Former England captain Michael Vaughan says the disciplinary hearing into allegations of racism at Yorkshire is a “terrible look” for cricket.
Vaughan is accused of saying “there’s too many of you lot, we need to have a word about that” to Azeem Rafiq and three other Asian players at Yorkshire before a T20 match in 2009.
Vaughan has “completely and categorically” denied the allegation – and did so again when giving evidence for the first time in the hearing on Friday.
However, the former Yorkshire captain, who retired in 2009, did apologise for “disgusting” historical tweets which were first brought to his attention in a 2021 BBC interview.
Jane Mulcahy KC, the lawyer for the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), which brought the charges against Vaughan, suggested the “tweets are remarkably similar in tone to the allegation” – which Vaughan denied.
Vaughan, 48, was critical of the two-and-a-half year process and said he met Rafiq in November 2021 because “the whole situation was escalating out of control”.
In that meeting Vaughan said he apologised to Rafiq for the hurt the former spinner had experienced at Yorkshire – but did not accept he made the alleged comment.
Vaughan repeated that denial on Friday, saying: “I can’t apologise for something I don’t recollect saying.”
Rafiq said on Thursday that Vaughan’s actions after their meeting had left him feeling “naive”.
“It’s not been easy for anybody,” said Vaughan, under cross-examination by Mulcahy.
“This is not the right process to deal with word-against-word comments from 14 years ago.
“Ex-team-mates 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 makes ‘Question of Sport’ joke during hearing
Before this week’s hearings took place, Yorkshire had pleaded guilty to four amended charges from the ECB, which also includes the county accepting they failed to address the “systemic use of racist or discriminatory language” at the club over a prolonged period, including Rafiq’s career.
Vaughan’s former team-mate, ex-Yorkshire and England bowler Matthew Hoggard has admitted using a racist slur relating to Pakistani heritage and another racist term that is offensive in South Africa while at the club.
Vaughan repeatedly denied having heard such racial slurs while at Yorkshire.
When asked to confirm details about how many years he had played alongside Hoggard for both Yorkshire and England, Vaughan joked: “It’s like Question of Sport, this.”
The former batter, who started work as a BBC pundit after retiring in 2009, said he had a “very clear mind” about the match in question against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge on 22 June 2009.
He said he “knows” he did not make the alleged comment to Rafiq, Adil Rashid, Ajmal Shahzad and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan because he was “proud” of it being the first time four Asian players had been in the same side for Yorkshire and it was a sign of how far the county had come.
England spinner Rashid and former Yorkshire and Pakistan bowler Naved-ul-Hasan have corroborated Rafiq’s allegation.
The fourth player in the group, former England bowler Shahzad has said he has no recollection of it happening.
Vaughan agreed that the alleged comment was unacceptable and racist, but insisted he did not say it, in part because it would have affected the morale of his team-mates and possibly their performance.
“I make sure people are loved,” added Vaughan.
Vaughan also denied he had said the alleged comment in jest.
When Mulcahy brought up some of the historical tweets sent by Vaughan – some of which include references to foreign call centre workers and the number of English people living in London – he did agree with that they would be offensive to Rafiq.
He said he took part in an online diversity course while working in Australia covering the 2021-22 Ashes because he “wanted to be a leader in the game”.
Rafiq accused of playing ‘race card’
Rafiq was accused of having said he was prepared to use the “race card” for personal gain by Matthew Wood, who was his personal development manager with the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA).
In his witness statement, Wood claimed Rafiq said he would “hit them with the race card” if Yorkshire did not offer him a new contract during a meeting in August 2018.
Wood also alleged Rafiq “used being Asian” to get a place on an ECB coaching course despite missing the deadline.
Mulcahy said Wood did not include the ‘race card’ claim in his initial interview with the original Yorkshire investigation because “Rafiq didn’t play the race card”.
Rafiq’s witness statement also said Wood’s assertion of the coaching course discussion was an “odd thing to claim”.
Wood said he did not mention it because “it was such a volatile” situation, but he did subsequently call the law firm to relay the ‘race card’ points and also told the PCA about the comments.
Mulcahy asked why Wood “went behind” Rafiq’s back and suggested that he was “at pains” to support Vaughan in these proceedings “no matter what”.
Wood said he disagreed and that he “wasn’t on anybody’s side”.
ECB defends investigation
Among the witnesses called on Friday was Meena Botros, the ECB’s director of legal and integrity, who was in charge of the governing body’s investigation into the allegations against Yorkshire.
Vaughan’s lawyer, Christopher Stoner KC, criticised the ECB’s handling of the investigation, questioning why it did not speak to everyone present in and around the Yorkshire team huddle, when Vaughan is alleged to have made the “you lot” comment in 2009.
Stoner asked why the ECB did not speak to the two umpires, the Sky cameraman recording the huddle and some of the other Yorkshire players in the team that day.
Botros said “no-one has suggested the umpires were close enough to hear it” and Sky footage showed they “weren’t close to the huddle”.
He added there was also “no suggestion” the cameraman heard it, and it was “assumed he would have had headphones on”.
Botros said they “weren’t able” to get contact details for some players and others either did not want to take part or had made their position “very clear”.
He added he was “not aware” of Vaughan’s legal team chasing up these lines of inquiry, saying: “If you think it’s such an important point then that may have been taken up.”
The hearing continues until 9 March.
The panel has yet to hear the ECB’s cases against former Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale and ex-bowling coach Richard Pyrah, who have both withdrawn from the process.