Gary Ballance meets Azeem Rafiq to apologise for racist language

  • Former Yorkshire teammates met in London this week
  • ‘I have accepted, from the outset, the words I used were wrong’

The Yorkshire and former England batsman Gary Ballance has met his former teammate Azeem Rafiq and apologised for racist language used while they played together at Yorkshire, and Rafiq in turn has called for Ballance “to be allowed to get on with his life”.

In a statement released after the pair met in London this week, Ballance again apologised to the man he had once considered a friend.

“I did use unacceptable – at times, racist – language,” he said. “If I had realised how much this hurt Azeem, I would have stopped immediately. That’s why I wanted to meet him this week and be clear in person that I intended no malice. That’s not an excuse, I realise that the language I used was wrong. I have accepted, from the outset, the words I used were wrong and I hope this statement brings Azeem some comfort.

“There is no place in our sport for this behaviour and I am determined to play my part in ridding the game of racism and making it more inclusive. To do this we all need to be honest and learn from our past mistakes.”

Rafiq’s explosive evidence to the digital, culture, media and sport select committee last winter led to seven people, including Ballance, and Yorkshire CCC, being charged by the England and Wales Cricket Board with a breach of their code of conduct and anti-discrimination code. Rafiq issued a statement accepting Ballance’s apology.

It read: “From day one of opening up about my experiences, all I ever wanted was acceptance and apologies for what happened. Gary has been brave to admit the truth and I understand why the mental strain has made it difficult for him to make this apology any sooner. Gary must be applauded for his honesty and unreserved apology and must now be allowed to get on with his life.

“Gary got things wrong, so did many people. The main issue is cricket’s institutional racism. Gary’s courage means he is now part of the solution. I hope he can be allowed to get on with his cricket.

“I would like to thank Gary. He has done cricket and the fight against racism a great service with these words. I would also like to thank those who have been in contact with me privately to apologise for what they witnessed. It’s a good time for those who were bystanders to reflect on whether they could have done the same or even spoken publicly about what they saw.”

Yorkshire added in a statement: “The Yorkshire County Cricket Club is delighted that Gary Ballance and Azeem Rafiq have cleared the air. Gary’s contrition is admirable and marks a big step forward for the sport and the club.

“Azeem is right to say that Gary must now be allowed to continue with his career. We will undoubtedly support Gary in all he does, and we hope to see many more runs flow from his bat for Yorkshire.”

Ballance, who played 23 Tests and 16 ODIs for England, has been absent from Yorkshire’s side with mental-health issues this season, though he played three second XI games for the club in July, scoring two centuries in five innings.


Tanya Aldred

The GuardianTramp

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