Michael Vaughan last man standing against Azeem Rafiq in Yorkshire racism case
Michael Vaughan is the last man standing to defend himself against Azeem Rafiq after the rest of the Yorkshire accused withdrew from disciplinary action or accepted charges.
Next month’s hearing has been reduced dramatically in its scope after Richard Pyrah joined Andrew Gale, Matthew Hoggard, Tim Bresnan and John Blain in refusing to attend. Gary Ballance and Yorkshire now accept charges against them and will not be required to appear.
With Vaughan, the former Ashes-winning England captain, the only person willing to fight to defend his reputation, pressure will now grow on England’s Adil Rashid to appear at the case in person.
The England and Wales Cricket Board has taken a position that it will not fly Rashid – a business partner of Rafiq’s – back from Bangladesh. But given he is said to be a key witness in the contested “you lot” comment that Vaughan denies, lawyers are set to contest attempts by the ECB to allow him to give evidence only by video-link.
Rafiq was the chief witness in charges laid by the ECB against seven individuals and Yorkshire County Cricket Club. Vaughan was charged on one count and remains committed to appearing in person to defend himself.
In a statement on Tuesday, the ECB confirmed Pyrah, who played for Yorkshire between 2001 and 2015, had pulled out of proceedings. The governing body added that former team-mate Ballance would also not attend, having admitted liability in response to the charge against him for his use of racially discriminatory language.
The governing body also said Yorkshire, as expected, had admitted four amended charges, including a failure to address systemic use of racist and/or discriminatory language over a prolonged period and a failure to take adequate action in respect of allegations of racist and/or discriminatory behaviour. As a result, representatives of the club would also not be participating in the hearing, the ECB confirmed.
Initially, seven individuals and Yorkshire were due to appear before the Cricket Discipline Commission, which is supposedly independent from the ECB, charged with bringing the game into disrepute. The dates for the hearing have been confirmed as March 1 to 9.
The fresh names to pull out of the process come after Ashes winner Bresnan branded the Yorkshire cricket racism investigation a “circus” and said the ECB had “pandered” to Rafiq’s “every need”.
In an extraordinary attack on authorities, he says he and the likes of Hoggard pulled out of next month’s disciplinary hearing because, under the ECB’s watch, the case is a “foregone conclusion”. “I do so with a heavy heart and although I have nothing to hide, the ECB have made it impossible to have a fair hearing,” he said in a damning statement calling into question the validity of Rafiq’s claims. “This has been a one-sided investigation that set out to prove a particular case against me instead of objectively examining matters before any charges were brought. For this reason, I believe the outcome is a foregone conclusion.”
Gale – who is Bresnan’s brother-in-law – was among 16 members of staff dismissed by Yorkshire last year. In his statement, Bresnan also launched a blistering attack on Rafiq’s “well-rehearsed” dossier of claims which brought Yorkshire Cricket Club to its knees.
Last November the CDC accepted a request from Rafiq for the hearings to be held in public, breaking with decades of precedent of cases being held behind closed doors with written judgements handed down.
Bresnan’s attack on the process comes after Telegraph Sport revealed an Asian team-mate of Rafiq, Ajmal Shahzad, denied many of the claims of racism, saying he did not hear Vaughan said the “you lot” comment.
Rafiq told Telegraph Sport in response: “Over the past two years I have been vindicated time and again. This has included a legal investigation that confirmed I was a victim of racial harassment and bullying; a Yorkshire commissioned panel that concluded I suffered discrimination; numerous apologies, both public and private, from people who witnessed or were involved in this behaviour; and others have come forward to confirm the culture in the wider game. It is regrettable that these defendants are not willing to go to a public hearing and face what happened.”
The former Yorkshire spinner Rafiq first alleged racism at Yorkshire in 2020, which led to the charges from ECB last year.