FORMER Yorkshire cricketer and whistleblower Azeem Rafiq has laid bare the full extent of his harrowing experience of racism in cricket during a explosive and emotional appearance in front of MPs.

Mr Rafiq has been waiting for the chance to air his full allegations in the public arena and Tuesday’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee hearing offered him the chance to speak with the protection of parliamentary privilege – a freedom he used to issue a raft of previously unheard claims.

He fought back tears as he told MPs the word ‘P**i’ was “used constantly” across his two spells at Yorkshire and no one in leadership challenged it.

Mr Rafiq’s voice cracked and he fought back tears on several occasions, but he spoke with clarity and resolve for almost an hour and 40 minutes, interrupted only by one brief adjournment when emotion got the better of him.

At the hearing, he concluded that racial discrimination, and his decision to take a stand against it, had cost him his career in a sport that he feels has ingrained problems above and beyond his own story.

Asked if he could identify a single individual who had stood up for him or called out acts of racism at the time, he was unable to summon a name, adding: “You had people who were openly racist and you had the bystanders. No-one felt it was important.”

Allegations against Yorkshire Cricket Club

Rafiq first alleged racial harassment and bullying against the county and accused them of institutional racism in September last year, with the club launching an investigation soon afterwards.

However, their handling of it has been heavily criticised. They finally published summary findings of the investigation in September this year and, while the investigation found there was “no question” Rafiq had been subjected to racial harassment and bullying, no individuals faced disciplinary action.

Rafiq told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee on Tuesday: “Pretty early on at the club, I joined a dressing room full of my heroes, Michael Vaughan, Matthew Hoggard, part of the 2005 Ashes team. And it was just the most surreal moment for me.

“Pretty early on, me and other people from an Asian background…there were comments such as ‘you’ll sit over there near the toilets’, ‘elephant washers’. The word P*** was used constantly. And there just seemed to be an acceptance in the institution from the leaders and no one ever stamped it out.”

Rafiq added: “All I wanted to do is play cricket and play for England and live my dream and live my family’s dream. In my first spell, I don’t really think I quite realised what it was. I think I was in denial.”

Read more: Adil Rashid supports Azeem Rafiq claim – a timeline of Yorkshire’s racism crisis

Racial abuse from fellow players 

He said he started medication due to his deteriorating mental health and left Yorkshire for the first time in 2014.

When he returned he initially felt settled under captain Alex Lees and coach Jason Gillespie.

“Jason left in 2016 and it just felt the temperature in the room had been turned up,” Rafiq said. “You had Andrew Gale coming in as coach and Gary Ballance as captain.

“For the first time I started to see for what it was – I felt isolated, humiliated at times. Constant use of the word ‘P***’.”

Rafiq said on a 2017 pre-season tour Ballance had racially abused him.

“We were in a place and Gary Ballance walks over and goes, ‘Why are you talking to him? You know he’s a P***’. This happened in front of teammates. It happened in front of coaching staff.”

What happened before the hearing?

The 30-year-old has already agreed a financial settlement with his old club over an employment tribunal and seen some claims of racial harassment and bullying upheld by an independent report.

The cross-party committee, chaired by Conservative MP Julian Knight, is also set to take evidence from former Yorkshire chair Roger Hutton, who resigned in the aftermath of the episode. He left citing his frustration at executive board members Mark Arthur and Martyn Moxon and can be expected to offer more on that subject.

Read more: Yorkshire chairman Lord Patel issues apology

What happeneds next?

The committee will produce a report of its findings and present them to the Commons. After that, the Government will reply within two months advising on its proposed course of action. 

The committee can also recommend action from a non-governmental organisation – in this case, Yorkshire and the ECB would be the only likely candidates – and would ask for responses on a similar time scale.

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