Former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq believes there has been a change of mentality in football that has led to an increase in representation in the sport, a shift he believes has been absent in cricket.
Rafiq spoke at a DCMS hearing on Tuesday, describing the horrific racist assaults he was subjected to while playing with Yorkshire.
And he says it’s not just a Yorkshire problem, but a systematic one in cricket.
Rafiq added that Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson and Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford are an example of how cricket and the world should behave.
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“I’m not quite in line with football, but what I’ve seen over the last year and a half are some high-profile footballers showing the world how to behave, with Marcus Rashford and Jordan Henderson,” he said.
“It’s clear there has been some kind of shift in football.
“A lot of people said this to me at the beginning: ‘we would never have expected this from cricket’.
“Cricket has been allowed for a long time, it’s a boys’ network, people who come in as players in ’92 and are still the director of cricket in Yorkshire now. It shows how closed that network is.
“No one has ever been a whistleblower, no one has ever had the courage to stand up because of the fear of not being believed.”
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The Premier League duo have been vocal in football’s own fight against racism, as players continue to take a knee before every game in protest of discrimination.
The Liverpool captain has previously commented on the need to show support for teammates, as he told the BBC earlier this year: “It must also be white players who show their support, because that is not true.
“To see teammates suffer, not only in Liverpool, but with England and players from different clubs, what they are being abused with is hard to take.
“I feel that if I can make positive changes and help them, it’s important that I do.”
Rashford has also opened up about the horrific racist abuses that were exposed after England’s European Championship 2020 final defeat to Italy this summer, saying that discrimination is ‘never acceptable’.
He also told the BBC: “There is never a time when racism is acceptable, we should not accept racism and move on with our lives.
“On the biggest stage for us as young players, racism was put at the forefront for us. It was nice to see people support us without us even saying anything.”