Former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq expects the “floodgates” to open in cricket’s racism crisis, predicting thousands could come forward after giving a disturbing account of his own experiences to British lawmakers.
Pakistan-born Rafiq told MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee on Tuesday how racist language was “constantly” used during his two spells at the county club.
The 30-year-old, who had dreamed of playing for England, said the sport in the country was blighted by institutional racism.
He made several fresh allegations against high-profile individuals, including ex-England players Gary Ballance, Tim Bresnan, Matthew Hoggard and Alex Hales, and predicts others will speak up in their droves.
There have already been accusations of racism at Essex while a number of other counties were also named during the parliamentary hearing.
“I do feel now it’s going to be a little bit of floodgates and a lot of victims of abuse are going to come forward and we need to listen to them, hear them, support them and work out a plan to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” he told Sky Sports.
“I think you’re going to get it (complaints) into the hundreds and thousands, possibly, and I think it’s the way they handle it. We’ve got here because of Yorkshire’s handling of this.”
The fallout for Yorkshire over the scandal has been devastating, with sponsors making a mass exodus, resignations from top administrators and the club barred from hosting lucrative international matches.
But Rafiq warned that the county could not move forward until head coach Andrew Gale and director of cricket Martyn Moxon had left the Headingley-based club.
Gale is currently suspended pending investigations over a historical tweet and Moxon is signed off with a stress-related illness.
“I don’t think Martyn and Andrew can (continue in their roles),” said Rafiq. “I think Gary (Ballance) — if he apologises properly and has some sort of acceptance and accountability — he should be allowed to play.
“But in terms of Andrew and Martyn, I don’t think it’s possible for Yorkshire to move forward with them still in there knowing full well what sort of role they played in that institution.”
More than 1,000 people have contacted the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket, set up by the England and Wales Cricket Board, since a “call for evidence” last week.
Cindy Butts, who chairs the ICEC, said Rafiq’s testimony showed that cricket “must change now”.
“Since launching part one of our call for evidence last week over 1,000 people have already come forward to share their experiences with us,” she told the Daily Telegraph.
“It is crucial people across the game, many likely inspired by Azeem’s bravery, have the chance to be heard.”
Sayeeda Warsi, a lawmaker in Britain’s unelected House of Lords, called on the ECB to lead change.
“It is time for the ECB to be involved with a full inquiry which includes a truth and reconciliation process that allows anonymity because that is what players want,” she told the BBC.
“What happened to Azeem was the tip of the iceberg in Yorkshire and what we are seeing happening in Yorkshire is the tip of the iceberg as to what is happening in English cricket.”