John Barnes claims the Azeem Rafiq case won’t fix racism in sport as institutions just ‘scapegoat’


John Barnes claims the Azeem Rafiq case will not change the ‘narrative’ of discrimination in sport and hit out at sporting institutions for simply scapegoating racist individuals instead of making a difference. 

Cricketer Rafiq has reported several cases of racist abuse he has suffered at Yorkshire since September last year, claiming that one-time captain Gary Ballance and ex-England skipper Michael Vaughan have used racist terminology against Asian players.

Speaking to Tuesday’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, the former spin bowler also claimed Yorkshire and England cricketers used the name ‘Kevin’ to abuse people from black an Asian backgrounds, an allegation the ECB are investigating.

Rafiq also recalled a story of him being forced to drink red wine at 15 – despite being a teetotal Muslim – and claimed nobody at Yorkshire stood up for him even though there were several counts of racist abuse. 

Former England footballer Barnes believes the allegations made in the Rafiq case will still not make a difference in sport, as – in his words – institutions like Yorkshire and the ECB just scapegoat those guilty of discriminatory abuse and believe they are making a difference. 

Rafiq has reported several cases of racism he has suffered at Yorkshire since September last year

John Barnes (left) claims the Azeem Rafiq (right) racism case in cricket will not change the ‘narrative’ regarding racism in sport

Spin bowler Rafiq opened up on racist language and gestures used against him at Yorkshire

Spin bowler Rafiq opened up on racist language and gestures used against him at Yorkshire

The former Liverpool player told BonusCodeBets: ‘This scandal with Azeem Rafiq in cricket won’t aid open and honest conversations because the institutions still control the narrative. 

‘They make scapegoats of certain people, which is what they’ve always done and by scapegoating certain people, they can give the illusion that they’re changing because they’ve come down hard on some idiot who’s thrown a banana on the field or someone who said something to South Asian cricketer and then feel that we’re making a change.’

Former footballer Barnes was a regular victim of racist abuse during his playing days, including in Liverpool’s Merseyside Derby with Everton, where a section of Toffees supporters were branded ‘scum’ by their own chairman Philip Carter for the chants.

Barnes was also seen backheeling a banana thrown at him off the pitch during a match at Everton’s Goodison Park during a match in 1988. 

Barnes claims that sporting institutions simply scapegoat people and think they are helping

Barnes claims that sporting institutions simply scapegoat people and think they are helping

The former England winger has hit out at football’s apparent claim that there needs to be more representation from ethnic minorities in the game – claiming that this is another empty gesture that does not fix the problem of racism in the sport.  

‘On the one hand, football institutions are saying that we need more representation, but from what Rafiq is saying – and he’s right – is that they’re trying to shut them up.

‘So why does football feel that that (representation is) what we need? Because what will then happen is that if we have a black person position of power, like Dr. Tony Stewart in the Commission for Racial Disparities, who wrote the official report saying that there’s no systemic racism, then we can no longer complain, can we?

‘The solution is not to get more black people, more women, or more Asians in these positions of power within the system. Because you can’t go against the system. 

Former Liverpool and England star Barnes (above) received a lot of racist abuse as a player

Former Liverpool and England star Barnes (above) received a lot of racist abuse as a player 

Barnes claims the institutions like Yorkshire point the finger at racists to shut BAME people up

Barnes claims the institutions like Yorkshire point the finger at racists to shut BAME people up

‘What that does, is merely give the illusion of change by pointing the finger and condemning inconsequential people who have no influence over systemic racism, sexism or homophobia.

‘So, what do they do in football? They point the finger at the Hungarian racist football fans, or some white working-class fans who have thrown a banana on the field and saying that they’re the problem.   

‘In cricket, those in the institutions point the finger at some cricketer who said something 10 years ago and think that will get rid of the problem.’ 

Last week, the Football Association’s first ever diversity code, which vowed to bring more representation from BAME communities into the sport, brought about mixed results. 

Last year the governing body – led by the chair of the FA’s inclusion advisory board Paul Elliott – launched the pioneering document which aims to improve diversity and inclusion within the top jobs in English football.

The FA, led by diversity chief Paul Elliott (above), launched a code last year to get more diversity in football

The FA, led by diversity chief Paul Elliott (above), launched a code last year to get more diversity in football

But Premier League and EFL clubs collectively failing to meet six out of the eight targets they were set in the first 12 months. 

Collectively 17.8 percent of new hires in senior leadership roles were black, Asian or mixed heritage candidates – surpassing the 15 per cent pledge.

Likewise, 26.4 percent of senior coaching hires in the men’s game were candidates of black, Asian or mixed heritage – exceeding the 10 per cent target.

But in contrast, clubs failed to meet the majority of pledges in both the men’s and women’s game – particularly with regards to the employment of new female staff within the sport.

John Barnes was speaking to BonusCodeBets

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