Ashley Giles, the managing director of the England men’s team, has indicated he believes Michael Vaughan should be given a chance to be rehabilitated and resume his media career after the allegations of racism made against him by Azeem Rafiq.
Giles admitted there was no place for racism in cricket but when asked specifically about Vaughan, his former England captain with whom he won the 2005 Ashes, he insisted that refusing to give people a second chance and an opportunity to be educated was “not a healthy way forward” for the sport.
Vaughan has been fighting for his media career and reputation ever since Rafiq alleged that before a match against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in 2009 he told him and three other Yorkshire players of Asian descent: “Too many of you lot, we need to do something about it.”
He has strenuously denied ever saying those words, while two other players – Rana Naveed Ul-Hasan and England spinner Adil Rashid – have backed up Rafiq’s account of that day.
Vaughan again denied the allegation during an interview with the BBC’s Dan Walker on Saturday, although he did apologise to Rafiq for “the hurt” he had gone through at Yorkshire.
The 47-year-old, who has been dropped from the BBC’s coverage of the upcoming Ashes series in Australia, was also forced during that BBC interview to apologise for a series of historic xenophobic tweets, including one posted in the aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017 that suggested the England all-rounder Moeen Ali should ask fellow Muslims he didn’t know if they were terrorists.
Asked specifically about Vaughan’s situation, Giles, who is in Brisbane with England’s Ashes squad, said: “I can’t comment on what the BBC should do with one of their employees. But I think tolerance is really important.
“We all do make mistakes and we will again. But we have to be able to tolerate, educate and rehabilitate otherwise people aren’t going to open up and share their experiences and learn.
“Does zero tolerance mean we shouldn’t accept discrimination and racism? Absolutely. But not giving people second chances, I’m not sure that’s a healthy way forward for us because it’s certainly not going to bring people forward to either share their positive or negative experiences or even bring people forward to say, ‘I just don’t know – I don’t know how to react in this environment’ or what to say.
“We all know that this can be a bit of a minefield. Even the language we use around this area almost changes by the month. So for me we’ve got to educate more, we’ve got to call it out in the dressing-room much more effectively if we see it because perhaps all of us in the past – and I’m not just talking about cricket – have let things go. We’ve got to be prepared to call them out and by that I don’t mean we kick chairs and tables over and start a fight. We just make it very clear that those sorts of behaviours aren’t right in our dressing-rooms or environments and actually in all workplaces because, although cricket has an opportunity to do something very strong, I don’t believe for one minute these same issues don’t exist in society. So I think it’s a collective responsibility for all of us to do something about this.”
Giles also gave his backing for the England captain, Joe Root, to stop any Ashes Test where he felt his players were being abused by the crowd on the basis of their race or nationality. “We know crowds can be lively here – I’ve experienced that myself as a player,” said Giles. “But I’d certainly trust Joe Root to do what is right on the field. If he chose to bring the team into the middle of the field and stop the game while that was investigated then absolutely. I don’t think any of our players should be subject to any abuse actually but discrimination and racism particularly.”
Giles also confirmed he is talking to his Australian counterparts over how the new Omicron Covid variant may affect England’s Ashes tour. Several Australian states tightened up their border restrictions over the weekend and there is a concern some players’ families who are flying into Melbourne before Christmas might be forced to quarantine on arrival if the situation deteriorates.
“It’s very early days but I’ve actually got a call after this to start discussing that situation,” said Giles. “We’re obviously hoping it won’t affect anything. There are going to be changes to those border controls in terms of our families being able to travel etc and we clearly hope that’s not going to affect us. But we are in the hands of national and local governments.
“We always knew things could change. We will do everything we can to make sure the families are accommodated and of course that the players are happy.”