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Yorkshire Cricket’s failure to engage with local Asian players ‘smacks of racism’, say MPs

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Yorkshire Cricket’s lack of engagement with Asian players in the county and a failure to bring them through to the first-class game ‘smacks of racism’, a Parliamentary committee has heard.

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee is concerned Yorkshire County Cricket Club has ignored talented players from South Asian communities, while championing its ‘White Rose values’.

The committee is investigating the treatment of Asian players after Yorkshire and England all-rounder Azeem Rafiq’s explosive claims last month that the game is ‘institutionally racist’.

MPs have said Yorkshire CCC's lack of engagement with Asian community cricket in the county 'smacks of racism' during an inquiry into inclusion in the game. (File photo)

MPs have said Yorkshire CCC’s lack of engagement with Asian community cricket in the county ‘smacks of racism’ during an inquiry into inclusion in the game. (File photo)

Azeem Rafiq's testimony to the DCMS committee claimed that cricket is 'institutionally racist'

Azeem Rafiq’s testimony to the DCMS committee claimed that cricket is ‘institutionally racist’

Rafiq, who played for Yorkshire in two spells between 2008 and 2018, told MPs that racist language was ‘constantly’ used during his time at the club and Asian players were treated differently.

Now, Parliamentarians have been told that amateur Asian players in Yorkshire feel like outsiders in local clubs and talented youngsters ‘are lost in the pipeline’ as they try to access first-class cricket.

Officials from the Quaid e Azam Premier Cricket League told MPs that they have held talks with Yorkshire County Cricket Club to discuss Asian participation in local cricket for the first time, despite the competition being set up more than 40 years ago and supporting 1,700 players.

The league’s chief executive Basharat Hussain said the competition had been allowed to play a cup final at Headingly in 2014, but reached out to Yorkshire County Cricket club following Rafiq’s revelations at a previous DCMS committee hearing.

Rafiq, 30, laid bare the harrowing abuse and bullying he suffered while playing at Yorkshire

Rafiq, 30, laid bare the harrowing abuse and bullying he suffered while playing at Yorkshire

‘We decided it was the right thing to do to meet with the county,’ said Hussain. ‘It was a two-hour meeting. It was very positive and they agreed to take on some of the suggestions.’

But committee chairman Julian Knight MP was unimpressed that the Asian cricketers have only been entertained by Yorkshire since Lord Patel was installed as chairman.

‘So, 1700 players, you have been around for [40] years and you have just had your first meeting with Yorkshire County Cricket Club,’ said Knight.

DCMS committee chair Julian Knight said Yorkshire's disengagement from the Asian community 'smacks of racism'

DCMS committee chair Julian Knight said Yorkshire’s disengagement from the Asian community ‘smacks of racism’

‘This is a shocking level of disengagement. I am speechless, actually, that Yorkshire County Cricket Club could allow a situation to occur where literally thousands of cricketers are playing in their catchment area and we all know how Yorkshire like to go on about how they like to have White Rose values, Yorkshire born and bred, playing for them.

‘I am just staggered that is all the engagement they have given you in that time.

‘This just smacks of racism,’ added Knight.

‘I wouldn’t necessarily say it was racism…’ said Hussain.

‘You are being very polite Mr Hussain,’ the chairman replied. ‘Your look to me says everything.

New Yorkshire managing director of cricket Darren Gough is set to begin life in his new role

New Yorkshire managing director of cricket Darren Gough is set to begin life in his new role

The DCMS committee comes in the week Yorkshire Cricket begins the enormous task of rebuilding the club and its reputation.

Darren Gough will begin life as Yorkshire’s managing director of cricket today when he meets Lord Patel face-to-face to map out the future of the club.

The statistics in English cricket support the idea that Asian players are routinely overlooked – and not just in Yorkshire.

In 2018, while South Asian players represented 30 per cent of recreational players, they were far less likely to progress.

Players of a South Asian background accounted for only 15 per cent of county age-group players nationwide, 11 per cent of county academy players and just four per cent of first-class county players.

The Quaid e Azam Premier Cricket League was created when textile workers started forming teams in 1980. It has grown into a high-level Sunday league and while predominantly Asian players, it is also welcoming cricketers from various backgrounds.

MPs heard that Asian players often feel they are in their ‘comfort zone’ within the league among friends and family because they may not feel welcome at other amateur clubs in Yorkshire.

‘In the grassroots level, you feel like an outside,’ said Adil Mehmood, the league’s finance officer. ‘It is a mindset in teams and clubs. I have always felt like an outsider.’

Mehmood said he had been at three clubs in eight years in the Bradford League.

‘You do not stay in one club, you always move,’ he said. ‘When you play for a couple of years, always something happens and you move one.’

Gough will meet Lord Patel (above) face-to-face on Wednesday to map out the club's future

Gough will meet Lord Patel (above) face-to-face on Wednesday to map out the club’s future

Mehmood said Asian players are lost to the county game.

‘I have seen so many players growing up very talented,’ he said. ‘But they were lost somewhere in the pipeline. I don’t know what is wrong, but they are not making it through.’

One attempt to tackle the under-representation in elite cricket was the launch of the South Asian Action Plan in 2018.

The ECB’s chief executive Tom Harrison said at the time: ‘While we’ve long acknowledged the passion for the game in South Asian communities in the UK and had the best intentions, we have never fully understood how to engage with South Asian communities. This report gives us a road map to change that.’

And the ECB has seen some progress. The governing body told the BBC last month it had ‘begun’ to see an increase in South Asian players within the county academy systems, from 11% in 2018 up to 17% in 2019-20.

And it said around 10% of first-class county players are from ethnically diverse backgrounds.

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison is pictured as he gave evidence to  previous DCMS committee

Former Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton was also grilled by the select committee

The ECB’s Tom Harrison (left) and former Yorkshire Cricket chairman Roger Hutton (right)have both been questioned by the DCMS committee

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