YORKSHIRE are to conduct a formal investigation into Azeem Rafiq’s accusation the club are ‘institutionally racist’ after the former England Under-19 captain revealed the matter left him on the brink of taking his own life.
Rafiq had two stints at Headingley between 2008 and 2018, and after leading Yorkshire in a Twenty20 game against Durham in 2012, he became, aged 21, the youngest player to captain the county in a senior match. He was released in 2018 for a second time and has walked away from cricket but in a startling interview with ESPNCricinfo, the former off-spinner said, as a Muslim, he was made to feel like an ‘outsider’ at the county.
‘I know how close I was to committing suicide during my time at Yorkshire,’ said the 29-year-old. ‘I was living my family’s dream as a professional cricketer, but inside I was dying.
‘I was dreading going to work. I was in pain every day. There were times I did things to try and fit in that, as a Muslim, I look back on and regret. I’m not proud of it. But as soon as I stopped trying to fit in, I was an outsider.
‘I believe the club is institutionally racist and I don’t believe they are prepared to acknowledge the fact or willing to change. My only motivation now is to prevent anyone else feeling the same pain.’
In a statement yesterday confirming an investigation, the club said they will be making contact with ‘impartial external parties… to ensure complete transparency’. Chairman Roger Hutton said: ‘Any allegation of this nature is hugely concerning.
‘We fully acknowledge that just as in many walks of life, sport, including cricket and Yorkshire as a club, must do better to fully promote a culture of zero tolerance to racism. We accepted a long time ago that change was needed at Headingley to improve diversity, especially in terms of racial inclusivity.’