Former Yorkshire spinner Azeem Rafiq has urged authorities to ‘act now’ and eradicate racism from cricket, insisting ‘lives will be lost’ if they do not.
Earlier this month, Rafiq opened up about his experiences of ‘institutional racism’ while playing for Yorkshire, revealing the abuse left him on the brink of committing suicide.
And speaking exclusively to former England international Darren Gough on talkSPORT, Rafiq has claimed he was reluctant to speak about his struggles in fear that he would be expelled from the sport.
“There’s a problem in society,” he told Drive. “Everyone thought there wasn’t a problem in cricket but you’ve been round the game and I’ve been round the game.
“Cricket is being run by a very closely knit group and a lot of things are being kept under the wraps. You’re not really left with any option but to keep quiet or you’re out of the game.”
Yorkshire County Cricket Club (CCC) said they had launched a formal investigation following Rafiq’s remarks last week.
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And the 29-year-old revealed he is receiving messages from a current player at the club who is struggling with similar abuse.
“The problem is through all age groups right up to the top,” Rafiq added. “It’s a massive worry when I get a message from a current academy player saying he can relate to it.
“This worried me because right up until the end I didn’t want to believe it, but when a 16-year-old says it that really concerns me.
“I’ve not had a chance to respond to it but it really concerned me when I got the message.
“There’s so many people who wanted to come out and speak about it but didn’t want to put their neck on the line. That hurt me the most.”
Rafiq, who was born in Pakistan and moved to England when he was 10, finished by urging authorities to stamp out the abuse that is prevalent in the game, insisting ‘lives will be lost’ if they fail to take action.
“A hell of a lot of people saw what happened to me,” he said. “I went for help in a lot of different places but no one was willing to put their neck on their line to stop these arrogant people from doing what they want.
“They left no stone uncovered to end me.
“There’s got to be accountability for this to change. There’s a reason I have not named names as it loses the purpose of what I want to achieve.
“I’m 29 and feel like my time has gone. They’ve turned a young lad who is so confident, borderline overconfident and arrogant into a guy who is literally petrified to leave his house at night.
“I feel like my time has gone. It worries me that there could be people in the same situation right now. We need to act and act now because lives will be lost if we don’t.”