Azeem Rafiq says Colin Graves’ return to Yorkshire ‘empowers’ racists

Colin Graves (left), who could be returning as Yorkshire chair, and Azeem Rafiq (Mike Egerton/James Manning/PA)
Colin Graves (left), who could be returning as Yorkshire chair, and Azeem Rafiq (Mike Egerton/James Manning/PA)

Azeem Rafiq has spoken out against the return of Colin Graves, who is due to return as Yorkshire chairman.

Yorkshire are financially-stricken and in need of funds to ward off the threat of administration and controversially “agreed to recommend” the loan offer from Graves.

Graves’ previous spell at the club between 2012 and 2015 included the period when the club was fined for failing to address the systemic use of discriminatory or racist language.

Rafiq is a former Yorkshire player and has spoken out on numerous occasions about the abuse he endured during his time at the county. Rafiq’s campaign led to six former players being sanctioned with fines and bans by the Cricket Discipline Commission after they were found to have used racist language.

“I’m broken,” Rafiq said, speaking to BBC Yorkshire.

"I’m struggling to understand how we’ve got here. It’s a mix of emotions - a lot of anger and frustration.

"I’ve woken up this morning to a barrage of abuse - racist, Islamophobic - this is what [Graves’ return] empowers.

"It empowers those idiots out there who feel they can be openly racist."

Rafiq is calling on the club’s sponsors to oppose Graves’ return. The members will vote on whether Graves can take up the role on 2 February.

"The abuse is incredibly triggering, I’ve taken a lot over the last three years and continue to take it," added Rafiq, who said racism he faced at Yorkshire left him "close to taking my own life".

"Yorkshire members and Colin Graves are a match made in heaven, I hope they enjoy themselves," he said.

The county is in a concerning financial situation, and £17m is set to be repaid by October, and owed the Graves Trust, owned by Graves £14.9m for a bailout back in 2002.

Rafiq added: "It sends the message loud and clear to South Asians that cricket is not a welcoming and safe place for us," he said.

"For a long time I saw Yorkshire as my club, I no longer do."

Last year Graves was criticised by the England and Wales Cricket Board for suggesting some of the incidents at the club were “banter”, but he has since issued an apology.