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Racism In English Cricket

Explained: ECB Yorkshire racism hearings – everything you need to know

Explained: ECB racism hearings - Everything You Need To Know
by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

The Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC) hearings into racism charges levelled by the ECB against Yorkshire CCC and seven individuals are set to continue this week – here’s all you need to know about what’s happened so far.

What is the CDC?

The Cricket Discipline Commission hears disciplinary cases where individuals or organisations in the professional domestic game in England and Wales breach the ECB’s Rules, Regulations and Directives. The CDC will also determine the applicable sanctions if the charges are upheld.

Sanctions the CDC could enforce if charges are upheld include: A caution, reprimand, unlimited fine, suspension of eligibility to play in any match(es) or for any fixed period; suspension for a club from ECB competition(s), points deductions or alteration of match results.


The CDC panel for the current hearings is made up of former Derbyshire batter Tim O’Gorman (Chair), Mark Milliken-Smith KC with specialist knowledge of sports law, and Dr Seema Patel – a senior law lecturer at Nottingham Trent University.

The hearings have been held in public – at the request of Azeem Rafiq – for the first time. However, only accredited journalists had access to an online live stream of proceedings.

Who has been charged with what?

Yorkshire CCC has been charged with breaching ECB Directive 3.3 (conduct which is improper or which may be prejudicial to the interests of cricket or which may bring the ECB, the game of cricket or any cricketer into disrepute). The club has admitted liability in response to four amended charges, which include 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.

Given its admission of the charges levied against the club, Yorkshire CCC are not taking part in the CDC hearings.

Gary Ballance, John Blain, Tim Bresnan, Andrew Gale, Matthew Hoggard, Richard Pyrah and Michael Vaughan have all been charged with breaches of Directive 3.3.

Gary Ballance has admitted liability in response to the charge against him for his use of racially discriminatory language. He will also not take part in the hearings following his admission of the charges against him.

Why is so much of the focus on Michael Vaughan?

Apart from Vaughan, all the parties charged by the ECB have either admitted to their charges or chosen not to engage with the process. However, Vaughan has committed to a full legal defence, engaging the services of Christopher Stoner, KC, an experienced sports lawyer.

What are the allegations against the Vaughan?

Vaughan is alleged by Rafiq to have said: “too many of you lot, we need to do something about it” to him and three other Asian players in 2009 before playing a match for Yorkshire. Vaughan “completely and categorically denies” the allegation.

Adil Rashid and former Pakistan bowler Rana Naved-ul-Hasan have corroborated Rafiq’s allegation, and the fourth player in the group which the comment was allegedly addressed to, Ajmal Shahzad, has said he has no recollection of the event.

Vaughan is the only one of the accused individuals who is giving evidence to the CDC panel, with the others all either admitting their charges or withdrawing from the process.

On day two of the hearings, Vaughan’s lawyer presented Sky TV footage from before the match in question on 22 June 2009 when the words were alleged to have been spoken. They argued the footage is “inconsistent” with anything “untoward having been said”.

He also presented Vaughan’s autobiography which was published a few months after the alleged incident, and draws attention to the game stating Vaughan was proud of there being four Asian players in the side and that it was “the shape of things to come”.

What did Rafiq say when he gave evidence?

On day one of the hearings, the CDC panel heard details in relation to the charges against Yorkshire CCC. These included mishandling the initial investigation into Rafiq’s claims of racism at the club and  mass deletion of emails and/or documents held electronically within Yorkshire’s possession or control that related to the Rafiq. Yorkshire have admitted documents about racism allegations against the club were deleted under a previous regime.

When Rafiq gave evidence to the panel on day two he said of his allegations of comments made by Vaughan: “I’ve been very clear from the offset that it didn’t feel like it was done in a malicious way.” He also gave evidence about meeting Vaughan following the DCMS hearing. “[Vaughan’s] apology was something I accepted and I was naive to think it was genuine,” Rafiq said. “I wanted to believe things were going to be better.”

Rafiq discussed a nickname which was allegedly given to him for the “first few years” of his career at Yorkshire, which was a racially offensive term in South Africa. He also alleged that after his Yorkshire debut was called off minutes before the start of the match due to concerns over whether he was eligible to play, saying “questions were raised if I should be in the country and whether I was an illegal immigrant”.

He also “categorically denied” leaking any documents relating to his allegations.

In relation to comments from an ECB interview with Shahzad in which he called Rafiq “a prickly character,” Rafiq said: “I carry the mental scars. Anyone who has ever spoken out the way I have will know how that feels…It’s disappointing to read this from Shahzad. I wish he was here.”

Who else has given evidence?

Adil Rashid

Rashid gave evidence via video link in relation to the allegations against Vaughan on day two of the hearings. He agreed with statements put to him by Vaughan’s lawyer, that he believes the alleged comment was “a poor attempt at humour” and that Vaughan is “not a racist”. Rashid also said he was “not offended” by the comment at the time.

He also agreed that “there is no evidence suggestion from the (Sky) footage that he (Rashid) had been offended by anything.”

Rashid also denied that Rafiq “pressured” him into corroborating the allegations and stated that he had “a very clear recollection” of the comments Vaughan is alleged to have made. Ajmal

Rashid said he could not recall a conversation with the PCA’s Matthew Wood in which Wood claims Rashid “said that he hadn’t seen or experienced any racism during his time in cricket”.

Rashid was read a statement from Ajmal Shahzad which stated: “I spoke to Rashid in December when I was at Yorkshire coaching and he was very uncomfortable with where this was going. At some point he [Rafiq] was capable of you know, using something that he knew about him personally, against him. And then I remember him saying that and I was saying ‘Look Rash, how much does he know about you? What you doing?’” Rashid said he did not know to what Shahzad was referring.

Michael Vaughan

On day three of the hearings, Vaughan said the disciplinary hearing into allegations of racism at Yorkshire is a “terrible look” for cricket and that he heard no racist language in his time at the club. He said: “Ex-teammates fighting it out over hearsay is a terrible look for the game and a really bad look on how cricket has dealt with this situation.”

Vaughan also reiterated his denial of making the comments Rafiq alleges he made, and that he had a “very clear mind” about the match in question.

Matthew Wood

Matthew Wood was Rafiq’s personal development manager at the PCA. He submitted a statement which said he “was aware of two occasions in which [Rafiq] (directly or indirectly) acknowledged that he would be prepared to use the ‘race card’.” He also “got the impression from Azeem that he had used being Asian as leverage in order to bypass the fact that he had missed the deadline and got accepted onto [an ECB Level 4 coaching] course”. A statement from Rafiq disputed this: “This is a really odd thing for him to claim. I was put on to the ECB by Peter Such … and I applied for the course by a hard application. I filled out a form and attended the interviews.”

Liz Neto

Liz Neto is a former HR manager at Yorkshire. She testified that Rashid called her on more than one occasion “when the media furore was at its zenith”. “He appeared distressed and indicated to me he was being pressured to corroborate allegations of racism then being made,” she said. “He said to me, more than once, that he could not remember the particular comment he was being asked to say he witnessed, not anything racist being said in his presence. He said to me he had told Mr Rafiq: ‘No matter how many times you tell me I heard it Azeem, I cannot remember hearing it.’” Rashid denied having said that in his evidence.

She also stated that she was not aware of any racism in Yorkshire cricket when she was at the club.

Meena Botros

Meena Botros is the ECB’s director of legal and integrity. Botros defended the ECB’s independence as a regulator under questioning from Vaughan’s KC, but admitted the investigation had failed to get contact details from several of the Yorkshire players involved in the 2009 game in question. He also confirmed that the ECB did not ask the umpires or cameraman at the game if they heard Vaughan’s alleged comment, and that Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, who backed up Rafiq’s version of events in a 2020 interview, has not engaged with the ECB’s investigation.

What happens now?

The CDC will continue to hear evidence until March 9, with the case against Vaughan to be concluded and the cases against Gale and Pyrah still to be heard. The findings of the panel will be communicated “as soon as is reasonably practical” and it’s written reasoning will be published in full unless it determines that doing so would be inappropriate.

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