Azeem Rafiq accuses England star Matthew Hoggard of using racial slurs 'all day, every day'

·Political Correspondent - Yahoo News UK
·8-min read

The cricketer at the centre of the racism storm engulfing the sport has made a series of further claims about alleged comments made by high-profile England players. 

Giving evidence to MPs at the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee on Tuesday about the racist abuse he endured at Yorkshire Cricket Club, Azeem Rafiq said the word "P***" was "used constantly" across his two spells at the club and no-one in leadership challenged it.

At one point his emotional, compelling testimony had to be paused temporarily after he began to cry when he recalled what he described as "inhuman" treatment at the club around the time his wife had a miscarriage.

In a written statement released after giving evidence on Tuesday morning, Rafiq alleges that former England fast bowler Matthew Hoggard called him "Raffa the kaffir" and used slurs such as "P***" and "elephant washer".

He also makes further claims against former England players Alex Hales and Tim Bresnan and says captain Joe Root was on nights out when racist language was used by their team-mates.

Rafiq, who played for Yorkshire between 2008 and 2018, says Hoggard – who played more than 90 times for his country and who Rafiq said was once like a hero to him – would use such terms "on a daily basis, and all day, every day".

He claims Hoggard would make Rafiq and other members of the team of Asian heritage sit together in the dressing room.

Azeem Rafiq broke down as he gave evidence to MPs over the racism he experienced.
Azeem Rafiq broke down as he gave evidence to MPs over the racism he experienced.

Additional allegations were made against former England player Tim Bresnan and the Yorkshire former club captain and current head coach Andrew Gale. Rafiq also repeated allegations against Yorkshire batsman Gary Ballance and ex-England captain Michael Vaughan.

Bresnan, an England player between 2006 and 2015 and a county champion with Warwickshire this summer, is accused of making "frequent" racist comments.

"Tim frequently made racist comments and was unduly harsh towards me compared to white British players, which became so unbearable that I made a formal complaint against him in 2017," he wrote.

Leicestershire captain Matthew Hoggard
Matthew Hoggard has been accused of using racist language by Azeem Rafiq. (PA)

"Tim is Andrew (Gale)'s brother in-law. They always supported each other. In my experience, they were a double act: Tim would tag along and join in with Andrew’s racist comments and they bounced off each other in terms of the bullying."

Bresnan has denied the claims. He said in a statement: "For any part I played in contributing to Azeem Rafiq’s experience of feeling bullied at Yorkshire, I apologise unreservedly.

“Following the publication of Azeem’s witness statement from the employment tribunal, which I saw for the first time this afternoon, I must though categorically deny his accusation that I ‘frequently made racist comments’. This is absolutely not true.” 

Gale is accused of routinely using the terms 'P***' and ‘kaffir’ but also that he used his leadership roles to subject his colleague to “discriminatory treatment and bullying”, which allegedly held back Rafiq’s career.

Gale is currently suspended as head coach pending investigation of a historic tweet.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Tim Bresnan of Warwickshire celebrates after taking the wicket of Ben Green of Somerset during Day Four of the LV= Insurance County Championship match between Warwickshire and Somerset at Edgbaston on September 24, 2021 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)
Tim Bresnan pictured in September this year playing for Warwickshire. (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Rafiq’s statement also referenced the claim that former England captain Vaughan spoke to a group of players of Asian ethnicity at Yorkshire in 2009 and said: “There’s too many of you lot. We need to have a word about that.”

Rafiq said: "I remember being shocked and thinking, 'Did he actually just say that?'"

Vaughan has strenuously denied making the comments, but two other players, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and Adil Rashid, have corroborated Rafiq’s allegation.

Root has said he was not aware of any incidents of racist language being used at Yorkshire.

Rafiq has said that Hoggard called him after watching an interview with Rafiq on Sky and apologised for his language. “The morning after my Sky interview, I took a call from Matthew Hoggard,” said Rafiq. “He said, ‘I didn’t realise. I’m really sorry the way some of my comments made you feel. I just wanted to apologise for what I said’. I said, ‘Wow, thank you’. All I ever wanted was an apology.”

Watch: Azeem Rafiq tells cricket racism hearing - ‘Racism is not banter’

Emotional testimony

Earlier, Rafiq told MPs that "I have lost my career to racism" and said the sport was institutionally racist. 

He also spoke in detail about his colleague - former batsman and one-time Yorkshire captain, Gary Ballance - who has admitted using a “racial slur” towards him.

Earlier this month, Ballance issued in a lengthy statement apologising but also claiming it was part of long and deep friendship.

However, Rafiq told the committee that was not an accurate depiction of their relationship, and that it went downhill from 2013 onwards and was toxic by 2017.

Asked by chair, Conservative MP Julian Knight, about the term ‘Kevin’ he said it was an offensive, racist term that reached the very top of the game.

“Kevin was something Gary used to describe anyone of colour in a very derogatory manner.

"It was an open secret in the England dressing room,” he said. “Anyone who came across Gary would know that was a phrase he would use to describe people of colour.”

He shared how the term was used to target Black cricketers. 

“Gary and Alex Hales got really close to each other when they played for England together. 

"I wasn’t present in that dressing room, but what I understand [is] that Alex went on to name his dog ‘Kevin’ because it was Black - it’s disgusting how much of a joke it was.”

The cricketer also outlined he found it “hurtful” that England captain Joe Root said he had never witnessed anything of a racist nature at Yorkshire.

Watch: Rafiq: I felt isolated and humiliated

“Rooty is a good man. He never engaged in racist language,” Rafiq said.

“I found it hurtful because Rooty was Gary [Ballance]’s housemate and had been involved in a lot of the socialising where I was called a ‘p***’.

Rafiq, who is a Muslim, also described his harrowing first experience of alcohol at the age of 15.

“I got pinned down at my local cricket club and had red wine poured down my throat, literally down my throat,” he said. “The player played for Yorkshire and Hampshire."

Elsewhere, he described other forms of abuse he experienced. 

“Pretty early on, me and other people from an Asian background… there were comments such as, ‘you’ll sit over there near the toilets’, ‘elephant washers’," said Rafiq.

"The word p*** was used constantly, and there just seemed to be an acceptance in the institution from the leaders and no one ever stamped it out."

The Catch-up sign up
The Catch-up sign up

Rafiq first alleged racial harassment and bullying against the county and accused them of institutional racism in September last year, with the club launching an investigation soon afterwards.

During the committee meeting, he described how he had been offered money in return for signing "a confidentiality form". 

"I think with four or five months left on my contract, I was encouraged to sign a confidentiality form and take a parcel of money which I refused," said Rafiq. 

"At that time it would have been a lot of money for me. 

"I think my wife was struggling, I knew I was struggling, there was no way mentally I could have even considered putting myself through this trauma - I actually left the country. 

"I went to Pakistan, I never wanted to come back."

People take part in a protest outside Yorkshire County Cricket Club's Headingley Stadium in Leeds, in support of former county player Azeem Rafiq, after he spoke out about the racism and bullying he suffered over two spells at Yorkshire. Picture date: Saturday November 6, 2021.
People protested in support of Rafiq after he spoke out about the racism he experienced at Yorkshire County Cricket Club earlier this year. (PA Images)

The club's handling over this issue has been widely criticised after no one faced disciplinary action - despite them acknowledging there was "no question" about the racist abuse. 

Rafiq said he was “staggered” when he found out. 

“I thought, ‘at what point are these people going to read the room and realise what they’re doing?'" he said. 

"While the investigation was live and they were aware of the allegations against Gary, he was made captain and given a three-year contract."

The cricketer issued a warning to parents contemplating putting their kids into cricket, saying: "I don't want my son to go anywhere near cricket" and that he would not leave his kids "at the hands of these people".  

He also said he sought to be a "voice for the voiceless". 

"Now that I have been brave, or stupid, whatever you want to call it, to stand up to an institution and hold it to account," he said. 

"I want to try and help the young lads who are wanting to achieve their dreams, prepare better.

“But hopefully we can actually get the institutions to change so they don’t have to.”

Watch: Yorkshire cricket racism: Former official says other counties are having 'the same problem' as fans call for further resignations

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