Shocking allegations of racism revealed by former Blackburn cricket players

UNRELATED TO THIS STORY: The grounds of Old Trafford Cricket Club, Salford Quays Manchester [Shutterstock/Alan Carter]

After the shocking disclosures by former Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC) player, Azeem Rafiq, cricket players from Blackburn have also made similar revelations about racism prevalent in East Lancashire cricket clubs.

The player, now 45, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the amount of racism in local clubs would “shock modern players”.

The semi-professional player has played for multiple clubs. Lancashire Telegraph reported that an ECB coach from Clitheroe said: “sometimes Asian and Black families were reluctant to challenge the discrimination as they don’t wish to jeopardise their child’s cricketing future.”

The player who made damming revelations said: “It was acceptable in some clubs. It is probably why you would not see Asian players wanting to compete for local clubs. I went to some trials at one club as a young lad and when a few throws went wayward the coach said, “Why are you P** blind?’ It was like it was a common language. We walked away but I could see others just putting up with it as they wanted to play cricket.

“At another club in the changing rooms one team-mate would put bacon between his buttocks and then drop the bacon into my cricket bag. It was funny to them apparently. I mean how can you react to that? To some of the players it was a joke. It was all acceptable levels of racism. We would just get on with it because you just wanted to play cricket.”

He blamed the drinking culture at the clubs for the behaviour.

The victim added: “If you hit a ton or a fifty a team-mate would go round the ground to collect tips from the crowd. This would be for jugs of beer for the team. Team-mates would then force the drink on to a player or pour it over the guy who hit the runs. Either they were completely ignorant of other people’s beliefs or they just didn’t care.

“The semi-professional clubs were run like they have been for years. Talent did not come into it. People just didn’t want talented Asian players coming into the club because it meant others who had history or affiliation with the team would get dropped.”

Another player who also wished to remain anonymous said: “People want to fit in with their teammates. It does not just happen in cricket but in other sports. If you don’t then you can be seen as an outsider. Some clubs were really good at stamping out racism and team-mates would speak out.”

Farouk Hussain, who has trained many players said that cricket still has to make progress in order to give equal opportunities to those from ethnic minority backgrounds. Referring to the damning revelations made by Azeem Rafiq about the racism he faced at YCCC, he said: “Despite the attention being centred on those playing or administrating the professional game in this sorry state of affairs, one must take a deeper look at the origins of such archaic attitudes and behaviours. The recreational game is where a cricketer’s journey begins and in light of the current situation, it cannot simply look the other way and claim that it does not have any issues to address.

“Racism within cricket sows its vile seeds in the amateur club dressing rooms and bars, where often it is allowed to blossom due to the fact that the vast majority of administrators are of white background and the minority Asian/ Black families reluctant to challenge the discrimination as they don’t wish to jeopardise their child’s cricketing future.”

Farouk is an ECB coach of East Lancashire Eagles and said: “Only in the last 10 years have we seen the introduction of Club Welfare Officers but how many of them (predominantly white middle class volunteers) actually been approached with reports of racist behaviour.

“Many hours are spent in the dressing room with team-mates and it’s the perfect opportunity for those with such bigoted views to flex their muscles in front of supportive peers whilst the victim is helpless and unable to respond due to fear of exacerbating the situation and more punishments being dished out.

“Kit soaked in alcohol, ham sandwiches placed discretely in his kit bag, a beer shampoo whilst he’s showering in accordance with his religious beliefs to name but a few of the ‘banter’ based actions.

“The increasing Asian community represents 33% of the recreational game … a figure that will continue to rise. It’s time for clubs and leagues to stand up and show their support in stamping out these dated practices.”

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