YORKSHIRE have confirmed they are in contact with Azeem Rafiq, after their former player claimed "institutional racism" at the club left him "close to committing suicide".

The 29-year-old ex-England youth captain walked away from cricket after his time at Yorkshire but has now spoken out against the White Rose county.

In an interview with ESPNcricinfo, Rafiq - a spin bowler who also captained Yorkshire in a Twenty20 fixture in 2012 - said he felt that, as a Muslim, he was made to feel like an "outsider" and left on the brink of suicide.

"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. Do I think there is institutional racism? It's at its peak in my opinion. It's worse than it's ever been."

In response to Rafiq's allegations, Yorkshire issued a statement to the PA news agency, which read: "The club has an Equality and Diversity Committee, chaired by board member Hanif Malik. Hanif is in contact with Azeem about the allegations and will report back to the committee."

Rafiq is not currently working within the game and admitted his claims will damage his chances of doing so in the future - but insists it was the right thing to do.

"Yorkshire don't want to listen and they don't want to change," he added.

"And part of the reason for that is the people who were involved in the incidents I'm talking about are still at the club. They just want to sweep it under the carpet.

"But not this time. Not again. I know what I'm doing here. I know that by speaking out I'm damaging my chances of working in the game again.

"But I also know it's the right thing to do and if I have to stand alone to do it, I will."

In a statement released this afternoon, Yorkshire said: "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.

"On Monday this week the club took the decision to launch a formal investigation into the specific allegations made by Azeem Rafiq, and a wider review of YCCC’s policies and culture.

"We are in the process of finalising the structure of this investigation and we will be approaching impartial external parties to be part of the review to ensure complete transparency.

"Further announcements will be made to detail this process in the coming days.

"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.

"Since 2014 we’ve prioritised community engagement with numerous groups right across the county, and across many cultures and ethnicities.

"While as an organisation we’ve made real efforts to that end, we are not perfect and it’s a work in progress.

"As a player and former captain, Azeem was extremely highly respected and well regarded by the club and its supporters alike.

"Azeem was a gifted bowler and a respected leader of our team, and that was why he became the first British South Asian captain of the Yorkshire T20 side, and the youngest ever captain of the team.

"We have tried to make contact with Azeem this week to discuss his experiences, and will make further contact in the weeks ahead as its important that we hear his grievances in as much detail as possible.

"The future direction of our organisation’s culture will be best-shaped with the understanding and the input of players, staff and supporters from all minorities and genders, and we will continue this process with the formal investigation that will start in a matter of days and be conducted thoroughly, impartially, and with urgency."