Julian Knight MP, who chaired the DCMS Chair Committee in which Azeem Rafiq gave his testimony on Monday, believes the sport needs an organisation like Kick It Out to tackle racism and discrimination in the sport; Knight calls for a “transparent and clean” sport
Last Updated: 17/11/21 9:13am
DCMS Committee Chair Julian Knight MP believes a cricket equivalent of Kick it Out is needed following Azeem Rafiq’s emotional testimony on Tuesday about his experiences of racism at Yorkshire
Cricket would benefit from a Kick It Out-style organisation in the wake of the Azeem Rafiq racism scandal, according to DCMS Chair Committee Julian Knight MP.
Knight chaired Monday’s hearing as Rafiq provided an emotional testimony in which the former Yorkshire player spoke of his ordeals at the county club.
Yorkshire’s former chair, Roger Hutton, and his replacement Lord Patel also answered questions, with MPs also grilling members of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on their role in the investigations after Rafiq alleged he was racially harassed and bullied during two spells at the club.
Rafiq’s testimony prompted responses from a number of county clubs, as well as Tim Bresnan and David Lloyd, and as the fallout continues Knight believes the sport needs an organisation like Kick It Out, which tackles racism and discrimination in football.
Sky Sports News reporter Rob Jones says former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq will speak to Sky Sports News today following his emotional DCMS testimony about his experiences of racism at Yorkshire. Rafiq’s interview will be available from midday
“I feel as though I have been complacent. I did not think that it [cricket] was systematically racist,” Knight told Sky Sports News on Wednesday. “There was clearly a serious problem at Yorkshire, and there may have been instances elsewhere, but we can’t put anything off the table.
“We need a ‘Kick It Out’ for cricket, like in football. The idea that we can have people using these phrases, harassing, bullying, excluding individuals such as Mr Rafiq. It is utterly almost beyond comprehension.
“But we need to understand it, and ensure that going forward we have a sport that is transparent and clean. That means complete governance reform in my view.
DCMS Committee Chair Julian Knight MP believes Yorkshire County Cricket Club is institutionally racist following Azeem Rafiq’s emotional testimony on Tuesday about his experiences of racism at the club
“It isn’t a quick fix, it’s more deeply rooted than I thought when I started off in this inquiry a few months ago.
“We need to make sure the ECB has the powers in place to get a hold of the counties so we do not have a repeat of what we have seen at Yorkshire.
“The racism has been exacerbated by the report and the way the investigation was conducted by Yorkshire, which in my view looked as if it was a means by which to keep Mr Rafiq quiet and out of the public domain. It took a parliamentary session to ensure that absolute horrors after several years, Mr Rafiq was able to speak the truth.”
Knight led the questioning on Monday as Rafiq provided evidence with parliamentary privilege, and the former Yorkshire player fought back tears as he told MPs the word ‘P***’ was “used constantly” across his two spells at the club.
Azeem Rafiq tells a DCMS Select Committee that he started drinking alcohol in an attempt to fit into the dressing room culture at Yorkshire. (Warning: video contains content that viewers may find distressing)
Rafiq, who is a Muslim, also described his harrowing first experience of alcohol at the age of 15, saying he had a bottle of red wine poured down his throat.
Knight added: “I think the thing that struck most of all amongst many horrific instances that Mr Rafiq has suffered is probably the holding down as a 15-year-old boy and pouring down his neck a bottle of wine.
“I contrasted this abuse of a child, actually, with England’s players asking Moeen Ali to step away during a champagne celebration so he didn’t get sprayed, which was held as a moment of this inclusivity.
ECB chief executive Tom Harrison has apologised to Azeem Rafiq and promised to ‘transform this game’, following Rafiq’s experiences of racism in the game
“We need to ensure the sport going forwards is cleaned out top to bottom, because we can’t see a great sport ruined in this way.”
Knight said the committee would consider its next steps but would not be drawn on possible names that could be asked to face questions in the future.
The Conservative MP also addressed the Select Committee’s lack of diversity at Monday’s hearing.
He said: “I found that quite strange because these individuals are elected by parliamentarians. I have no choice to chair over who is actually on the panel. That is a wider concept of whether or not you think the UK parliament is diverse enough, and I think that is an issue for the whole of parliament rather than the committee.
Azeem Rafiq says the racism he experienced at Yorkshire made him feel ‘isolated’ and ‘humiliated’. (Warning: video contains offensive language and content that viewers may find upsetting)
“I understand why people find that disjointed, I think there was seven men and two women on the panel, although one of our female members was home with Covid. They are elected by the whole House, in effect that is a democracy. That is an issue with democracy more widely rather than the committee itself.
“We can’t have a more diverse panel because there is no one of any other background who is elected to that committee. We can’t just invite people who aren’t elected to the panel. It’s an issue about whether you think the House of Commons is diverse enough. It’s not as representative – although it has improved in recent times – as it should be.
“I can understand why people would be disquieted, but this is a parliament-wide issue.”