I have loved cricket for as long as I can remember; I have followed my county and England for 48 of my 55 years. I have been with England through highs and lows, from Headingley 1981 to the doldrums of the 1990s, and watched it rise again from 2005. I have admired David Gower, Ian Botham, Bob Willis, Graham Gooch and many others. As a Briton of south Asian descent, I have been filled with hope by watching Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid and many others who look and sound like me wearing an England shirt.
I have also been stigmatised by the Tebbit test, have suffered negative treatment at all levels of English cricket, and have despaired of the lack of fairness, but through it all, my love of the game and passion for the England team has been constant.
Not any more, I’m afraid. As the full story of the horrors suffered by Azeem Rafiq becomes clear (Azeem Rafiq tells MPs that ‘inhuman’ racist abuse cost him cricket career, 16 November) and now with other stories emerging, I fear that I may finally have to acknowledge that I cannot support this game or this team any more. It is not for the likes of me; my support is taken for granted and we receive little back from the game other than contempt. A shame, but I’m afraid my patience is gone. I applaud Rafiq, a remarkable and courageous man, and wish him well. I urge English cricketers to reflect on their actions and how they wield their power and influence, and for whose benefit. At the moment, it’s not for me.
Saffron Walden, Essex
As this week’s news from the cricketing world has shown, racism and racist abuse are very much alive in our society. Being the victim of racism can obviously have long-term negative effects on mental health. But racism can be damaging even when experienced vicariously. News reports and stories on social media in themselves may be distressing and may lead to hypervigilance and heightened distress in those who socially identify with the victims.
Many of those not directly affected by racism are quick to condemn this behaviour and to defend its victims. People overwhelmingly want to help and support those affected by racism – but not everyone knows how to do so effectively.
There is strong evidence that social support can mitigate some of the effects of racist discrimination. So-called “bystander behaviours” such as simply checking in with someone who may have experienced racism and offering them support are important and effective.
Many factors influence our willingness to help victims of racism, or to intervene when witnessing a racist incident. Research has shown that active bystander training can help. Several organisations in the UK (such as Besea.n and the Racial Justice Network) offer such courses free of charge.
The origins of Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s difficult relationship with Asian cricketers go back well before the current management. In the 1980s, Asian constituents of mine asked me why there were no Asian cricketers on the county books when there were many good young Asian cricketers in Yorkshire.
I raised this with Brian Walsh QC, the club chair, who said he would look into it. He came back to me to say that because Asian cricketers did not feel welcome in clubs in the top Yorkshire leagues, they had formed their own league and that the county’s talent spotting system had not extended to this area of the game. This omission was rectified and young Asian cricketers began to enter the Yorkshire coaching system. Recent events suggest that underlying racist attitudes still exist and urgently need to be rectified.
Liberal MP, Leeds West, 1983-87