Yorkshire-Azeem Rafiq racism case: Preston Councillor condemns club's treatment of player, revealing a racist smashed a beer bottle into his head aged 16

Preston Councillor Pav Akhtar has added his voice to the row over racial slurs at Yorkshire Cricket Club.

Friday, 5th November 2021, 2:02 pm

The Plungington Councillor, of Pakistani heritage, revealed on Twitter that at as a teenager in Preston, he had a beer bottle smashed into the back of his head by a man screaming a racial slur at him.

Councillor Akhtar made the revelation in response to Hope Not Hate's campaign #RunRacismOut. It follows outrage that Yorkshire Cricket Club wrote off use of the racial term against Azeem Rafiq by a fellow player as "good natured banter".

After widespread outrage, with sponsors including Nike, Yorkshire Tea and Emerald Publishing cutting ties with the club, today (November 5), Yorkshire's chairman Roger Hutton quit his position, and tore into its management over the lack of 'care and contrition' shown to Azeem Rafiq.

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Coun Akhtar says he is keen for people to realise that "name calling doesn't happen in isolation", and often comes with an intimidating environment, which makes people feel at risk and change the way they live.

He wrote: "At the age of 16 a guy screamed (offensive word) at me as he smashed a beer bottle into my head. I was walking home.

"It wasn't banter then, it isn't banter now. @YorkshireCCC know this, of course, bcos they've censored the word **** in their report... Despite their claim that it's banter."

The Councillor has previously spoken out about how he was subjected to racist and homophobic slurs and "gratuitous beatings" while living in a local authority children's care home.

Azeem Rafiq's case continues to send shockwaves through sport

He added: "At the end of the day, you can't tackle racism if you're busy excusing it.

I'm glad that sponsors, fans, and the public are making this clear to Yorkshire County Cricket Club. All credit to courageous @AzeemRafiq30 for calling out "racial harassment and bullying" at the club."

>>>Read how Pav made the Pride Power List here.

He told the Post: "People really need to recognise that name calling doesn't happen in isolation. It is almost always associate with creating a hostile and intimidating environment in which one feels at risk, and therefore you become hypervigilant and start adapting the way you live, work and interact with people and move through spaces.

"It's these damaging pycho-social factors that casual racists do not notice, but hardcore racists are determined to exploit."

Azeem Rafiq: The former Yorkshire CCC player at heart of racism case

Former Yorkshire CCC player Azeem Rafiq has accused the club of racism and bullying during his time at the club, leading to the current scandal embroiling the Headingley outfit.

An independent investigation upheld a number of Rafiq's claims, after Yorkshire release a summarised version of their independent report in September.

They apologised and accept Rafiq had been victim of “racial harassment and bullying” in his two spells at the club between 2008 and 2018, but after only seven of Rafiq’s 43 allegations were upheld the county insisted there was insufficient evidence to prove or disprove institutionalised racism.

This week a number of big-name sponsors ended their relationship with Yorkshire as former England batter Gary Ballance revealed he used “a racial slur” against Rafiq but claimed both men “said things privately to each other which were not acceptable”.

The scandal continues to dominate the agenda at Yorkshire, with Roger Hutton resigning on Friday morning.

Who is Azeem Rafiq?

Rafiq was born in Pakistan in 1991 and moved to Barnsley in 2001. He grew up in the South Yorkshire town and attended Holgate School and played for Barnsley Cricket Club.

He was a member of Yorkshire's cricket academy and captained the England Under-15s side in 2006 and was named Yorkshire's Junior Performer of the Year the following year. He was named Academy Player of the Year in 2008.

In 2009, he made his first-class and List A debuts for the county and went on to captain England Under-19s at the Under-19 World Cup in 2010.

In 2012, Rafiq captained Yorkshire six times in the Twenty20 Cup to become the youngest captain in the county's history and the first player of Asian origin to captain the club.

In 2014, aged 23, he was released by Yorkshire by mutual agreement after he suffered a knee injury and would not play professionally again for almost two years.

He returned to Yorkshire in 2016 after impressing coach Andrew Gale in a net session but was released again in 2018. He spent time playing in Pakistan before playing minor counties cricket for Lincolnshire in 2019.

In 2020, un an interview with ESPNcricinfo, Rafiq revealed: “I know how close I was to committing suicide during my time at Yorkshire” over what he describes as “institutional racism” at the county.