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ECB find insufficient evidence over new Azeem Rafiq bullying claim 

Azeem Rafiq's complaint centered on an alleged incident after a game in 2006

A former Derbyshire fast bowler has strongly denied allegations of historic bullying and racism, following investigations by the ECB and South Yorkshire Police this year.

Sportsmail has learned that Mark Beardshall, who played for the county in 1987, has been accused by former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq of dragging and abusing him in the showers at Driffield Town Cricket Club in Yorkshire in 2006.

Rafiq was contacted by the ECB’s Safeguarding team last December after he testified strongly at a hearing of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s Special Committee the previous month when he described the racism and bullying he had experienced in two periods experienced while playing for Yorkshire.

An independent report commissioned by Yorkshire confirmed seven of Rafiq’s 43 allegations against the club, which awarded him around £200,000 in compensation last November.

Rafiq is understood to have related several other incidents of alleged racism and bullying that did not arise in his case against Yorkshire to the ECB, which immediately opened an investigation into the allegations against Beardshall and reported the matter to South Yorkshire Police

No charges were brought and the ECB security team concluded that while the complaint met the evidence threshold needed to open an investigation, there was insufficient evidence to refer it to its Disciplinary Committee.

Azeem Rafiq's complaint centered on an alleged incident after a game in 2006

Azeem Rafiq’s complaint centered on an alleged incident after a game in 2006

Rafiq’s complaint was based on alleged bullying and physical abuse rather than racism, but Beardshall was also questioned about using racist language.

South Yorkshire Police also decided not to pursue the case after conducting an interview with Beardshall, who is unhappy with his treatment, particularly the fact that his name was leaked before he was interviewed by the ECB. “This was a terrible thing to blame for and deeply traumatic,” Beardshall told Sportsmail.

Two other former Barnsley players have also been questioned by South Yorkshire Police after Rafiq claimed he was forced to drink alcohol as a teenager, which he made public at the select committee hearing, but that case too was dismissed for “evidence”. difficulties”.

A spokesman for Rafiq declined to comment, but the 31-year-old is said to stand by the allegations of bullying.

Rafiq’s new complaint centered on an alleged incident after a match between Barnsley and Driffield on 8 July 2006 in the Yorkshire Premier League.

Rafiq claimed Beardshall dragged him into the showers against his will in the presence of his teammates, stripped him and held him under water, and used insults. Rafiq was 15 at the time.

Beardshall first became aware of the allegations when he received a call from South Yorkshire Police on March 2 this year asking for an interview.

Beardshall issued a written statement denying the allegations before being questioned under caution. He then received a letter from his lawyer stating that the police had confirmed that there was no case to answer.

The ECB also conducted an investigation with the other nine Barnsley players surveyed and asked if they had seen other examples of inappropriate behavior by Beardshall, who has played and coached at Barnsley for 30 years.

All nine reportedly said they had no memory of the alleged incident.

Beardshall was questioned by an ECB security officer in May and also provided the ECB with testimony saying he had no knowledge of the alleged incident.

South Yorkshire Police and the ECB have both decided not to pursue the case

South Yorkshire Police and the ECB have both decided not to pursue the case

This appears to have been the end of the ECB investigation, although Beardshall has not been told the case is closed.

Beardshall, 60, is unhappy with the ECB putting him under investigation over a single historic complaint.

He is also concerned about the ECB’s procedures, particularly in relation to confidentiality, as he has received calls from former teammates questioning him about the allegations.

It is standard practice for the ECB to inform suspects that an investigation into their conduct has begun, but exceptions can be made where evidence needs to be gathered from other witnesses to substantiate the allegation. The ECB declined to comment.

“I have no knowledge of the alleged incident,” Beardshall told Sportsmail. “As an ECB-qualified coach since 1980, security has always been important to me.

“For the last 15 years I have been a qualified ECB Tutor entrusted with delivering Safeguarding modules – further proof of my commitment to ensuring best practices are followed at all levels.

“I didn’t say a word after being questioned by police, but two months later I got calls from former teammates.

‘My name slipped out. That could have ruined my reputation. The ECB seems ready to throw anyone under a bus to survive the current storm.’

The ECB has been criticized for the Rafiq affair, including by Rafiq himself, who called the governing body “not fit for purpose”.

They initially refused to interfere when Rafiq leveled allegations against Yorkshire in 2020, but changed their position after politicians including Sajid Javid demanded that “heads must roll” at Headingley last year.

The ECB subsequently withdrew Yorkshire caps and launched investigations into historic cases, including Beardshall.

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