Azeem Rafiq: English cricket is ‘institutionally’ racist

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 (West End Final)
(West End Final)

“P*** is not banter, racism is not banter.” These words, uttered by former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq, may seem obvious to some, but they clearly still need saying.

Rafiq was appearing in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which is investigating sporting governance within cricket.

This morning’s evidence session was a consequence of a series of events which followed Rafiq’s allegations of racism against Yorkshire in the summer of 2020.

The club then commissioned a report which concluded he had been the victim of racial harassment and bullying, yet extraordinarily, it announced that no employees would face further action.

If you have a few minutes, I’d really encourage you to watch some of Rafiq’s testimony. I keep trying to link to a specific section but frankly, the whole thing is so remarkable and packed with harrowing testimony that you can, sadly, hit play at any point and feel dismayed and angry about his treatment. Or you can read the full witness statement here.

But perhaps start at the beginning, where Rafiq describes himself as a young kid from Pakistan living in Barnsley with a dream – to represent England. He recalls how he joined a dressing room full of his heroes. But early on, he and other people from Asian backgrounds were told:

“You lot sit over there near the toilets, elephant washers, the word P*** was used constantly. There just seemed to be an acceptance in the institution from the leaders and no one ever stamped it out... all I wanted to do was play cricket.”

Rafiq said that since 2010, British Asian representation in cricket has fallen by 40 per cent. One wonders how many more young cricket fans will be put off from joining the sport for fear it is neither a welcome nor safe space for them.

In the comment pages, London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Tulip Siddiq MP have written a joint piece calling on the Prime Minister to do more to bring Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe home.

Elsewhere, Nimco Ali welcomes the fact that Somali music has suddenly gone mainstream – but points out that people from the ‘nation of poets’ have been part of British culture for quite some time.

Finally – and this has been taken very seriously indeed – we review the best Christmas sandwiches around to get you into the holiday spirit. We’ve got prices, marks out of 10 and a couple of (in my humble opinion) incomprehensible controversial takes.

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