Powerscourt represents cricketer Azeem Rafiq in 'landmark' racism case

The consultancy will reunite the same team that recently represented actor Amber Heard in her court battle with Johnny Depp.

Spinner Azeen Rafiq claims he suffered racial abuse and discrimination at his club Yorkshire. Photos: Getty Images
Spinner Azeen Rafiq claims he suffered racial abuse and discrimination at his club Yorkshire. Photos: Getty Images

Powerscourt will handle PR and public affairs for former Yorkshire spinner Azeem Rafiq, who is taking the club to court over claims he suffered racist abuse and discrimination.

Powerscourt director Mark Leftly and consultant Linda Gu will be joined by Australian human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson from Doughty Chambers. The trio recently represented Heard, who successfully defended against a libel case brought by Depp.

Rafiq, whose solicitor is Asma Iqbal from Chadwick Lawrence, has filed a legal claim against Yorkshire County Cricket Club under the Equality Act.

“It’s easy to say a case is a ‘landmark’, but there’s little doubt about the significance of Azeem Rafiq. His bravery means there is the opportunity to change the world’s greatest team game for the better and tackle racism in sport more broadly,” Leftly said.

“We’re delighted to be reunited with Jen Robinson, who was tireless in her work for Amber Heard. Team Amber, Team Azeem - these are great causes and we look forward to raising awareness of this case in both the media and in parliament.” 

 

‘Institutional racism’

The former under-15 and under-19 England cricket captain claims institutional racism at the club and his efforts to address it curtailed career opportunities in the sport and left him with severe mental health issues, including depression and contemplating suicide.

Some of the allegations include being called by teammates a “Paki”, “elephant washer” and a racist nickname, “Raffa the Kaffir”.

He claims that players and officials “laughed in response to alcohol being thrown on a Muslim child at a match”, and that he was denied professional opportunities offered to white British players, including being refused the opportunity to play T20 cricket in the winter.

Rafiq said he was inspired to go public in August following the Black Lives Matter movement.

Since then, the England & Wales Cricket Board has made a number of pledges to make the sport more inclusive, including the establishment of a new Independent Commission for Equality in Cricket. 

Yorkshire County Cricket Club said it is investigating the allegations and expected to report early next year. 

“Those who have, like me, been on the receiving end of racism and discrimination will understand how hard it is to open up about the pain and suffering it causes. I feel a sense of relief to finally speak about it and that my healing process can now begin,” Rafiq said in a statement.

“I hope this claim will give me the closure I need and that the recommendations from the Tribunal will help bring about change for our future generations in cricket.” 

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