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While many sports players and governing bodies have been grappling with issues surrounding race and inequality on and off the pitch, cricket is still seen as “staunchly conservative,” Tom Fletcher, an academic in events, tourism and hospitality management at Leeds Beckett University, told CNN.
“As you get further through the system, the game gets whiter and whiter,” he said. “That happens in all walks of the game, [it] happens within coaching as well,” Fletcher, whose research focuses on racism and social justice, said.
Former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq made over 40 allegations against YCCC that he says took place between 2008 and 2018, according to a report summary of an independent inquiry conducted on behalf of the club, which noted that in almost all cases he alleged he was subject to racial harassment or bullying.
Rafiq said the experience left him close to taking his own life.
The ECB’s Chief Executive Officer Tom Harrison and Chair Barry O’Brien will also face questions from British lawmakers at Tuesday’s inquiry, according to a parliamentary note sent on Monday.
In August, YCCC issued a statement saying “many of the (Rafiq’s) allegations were not upheld” by an investigation it asked a panel of volunteer experts to conduct. The club’s statement did not specify which.
At least one player admitted to regularly using the term ‘P**i’ — a word widely seen as a slur and used against people of South Asian and Middle Eastern origin in Britain — when talking to Rafiq, according to a report seen by ESPNcricinfo and detailed this month.
But the report said that the player in question was exonerated because the review panel saw the comments as “banter” between the two players, ESPNcricinfo reported.
According to the summary of YCCC’s September 2021 report “Rafiq and his teammate’s language towards each other was unacceptable and was racist and derogatory and the Panel did not condone the language.”
In a statement posted to his Twitter account in October, Rafiq said that the investigation into his allegations of racism “lacked transparency and due process,” and that he had not been allowed to see the report, which he said was completed in August.
At least one other player has come forward to corroborate details of the racism Rafiq says he endured at YCCC.
Amjad alleged that his batting style was criticized by a member of staff, referencing his Pakistani heritage.
“I was stunned, didn’t know what to do and was shocked. I had never been directly racially insulted like that to my face. I didn’t know what to do,” he said.
Another former Yorkshire academy player Tabassum Bhatti told BBC Sport he was subjected to racism from teammates at the club as a 14-year-old.
Bhatti said ”players urinated on his head, desecrated another Muslim player’s prayer mat and used racist language aimed at his Pakistani heritage.”
YCCC did not respond to CNN’s request for comment regarding the allegations from Amjad and Bhatti.
According to Fletcher, cricket in Britain at the top echelon of the sport faces a significant diversity challenge.
“In the UK, on an amateur level a little over a third of people who play cricket are from a South Asian background,” Fletcher told CNN.
“The statistical proportion of players from other ethnic groups other than whites is very low,” Fletcher, whose research focuses on racism and social justice, said.
“The issue lies with how you make those transitions from amateur to games and how you become recognized,” added Fletcher, noting that cricket is still considered to be “staunchly conservative” when compared to other sports.
Jamaican born Maurice Chambers told The Cricketer in a piece published on Monday that he experienced racism at Essex Country Cricket Club, with ”a senior member of the coaching staff reading out racist jokes in the dressing room,” and a colleague calling him a “f***ing monkey.”
The club released a statement, saying that “The allegations reported today, involving Essex and another club, make distressing reading. Everything which has been reported will be taken very seriously and investigated thoroughly.”
CNN has reached out to Essex for further comment.
Former Essex player Zoheb Sharif also made allegations of racist abuse relating to his time at the club between 2001 and 2004, published for the first time last week.
“It was a day after the September 11 attacks. People started calling me Bomber,” Sharif told the Mirror.
Essex Cricket Chief Executive, John Stephenson, said he was “shocked and saddened” to hear of racial allegations involving a former player, dating back to 2001.
“There is absolutely no place for discrimination of any kind at Essex County Cricket Club and we have a zero-tolerance policy towards racism.
“I immediately reached out to the former player to offer him my and Essex County Cricket Club’s full support and to encourage him to come forward and talk to myself and the Club about his experiences,” he added.
But “up until now, English cricket in particular has been pretty quiet on its position [on racism],” Fletcher said.
“Perhaps because actually they know full well [in] any sort of gesture.. they will line themselves up to criticism if they were to take a position on racism — so that players could come out and say well, you didn’t support my claim,” he said.
Lawmaker Julian Knight, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee has already called on the board of YCCC to resign in the wake of the allegations made by Rafiq.
“Given the endemic racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, I struggle to think of any reason why … the board should remain in post,” Knight, chair of the DCMS select committee, said on Twitter in early November.
Club chairman, Roger Hutton, resigned earlier this month and apologized for what he described as “a constant unwillingness” on the part of the club’s leadership “to apologize and to accept racism and to look forward.”
Hutton apologized to Rafiq in a statement, saying that though he was not at the club during the period the cricketer was employed, “the club should have recognized at the time the serious allegations of racism.
Meanwhile, head coach Andrew Gale has been temporarily suspended while under investigation for a “historic” tweet he sent, YCCC said, though they did not give further details about the tweet.
The club’s new chair Lord Patel last week announced the creation of a whistleblowing hotline and has urged others to “come forward and share their experiences.”
Mohinderpal Sethi QC has been appointed to lead an independent investigation looking into claims lodged through the hotline.
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