Public hearing into Azeem Rafiq’s racism allegations set to begin
A public hearing examining allegations of racism made by former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq is set to begin on Wednesday.
The 32-year-old first spoke out about his experience of racial harassment and bullying across two spells with the county back in 2020.
The England and Wales Cricket Board brought charges against seven individuals and Yorkshire in June last year, with Rafiq succeeding in having the case dealt with in public by an independent Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC) panel.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan is the only charged individual set to appear.
Rafiq has alleged Vaughan told a group of Yorkshire players of Asian ethnicity before a match in 2009 “there are too many of you lot, we need to do something about it”.
Vaughan categorically denies the allegation, but two other individuals – current Yorkshire and England player Adil Rashid and former Pakistan player Rana Naved-ul-Hasan – have corroborated Rafiq’s version of events.
Rashid is set to give evidence to the hearing via video link, while Rafiq, as the key witness in the case, is expected to face cross-examination from Vaughan’s legal team.
Update on charges against Yorkshire CCC and others
— England and Wales Cricket Board (@ECB_cricket) February 7, 2023
Former Yorkshire player Gary Ballance has admitted a charge of using racially discriminatory language and will not appear, while five others with previous connections to the county – Tim Bresnan, John Blain, Matthew Hoggard, Andrew Gale and Rich Pyrah – will have charges heard against them in their absence after they withdrew from the process.
Yorkshire will not participate in the CDC hearing after the county admitted four amended charges laid against them by the ECB.
The club were heavily criticised in the autumn of 2021 after they failed to take disciplinary action against any individuals despite an independent review they commissioned finding Rafiq had been the victim of racial harassment and bullying.
The Health Secretary at the time, Sajid Javid, tweeted to say “heads should roll” at Yorkshire over their handling of the matter, and the ECB withdrew international match hosting rights from the county until governance conditions were met.
Changes at board level – including the appointment of Lord Kamlesh Patel as chair – ultimately led to Headingley’s hosting privileges being restored, but not before Rafiq had presented powerful testimony to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee in November 2021 about his experiences of discrimination during his playing career.
The governing body confirmed on February 7 that the four charges Yorkshire had admitted included 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.
On February 23 the club confirmed one of the charges they had admitted to related to the deletion or destruction of electronic and paper documents prior to Lord Patel’s appointment.
The hearing is slated to last until March 9, however it is expected only the first three days and Tuesday, March 7 will be ‘public’ in the sense that journalists can report on what is said in the hearing, with the other days set aside for closing statements and private deliberation by the CDC panel.
Every time I open my mouth, I am damaging myself – mentally, professionally. But my view is that at some point in life, you’ve got to look past your own nose.
Rafiq told the PA news agency last November he expected the public hearing would make things worse for him and his family but said: “I just don’t see an end to this unless that happens.”
Rafiq, who left the UK amid security concerns for his family shortly after the interview, added: “My view is I’ve gone through all these processes and been vindicated, yet I and my family continue to be put through some very awful situations.
“So I’ll go in another room and I will be vindicated again, I’ve got absolutely no doubt whatsoever.
“We need to have these conversations for transparency and for closure. Let the world see it, what’s there to hide? I’ve got nothing to hide.
“Every time I open my mouth, I am damaging myself – mentally, professionally. But my view is that at some point in life, you’ve got to look past your own nose.”