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Michael Vaughan says it is ‘inconceivable’ he made racist comment to team-mates

Michael Vaughan arrives for the third day of the CDC Panel Hearing at the International Arbitration Centre, London. A panel of the Cricket Discipline Commission will hear disciplinary proceedings brought by the England and Wales Cricket Board against Yorkshire County Cricket Club. Picture date: Friday March 3, 2023. (PA Wire)
Michael Vaughan arrives for the third day of the CDC Panel Hearing at the International Arbitration Centre, London. A panel of the Cricket Discipline Commission will hear disciplinary proceedings brought by the England and Wales Cricket Board against Yorkshire County Cricket Club. Picture date: Friday March 3, 2023. (PA Wire)

Michael Vaughan insisted it was “inconceivable” that he would make the racist comment he has been accused of by Azeem Rafiq.

Former England captain Vaughan began his defence against an England and Wales Cricket Board charge of using racist and/or discriminatory language in London on Friday.

Vaughan said the entire process was a “terrible look” for cricket and that he had tried to meet with Rafiq to reach an amicable resolution.

The charge was read out to Vaughan by ECB lawyer Jane Mulcahy KC, who said: “You agree the words ‘there’s too many of you lot, we have to have a word about that’ are totally unacceptable?”

“Absolutely,” replied Vaughan.

“And racist and discriminatory?” asked Mulcahy.

“Absolutely,” said Vaughan, who in his witness statement said: “I consider it to be inconceivable that I would use the words contained in the allegation.”

Vaughan was cross-examined in front of the public Cricket Discipline Commission hearing into Rafiq’s claims of racism at Yorkshire.

The 48-year-old was alleged to have made the “you lot” comment to four Asian team-mates; Rafiq, Adil Rashid, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and Ajmal Shahzad, moments after a team huddle prior to a T20 match in 2009.

“I have a very clear mind about, back in 2009, that I know I didn’t say the words I’ve been alleged to have said,” said Vaughan.

“If you go through the history of me as a player I don’t know any time I’d have gone onto a pitch and said something to my team-mates that would have put them in a bad state of mind to play cricket.

“That comment I’m alleged to have said would have put my team-mates in a position not to be able to perform to their maximum.”

Mulcahy brought up an historic tweet from Vaughan from 2010 about the service offered by telephone directory 118 118.

He wrote: “Why when you ring 118 118 are all the people who answer foreign… Can’t make heads or tails of what they are saying.. Annoying.”

“Is this your tweet?” asked Mulcahy.

“Absolutely it is, and it is unacceptable,” said Vaughan.

Rafiq and Rashid have both said they felt no offence was meant in Vaughan’s alleged comment, and that it was probably just “bad humour”.

Mulcahy said: “I’m going to suggest to you the tweets are similar to the comment. Light-hearted but cause offence.”

“I have to keep going back to my recollections of that game,” said Vaughan. “You’ve got three or four Asian players in the team at the same time, I couldn’t have been more proud.”

“The tweets you then sent, do you think they would be offensive to Mr Rafiq?” asked Mulcahy.

“Absolutely,” said Vaughan. “In 2021, when the historic tweets (surfaced), I straight away was disgusted with them and apologised for them.”

Asked by Mulcahy if he saw the Asian players as being different, Vaughan added: “I wanted to make sure they were loved in the environment.

“I thought one of my main strengths was creating a culture, managing people. I’m a person who likes to manage people, make sure they are in the right space, in the right mentality to deliver their skill. I’ve always gone out of my way to make sure people are loved.”

Mulcahy said: “But you’re also the person who sent those tweets?”

Vaughan replied: “Yes. But when I do something wrong I stick my hand up and say I’m wrong.

“When I’m in a group I would not be saying something that could put four of my team-mates into a position of not performing.”

Vaughan arranged a meeting with Rafiq in November 2021 and recalled: “It lasted three or four hours. We had fish and chips (from Rafiq’s shop), they were nice.”

Mulcahy asked Vaughan why, if he was adamant nothing had happened, he would take the initiative to arrange a meeting with Rafiq.

Vaughan said: “I felt it was getting too big, hurting too many people. It’s not been easy for anybody, this.

“I don’t think this is the right process to deal with a word-versus-word process from 14 years ago. Whatever happens, this has a terrible look on the game, a real bad look on how cricket has dealt with this situation.

“I wanted to be a leader, I listened, I apologised. The message was ‘let’s work together’. This had got to a stage where it’s become far too public, too media-orientated.

“We have to expose discrimination and make sure people are held accountable but I just feel that by having conversations, from that meeting, I thought we were on the right platform in working together and helping each other but that’s not been the case.”

Vaughan and fellow former Yorkshire players Matthew Hoggard, Tim Bresnan, John Blain, Andrew Gale and Richard Pyrah all face charges related to the use of racially discriminatory language.

But Vaughan is the only one to contest the charges in person.

Hoggard has already admitted using the word “P***” towards Asian players and Mulcahy asked Vaughan if he thought the term was racist.

“Absolutely,” Vaughan replied.

Vaughan was then asked about the period of time in which he had been a team-mate of Hoggard.

“It’s like ‘A Question Of Sport’, this,” he joked.

There was a less jovial tone to Vaughan’s witness statement in which he referenced the toll being accused of making a racist remark had taken on him.

“Being named and implicated in this matter has had a profound effect on me,” he said.

“My health and personal wellbeing have suffered badly.”

Earlier Vaughan’s lawyer, Christopher Stoner KC, had criticised the ECB’s investigation into the case, saying it was based on “assumption upon assumption”.