Gary Ballance says he 'regrets' using racial slur against Azeem Rafiq during time together at Yorkshire

Ballance, who moved to Yorkshire in 2008, was a player with Rafiq during his two spells at Yorkshire
Gary Ballance, an ex-England international, has admitted that he regrets using a racial slur to refer to his former Yorkshire teammate Azeem Rasiq.

Ballance made a long and emotional statement claiming that he was responsible to some of the offensive terms Rafiq was exposed to while he was at Headingley.

Ballance, 31, stated that it was reported that she used a racial insult. She said that she accepted the responsibility and regretted doing so.

"To be clear, I regret some of my language choices in my younger years."

Ballance, who was a 23-match Test match player for England, stated that Rafiq was his "best friend in cricket" and that they "care deeply for each other".

Ballance added, "I don't want to discredit Rafa with the words and statements he made about others, but I must be clear that it was a situation in which best friends said offensive comments to one another that, outside of that context would be considered totally inappropriate."

"I regret these exchanges, but at no point did I believe or comprehend that Rafa was in distress.

"If I believed that, then I would have stopped right away. He was my best friend in cricket, and I loved him deeply. Rafa has never been accused of being reduced to tears, according to my knowledge.

Zimbabwean-born Ballance claimed that he and Rafiq were "close friends" during the time they exchanged inappropriate comments with their team-mate, who was travelling to Zimbabwe to visit Ballance's family. Ballance claimed he was invited to Rafiq’s wedding in Pakistan but couldn’t attend.

He said, "That doesn't mean that what was passed between us was correct or appropriate." It wasn't. Rafa made comments to me that were unacceptable, and I repeated the same thing with Rafa. Rafa was not offended or I said anything maliciously."

ESPN Cricinfo published a September 2020 interview with Rafiq, in which he claimed that he was close to suicide due to institutional racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club. This prompted the club's investigation.

Yorkshire published the September report in which Rafiq was deemed the victim of racial harassment, bullying, with seven of the 43 allegations being upheld by an independent panel.

Yorkshire stated that it had conducted its own investigation into the findings of the report in October and concluded that there was no misconduct by its employees, executives, or players that would warrant disciplinary action.

Julian Knight MP, the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, called for the resignation of the board of Yorkshire County Cricket Club after a leaked report, which apparently contained details about the investigation into Rafiq's treatment, was published earlier this week.

ESPN published a story saying that the report concluded that Rafiq had been referred to as "banter" when he used racially offensive terms towards him.

"I am conscious of the hurtful nature of the racial insult."

Ballance stated that he felt obliged to respond publicly to media reports, which he said give a misleading impression of the evidence heard during the investigation.

He said, "I am conscious of how hurtful this racial insult is and I regret using it in immature conversations in my younger years. I'm sure Rafa feels exactly the same about some things he said me."

"My intention throughout this entire process was to be honest with and cooperate with the independent investigation.

"In light recent media reports, it is only fair, on behalf me and my family that I place my position in public domain."

Rafiq report timeline

2 September 2020: ESPN Cricinfo publishes an interview featuring Rafiq, in which he asserts that he was subject to institutional racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

3 September 2020: Yorkshire says they have opened a formal investigation into Rafiq's claims. Chairman Roger Hutton also stated that the club would conduct a "wider review of their policies and culture."

5 September 2020: Yorkshire requests an independent law firm to investigate allegations of racism against Rafiq's club.

13 November 2020: Rafiq stated that he hopes to effect "meaningful changes" after he made his first statement in response to the inquiry.

15 December 2020: Rafiq files an action against Yorkshire alleging direct discrimination, harassment and victimisation on the basis of race.

2 February 2021: Yorkshire threatens a lifetime ban to anyone who makes threats against Rafiq, his family or legal team. This threat was made after ESPN Cricinfo shows them messages addressed to Rafiq's law firm.

17 June 2021: Rafiq and Yorkshire fail to reach an agreement in a case before the employment tribunal. His racism accusations remain under investigation.

16 August 2021: Yorkshire receives the results of an independent investigation into racism allegations and two days later the England and Wales Cricket Board asks for a copy.

19 August 2021: Yorkshire, which has yet to release the results of the report, admits Rafiq was the victim of inappropriate behavior and offers him "profound apologies."

Rafiq accuses Yorkshire, calling him "inappropriate behavior" and downplaying racism.

8 September 2021: Yorkshire MPs ask for the publication of the report's findings "immediately".

10 September 2021: Yorkshire releases the findings of the report. It states that Rafiq was "victim of racism harassment and bullying". Seven of the 43 allegations made against Rafiq were confirmed by an independent panel.

Hutton stated that the report did not contain sufficient evidence to conclude Yorkshire County Cricket Club was institutionally racist.

Yorkshire released a summary and recommendations of the panel's report, but stated that the full report was not available due to legal issues "regarding privacy law and defamation".

8 October 2021: Yorkshire misses the deadline to submit the complete report to Rafiq, his legal team and the media after BBC Sport learns that an employment judge ordered the club's release in its entirety by Friday, October 8.

13 October 2021: Rafiq receives a heavily edited version. The ECB states that it is still awaiting its full report.

28 October 2021 Yorkshire: Yorkshire claims that it conducted its own internal investigation following the report's findings and concluded that there was no misconduct or action by its employees, players, or executives that would warrant disciplinary action.

2 November 2021: Hutton is summoned by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee to appear before them to answer questions regarding Yorkshire's handling a Rafiq-related report.

Julian Knight MP, the chair of the DCMS Select Committee, has called on the board at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, to resign following a leak of a report that apparently contains details about the investigation into Rafiq's treatment.

ESPN published a story saying that the report concluded that Rafiq had been referred to as "banter" when he used racially offensive terms towards him.

Knight's comments come after Sajid Javid, UK Health Secretary, calls for "heads-to-roll" at Yorkshire. He said that if the ECB didn't take action, "it's no longer fit for purpose." In a tweet, Knight stated that Rafiq's term was "not banter"

3 November 2021: Rafiq, together with other senior Yorkshire officials, is due to testify at the DCMS hearing on 16 November.

Many sponsors, including the primary sponsor Emerald Publishing, have ended their partnership with Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

Ballance issues a long statement in which he regrets using a racial slur to refer to Rafiq, his former Yorkshire team-mate.