'Race card' revelation and a dramatic u-turn among FIVE things we learned from CDC hearings into racism at Yorkshire CCC - Chris Waters comment
1 - RAFIQ ‘RACE CARD’ REVELATION
Just when you thought that this explosive story could not get any more incendiary, Matthew Wood, the former Yorkshire batsman, only went and ‘blew the bloody doors off’ Michael Caine-style.
On day three of the hearings at the International Arbitration Centre in London, it emerged that Wood’s statements to investigators included the bombshell claim that Azeem Rafiq told him he would hit Yorkshire with the “race card” if they did not offer him a new contract in 2018. Yorkshire released Rafiq that autumn.
Wood, who was Rafiq’s personal development manager at the Professional Cricketers’ Association, said that he was “aware of two occasions in which he (Rafiq), directly or indirectly, acknowledged that he would be prepared to use ‘the race card’”.
When asked what he would do if Yorkshire did not offer him a new contract, Wood said that Rafiq replied: “I’ll just hit them with the race card.”
Yorkshire have lost millions of pounds due to the crisis (their latest accounts showed additional expenditure of circa £3.5m in 2021/2022) and more than 20 people left their roles at the club.
2 - ROGER HUTTON’S VOLTE-FACE
There was a remarkable development on the opening day of the hearings when it emerged that Roger Hutton, the former Yorkshire chairman, disagreed with and rejected the upheld findings of the initial Squire Patton Boggs investigation, commissioned by Yorkshire, for which he’d publicly apologised on the club’s behalf to Rafiq and which ultimately triggered the club’s downfall.
This was exposed in the wording of the first of four amended charges brought by the ECB against Yorkshire - never before made public by either party - that “Yorkshire 'mishandled' the Squire Patton Boggs investigation into Rafiq's initial claims of racism on the basis of a letter from Yorkshire on 8 October 2021, signed by former chairman Roger Hutton, sent to the ECB and ‘rejecting the report's findings in respect of allegations the report had upheld’.
It was less than a month before signing that letter that Hutton had publicly apologised to Rafiq and insisted that there was “no question” he was “a victim of racial harassment and bullying” after the SPB probe upheld seven of 43 claims.
Hutton went on to assert in his resignation statement in November 2021 that “there has been a constant unwillingness from the executive members of the board and senior management at the club to apologise, and to accept that there was racism”.
Or, to put it another way, Hutton felt that Yorkshire were innocent, then publicly apologised to Rafiq anyway before blaming his fellow board members.
3 - ADIL RASHID ON A STICKY WICKET
As one of the best leg-spinners that the game has seen, Adil Rashid is used to tying his opponents in knots, but on day two of the hearings it was something of a role reversal for the Yorkshireman.
Rashid gave a nervous, unconvincing performance in front of a crack legal team acting on behalf of Michael Vaughan, the former England captain who was accused by Rafiq of making the infamous “you lot” comment to himself, Rashid and two other Asian players, Ajmal Shahzad and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, before a Yorkshire match at Nottingham in 2009.
Christopher Stoner KC threw in several googlies as Rashid delivered evidence via videolink from the England team hotel in Bangladesh.
Stoner wondered how Rashid could possibly recall a comment from 14 years ago which, by his own admission, did not offend him personally and which was not even mentioned again at the time that it was allegedly spoken.
Stoner explored claims that Rashid was pressured/blackmailed by Rafiq into supporting the allegation against Vaughan, citing a transcript interview in which Rafiq allegedly said that Rashid had suffered a “memory failure… God bless him”.
Stoner referred to the witness statement of Liz Neto, the former Yorkshire HR manager, which said: “He (Rashid) 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.”
He also highlighted the witness statement of Ajmal Shahzad, who denied that Vaughan made the comment, and who claimed “I think Adil is being pressurised” and suggested that there was “very murky” stuff going on behind the scenes. Shahzad, incidentally, strikes me as one of the most impressive figures in this whole sorry crisis.
Rashid was further asked about deleted messages and why it took him over a year to corroborate Rafiq’s allegation on the very eve of Rafiq’s first appearance at the DCMS. Rashid said there was no connection.
4 - MICHAEL VAUGHAN CHARGE A NONSENSE
As highlighted by Adil Rashid’s evidence, which also betrayed key discrepancies in the exact wording of the comment which Michael Vaughan is alleged to have made, the case against the ex-England skipper looks increasingly absurd.
This was further shown on day three of the hearings by Christopher Stoner’s grilling of Meena Botros, the ECB’s director of legal and integrity.
It was Botros’s own integrity that was called into doubt, along with that of the ECB itself in respect of a case in which the governing body suspended Yorkshire from hosting international cricket on the back of Rafiq’s claims pending reforms implemented by its own agent of change, Lord Kamlesh Patel, who replaced Hutton as chairman.
Stoner drew notable admissions from Botros, including that the ECB investigation never even asked to interview Vaughan, that the ECB claimed it was unable to get contact details from some of the other players involved in the match to obtain key evidence, that it did not speak to Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, who only backed up the allegation in a media report to another outlet, nor the umpires and a cameraman who might have provided key information.
As the alleged comment can never be proved anyway, the CDC must exonerate Vaughan – indeed, its very reputation depends on it.
5 - NEVER AGAIN
Flawed investigations, conflicts of interest, shattered lives and careers – this story has been a car crash, and what is it really doing for fighting racism?
Not much, but with a bit more effort we could engender inclusion.
The hearing continues next week.