Ashes winners Matthew Hoggard and Tim Bresnan take aim at ECB after pulling out of Yorkshire CCC racism hearings
Hoggard said that he had “not been spoken to by the ECB once” and Bresnan that the ECB “just charged me without even speaking to me… like being charged and tried without even being arrested”.
They were among seven individuals charged by the governing body following allegations made by Azeem Rafiq.
In confirming his withdrawal from a process which he said had “failed everybody”, Hoggard also accused the ECB of failing to turn over all the evidence it had gathered in his case, whether helpful to him or not, despite repeated requests from his legal team.
The ECB countered by saying its investigation had been “thorough and complex” and claimed it had “followed proper processes throughout, including complying with its disclosure obligations and providing material to the relevant parties at the appropriate time”.
The governing body added that it “wrote to individuals to give them an opportunity to respond in writing before any charge was filed”, and that “any respondent who requested we also speak to them was also spoken to”.
The experiences of Hoggard and Bresnan are by no means atypical.
In announcing his own withdrawal from the process last summer, Andrew Gale, the former Yorkshire captain and head coach, said that he had “offered to meet with the ECB and travel anywhere in England where they wanted to meet, but when I chased up a meeting date I was informed that the ECB had chosen not to interview me, but they clearly spent considerable amounts of time interviewing Azeem.”
The Yorkshire Post understands that other defendants were also not spoken to and there is a feeling among them that the ECB was engaged in something of a “witch hunt”. Consequently, they felt they could not possibly receive a fair trial. Now the cases of Hoggard, Bresnan, Blain, Gale and former bowling coach Rich Pyrah, who is also understood to have withdrawn from the process, are set to be heard in absentia early next month by the independent Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC), which hears disciplinary charges brought by the ECB.
With Gary Ballance, the former Yorkshire batsman, having accepted charges of using racist language towards Rafiq in the context of former close friends trading back-and-forth insults, it leaves only Michael Vaughan, the former Ashes-winning captain, who is set to defend himself in person.
Vaughan categorically denies using the words “there’s too many of you lot, we need to have a word about that” to Rafiq and fellow Asian players Adil Rashid, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and Ajmal Shahzad before a T20 match in 2009, and he is thought ready to fight all the way to clear his name.
Last week, in leaked documents from the ECB investigation seen by The Yorkshire Post, Shahzad vouched utterly for Vaughan’s character, saying not only that he did not hear the alleged remark but also that Vaughan “wasn’t that way inclined, he definitely wasn’t”. Shahzad also denied that there was a racist culture at Yorkshire CCC.
The ECB’s key witness in Vaughan’s case is Adil Rashid, who, after more than a year of silence, suddenly supported Rafiq’s allegation against Vaughan one day before the first DCMS hearing in November 2021.
Shahzad’s testimony to the ECB investigation states that he feels Rashid was pressured into supporting the claim.
However, The Yorkshire Post understands that the ECB has applied only for Rashid to give evidence remotely in Vaughan’s case as the hearings coincide with England’s tour of Bangladesh, and that it would be “time-consuming and expensive” for Rashid to fly back for an in-person cross-examination.
In a statement last night, Rafiq, the former off-spinner and Yorkshire T20 captain, lamented the latest withdrawals from the ECB process, saying: “Over the past two years I have been vindicated time and again.
“This has included a legal investigation that confirmed I was a victim of racial harassment and bullying; a Yorkshire-commissioned panel that concluded I suffered discrimination; numerous apologies, both public and private, from people who witnessed or were involved in this behaviour, and others have come forward to reveal the culture in the wider game.
“It is regrettable that these defendants are not willing to go to a public hearing and face what happened.”
Rafiq, 31, had threatened to pull out of the process himself unless the hearings were held in public – a demand to which the CDC unexpectedly and indeed unprecedently bowed.
After subsequent protests by defendants and also the ECB itself, which had acquired all of its evidence on the understanding that the hearings would be private, it seemed inevitable that the hearings would eventually collapse.
Yorkshire are expected to plead guilty to charges relating to the matter, despite some opposition to that strategy from in-and-around the club, so a public hearing would therefore seem unnecessary, with only a sanction/penalty to be determined - most likely points deductions that could have a severe impact on next season and beyond.
The ECB last night confirmed that the individual cases will still go ahead, saying: “Individuals are entitled to choose not to participate in the hearings if they wish, but the cases will still be heard in their absence and we are satisfied that the disciplinary process in this matter has been both rigorous and fair.
“The ECB’s investigation and disciplinary process has been overseen by an independent committee and specialist leading King’s Counsel (K.C.).
“As with any case before the Cricket Discipline Commission, defendants are entitled to a fair hearing by an independent and experienced CDC panel where they can call witnesses, and they can also challenge the evidence in support of the charge, including thorough cross-examination of the ECB’s witnesses.
“It is entirely the decision of defendants if they choose not to take advantage of this opportunity.
“At the end of the hearing it is for the independent CDC panel, not the ECB, to determine guilt or otherwise and any sanction.”
The CDC panel is chaired by Tim O’Gorman, the former Derbyshire player, and includes lawyer Mark Milliken-Smith and Dr Seema Patel, a senior lecturer in law and an expert on discrimination in sport.
Hoggard last night elaborated on his decision to withdraw in an interview with the BBC.
“I’m pulling out because I don’t think it’s a fair process,” he said. “There are no winners in this.
“It is not an admission of guilt. The people who know the truth, know the truth. That is all that matters to me.”
Hoggard described the four charges against him as a matter of past “dressing room culture rather than racism”.
He claimed to be on good terms with Rafiq and that “in one of his (Rafiq’s) statements he said, ‘I did not then and do not now think Matthew Hoggard is a racist person.’ Azeem says I’ve got nothing to worry about on his first spell at Yorkshire. That is good enough for me.”
Hoggard is accused of calling Rafiq by an offensive nickname between 2008 and when Hoggard left Yorkshire in 2009, a nickname he asserts was given Rafiq by other Asians in the squad.
He is also charged with using a racist term in 2008, uttering the expression “you lot” to refer to Asian players and of using the nickname ‘TBM’, or ‘Token Black Man’, to Ismail Dawood, the former Yorkshire wicketkeeper. Hoggard claims Dawood gave himself the nickname on Hoggard’s stag-do, a claim Dawood denies.
“If you wrote down everything that is said in a changing room, and read it, you’d cringe,” said Hoggard.
“On top of that, both society and recollections of events will have changed over the past 15 years.
“If I thought anyone was taking offence (at what I said), didn’t like it or was shrinking away, then it’s not OK.
“If somebody was singled out, picked on and abused, if that changing room didn’t realise it, it was a bad culture. If there was a divide in that changing room, it would have been noticed, but that wasn’t the case.”
Speaking to The Times, Bresnan rubbished the allegations against him.
“He’s (Rafiq’s) saying I did use that language (the P-word), along with others, but gave no example,” he said.
“There are no witnesses. I vehemently deny that. I grew up in a place where that’s not right.”