Yorkshire cricketer at centre of racism storm hits out at ECB report


Azeem Rafiq

Azeem Rafiq sparked the investigation (Image: Getty)

The cricketer at the centre of racism allegations in the game said the national body’s response to a subsequent probe into the claims does not go far enough.  

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) yesterday finally responded to an investigation by the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) which found discrimination in cricket in the two countries was “widespread” – including racism, sexism and elitism.  

Reacting fully for the first time to the damning report, the ECB said it accepted “most” of the ICEC’s 44 recommendations.  

These included the creation of an independent regulator for the game.  

But the original whistleblower who sparked the investigation, Azeem Rafiq – who highlighted racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club – said he remained unconvinced by the ECB’s response, adding that he was “disappointed” by its lack of detail.  

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Richard Gould, new ECB Chief Executive Officer

Richard Gould, new ECB Chief Executive Officer (Image: Getty)

“There are a couple of positives, but I just expected a little bit more, it’s quite frustrating,” he said.  

While he welcomed some proposed initiatives as “a step in the right direction”, he questioned whether the actions would “stop the overt racism that I experienced”.  

“People are still getting in touch about experiences and really struggling to know where to go and who to trust,” he said. 

“A stronger response today would have helped change that.”  

But the cricket body disagreed, saying it was now heading in the right direction.  

ECB chief executive Richard Gould said: “The ICEC report was a massive moment for the sport and a responsibility we take extremely seriously, to bring about the changes we all want to see.  

“We think we are on a journey to try to change history in terms of what cricket looks like and will look like.”  

One of the recommendations the report made when it was first published in June was for the ECB to issue an unreserved as public apology for its failings, which chairman Richard Thompson did immediately.

Today, he reiterated this, saying: “I want to double down on our apology to those we have let down and discriminated against.  

“Cricket hasn’t got it right in the past, but this is an opportunity to move forward together. I’d urge everyone to now come together, to put their energy and effort into delivering these actions, and to play their part in ensuring cricket becomes England and Wales’ most inclusive team sport.”  

To address gender equality, the ECB said it would now invest £25million a year above the revenue it receives from the women’s game into growing women’s and girls’ cricket at all levels until at least 2028 – which comes after the ECB announced in August that England Women will earn the same match fees as the men’s side.  

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 England men's Test captain Ben Stokes to give evidence

England men’s Test captain Ben Stokes to give evidence (Image: Getty)

The investigation into cricket was announced by the ECB in March 2021 in the wake of global movements such as Black Lives Matter and Me Too. It opened an online call for evidence in November of that year, receiving 4,156 responses. In March 2022, a call for written evidence resulted in more than 150 responses.  

Among those to give evidence include England Test captain Ben Stokes, former captain Joe Root, World Cup-winning skipper Eoin Morgan, women’s captain Heather Knight,  and Rafiq – the former Yorkshire player and racism whistleblower. 

He had accused the Yorkshire club of widespread racism, naming a number of ex-players including the former England captain Michael Vaughan.  

Vaughan later denied the allegations.  

But the fallout led to massive changes within Yorkshire CCC and sparked the nationwide investigation into the sport. 

Michael Vaughan denied allegations

Michael Vaughan denied allegations (Image: Getty)

Despite Rafiq’s reservations about the ECB’s response to the findings yesterday, others felt that cricket in England and Wales was now back on the right path.  

England all-rounder Moeen Ali said: “The ECB have been trying for a while but probably haven’t got it right but now, finally, they’ve got it right with the projects they are starting to invest in and things like that.  

“It’s a great opportunity for more people and more diverse people and it’s exactly what we want in this country, that sport and cricket is for everybody.”  

And Yorkshire chief executive Stephen Vaughan: “We are optimistic that we can continue on our journey to bring about real and lasting change, and whilst there is still a long way to go and much to be done we are committed to our mission and will work with the ECB to do everything we can to learn from the past and use our hard-earned experience to help support other clubs on the journey to improving standards across the game and making cricket a sport for everyone.”

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