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Former cricketer Azeem Rafiq – who has exposed a racism scandal within the game – has apologised for antisemitic messages he sent another player in 2011

Azeem Rafiq has apologised for making antisemitic comments in a message exchange with another cricketer in 2011.

The ex-Yorkshire player, who has been the principal whistleblower in the ongoing scrutiny of racism in the English game, admitted making the remarks after evidence was revealed by The Times on Thursday.

Rafiq said he was “ashamed of this exchange” with former Warwickshire and Leicestershire player Ateeq Javid,
while saying sorry to the Jewish community “and everyone who is rightly offended by this” but insists he is a different person today.

Rafiq said: “I was sent an image of this exchange from early 2011 today (Thursday). I have gone back to check my account and it is me. I have absolutely no excuses.

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Azeem Rafiq says his fight against racism is more important than anything he achieved on the pitch as a player

“I am ashamed of this exchange and have now deleted it so as not to cause further offence. I was 19 at the time and I hope and believe I am a different person today.

“I am incredibly angry at myself and I apologise to the Jewish community and everyone who is rightly offended by this.”

The Board of Deputies of British Jews president Marie Van Der Zyl has appeared to accept his apology, stating: “Rafiq has suffered terribly at the hands of racists in cricket so he will well understand the hurt this exchange will cause to Jews who have supported him.

“His apology certainly seems heartfelt and we have no reason to believe he is not completely sincere.”

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DCMS Committee Chair Julian Knight MP believes the governance in the game must be reformed, following Azeem Rafiq’s emotional testimony about his experiences of racism at Yorkshire

The Times included a screen capture of the message exchange between Rafiq and the former Warwickshire and Leicestershire cricketer Javid, and reported that its “sources believe they are discussing another Asian cricketer, at the time playing for Derbyshire, whom they seem to accuse of being reluctant to spend money on a meal out”.

Javid was a Warwickshire player at the time of the exchange and the county said it was “deeply concerned” by the messages.

Warwickshire chairman Mark McCafferty said in a statement to the PA news agency: “We are aware of the messages exchanged by Azeem Rafiq and former Warwickshire player Ateeq Javid in 2011.

“Warwickshire CCC is deeply concerned by comments that have been used in this reported exchange. Whilst Ateeq left Warwickshire in 2017, he still has close connections with the club and within our local community.

“We have already spoken briefly with Ateeq and will have a more detailed conversation to understand the nature of the exchange and how he or anyone else at Warwickshire became involved.

“Warwickshire CCC is determined to reflect the communities that we serve at every level, with Edgbaston being a safe and welcoming place for all. We will not let anything that’s taken place at the club, past or present, detract from this.”

While giving evidence to the DCMS select committee hearing into racism at Yorkshire CCC on Tuesday, an emotional Rafiq insisted “racism is not banter” but also conceded he “wasn’t perfect” himself during his career.

The chairs of the 18 first-class counties will meet with representatives from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Professional Cricketers’ Association on Friday to discuss equality, diversity and inclusion within the English game.

First-class counties are being asked to sign up to a 12-point action plan to improve the situation within the game after Rafiq’s evidence on Tuesday in front of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee.

There is a feeling certain counties remain a long way behind in terms of action plans for children and the continuing lack of diversity within coaching teams and boardrooms that needs to improve rapidly.

Counties who do not meet certain expectations within the 12-point plan risk having their ECB funding reduced. It is understood the role of the ECB chair and the position of Tom Harrison, the chief executive, will not be discussed during the meeting at the Oval.