Michael Vaughan has described the proceedings of the Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC) as “inappropriate and inadequate” after charges against him of using racist and/or discriminatory language and bringing the game into disrepute were dismissed on Friday, saying the process of clearing his name “brought me to the brink of falling out of love with cricket”.
Vaughan was the only one of those charged by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) as a result of Azeem Rafiq’s descriptions of his treatment while a player at Yorkshire to be cleared by the CDC panel. John Blain, Tim Bresnan, Andrew Gale, Matthew Hoggard and Richard Pyrah, former Yorkshire players and coaches whose cases were heard in their absence after they withdrew from the disciplinary process, were all found to have breached ECB directive 3.3 by engaging in “conduct which may be prejudicial to the interests of cricket or which may bring the game of cricket or any cricketer or group of cricketers into disrepute”, by using racist language.
A decision on what sanctions they, along with the cricketer Gary Ballance and Yorkshire themselves – whose cases were not considered by the panel because they had admitted to the charges they were facing – will be decided at a separate hearing, still to be scheduled.
There is a right to appeal, and Bresnan and Blain indicated they would do so. “I’ll continue to fight this by whatever means are available,” Blain said. “It’s unfair and very difficult to digest when I’ve done nothing. The process itself will be very difficult moving forward. These things take time but I have to move on and try to get justice. It’s hard to accept. I’ve done nothing wrong and I have the clear evidence to prove that.”
Under the organisation’s regulations the ECB was required to prove its cases to a civil standard, demonstrating that those charged were guilty on the balance of probabilities, rather than beyond reasonable doubt. The CDC panel was also invited to “draw such reasonable inferences as it deems proper from any failure by the respondent to attend any disciplinary hearing”, and chose in the cases of all five non-cooperating defendants to assume “that [they] did not feel that [they] had an answer to the ECB’s case which would sensibly stand up to cross-examination”.
Vaughan was accused of telling a group of four players of Asian descent that “there’s too many of you lot” before a Twenty20 game in June 2009. The 48-year-old denied doing so and, although three of the four other players involved remembered him using the phrase, the CDC concluded: “Having taken into account all the relevant evidence … the panel is not satisfied on the balance of probabilities that these words were spoken by Michael Vaughan at the time and in the specific circumstances alleged.”
Vaughan wrote on Instagram: “The outcome of these CDC proceedings must not be allowed to detract from the core message that there can be no place for racism in the game of cricket, or society generally.” He added: “The dismissal of the specific charge that concerned me takes nothing away from Azeem’s own lived experiences.”
But the former Ashes-winning England captain said he disagreed with the way the hearings were conducted. “Particularly with an issue such as this, CDC proceedings were an inappropriate, inadequate and backwards step,” he wrote.
“One of the many reasons why I hold that view is because CDC proceedings are adversarial. They invite claim and counterclaim. They invite those involved to accuse each other of untruths or lying … I remain of the view that no good can come of that approach. There are no winners in this process and there are better ways – there have to be better ways – for cricket to move forward positively and effectively.”
Rafiq welcomed the ECB’s decision to uphold the majority of those charges that were brought but said: “The issue has never been about individuals but the game as a whole. Cricket needs to understand the extent of its problems and address them. Hopefully, the structures of the game can now be rebuilt and institutionalised racism ended for good. It’s time to reflect, learn and implement change.”
The ECB chair, Richard Thompson, admitted that the hearings had “taken a clear toll on everyone involved” and said his organisation would need “time to consider the decisions carefully”. It is also awaiting the imminent publication of a report from an Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) into discrimination across the English game on grounds of race, gender and class.
“There now needs to be a time of reconciliation where, as a game, we can collectively learn and heal the wounds and ensure that nothing like this can ever happen again,” Thompson said.
“At its best, our sport is one that brings people together and connects communities. It is now time, as we also prepare to receive the report of the ICEC, to work together to continue, expand and accelerate the work that is under way to change for the better, so that we can make cricket the UK’s most inclusive sport.”