YORKSHIRE intend to conduct a formal investigation into Azeem Rafiq’s accusation the club are “institutionally racist” after the former England Under-19 captain revealed the matter left him on the brink of taking his own life.

Rafiq had two stints at Headingley between 2008 and 2018, and after leading Yorkshire in a Twenty20 game against Durham in 2012, he became, aged 21, the youngest player to captain the county in a senior match.

He was released in 2018 for a second time and has walked away from cricket but in a startling interview with ESPNCricinfo, the former off-spinner said, as a Muslim, he was made to feel like an “outsider” at the county.

“I know how close I was to committing suicide during my time at Yorkshire,” he said. “I was living my family’s dream as a professional cricketer, but inside I was dying. I was dreading going to work. I was in pain every day.

“There were times I did things to try and fit in that, as a Muslim, I now look back on and regret. I’m not proud of it at all. But as soon as I stopped trying to fit in, I was an outsider.

“I believe the club is institutionally racist and I don’t believe they are prepared to acknowledge the fact or willing to change. My only motivation now is to prevent anyone else feeling the same pain.”

In responding to the claim Yorkshire initially said Hanif Malik, a board member and chair of Yorkshire’s Equality and Diversity Committee, had been in touch with their 29-year-old former player and would relay his findings.

The club went further yesterday afternoon, saying the decision was made at the start of the week to launch an official investigation into the matter and they are in the process of finalising the structure of the review.

Yorkshire added they will make contact with “impartial external parties to ensure complete transparency”.

A statement on the club’s website added: “Any allegation of this nature is hugely concerning to everyone from the board to the playing staff here, and we take the reports very seriously.

“We fully acknowledge that just as in many walks of life, sport, including cricket and Yorkshire as a club, must do better to fully promote a culture of zero tolerance to racism or any form of prejudice. We accepted a long time ago that change was needed at Headingley to improve diversity, especially in terms of racial inclusivity.”