord Patel was appointed as the chairman of Yorkshire in November 2021 after the county was stripped of international hosting rights over its handling of racism allegations.

He was tasked with implementing reforms at Headingley but told the committee that he felt he was left on his own to handle that by the ECB.

Lord Patel of Bradford, Chair, Yorkshire County Cricket Club, answering questions via video link in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee at the House of Commons, London, on the subject of racism in cricket. Picture date: Tuesday December 13, 2022.
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YCCC’s chair Lord Kamlesh Patel also criticised the ECB

“If I was attacked in the press or if cricket leaders or previous cricket leaders made unsubstantiated statements, nothing was done,” Patel said.

“I asked in writing, and I have email after email, letter after letter, saying ‘you asked me to do this, I’ve done this, please support me’ and I have no response to any of those letters and emails. So it was very distressing.

“I’m looking forward to the new leadership of Richard Thompson, the few meetings I’ve had with him have been positive, and it feels like it’s going forward, but these last 12 months, the answer (to the question of whether he has felt supported by the ECB) has to be ‘no’.

“If I was an individual who wasn’t a member of the House of Lords and hadn’t had any sort of leadership experience, you would walk away.

“I don’t know how Azeem gets the strength to carry on. You would just run. In the public eye, we get flak (but) this is relentless. And this is from an area where you don’t expect it – this is sport, for God’s sake.

“Individuals who have just been (making) a concerted attack, I do not think people understand, I don’t think the ECB has got it.”

Lord Patel highlighted reforms that have been implemented in Yorkshire, including free kits and coaching for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, adding that it will cost the club almost £500,000.

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