Azeem Rafiq accused of bringing down Yorkshire CCC with the 'race card'
That was the damning testimony of former Yorkshire batsman Matthew Wood as the hearings into Rafiq’s claims of racism at the club continued at a Cricket Discipline Commission hearing in London yesterday.
Wood, who was Rafiq’s personal development manager at the Professional Cricketers’ Association, claimed the saga had been motivated by a man who told him that he would hit Yorkshire with the “race card” if they did not offer him a new contract in 2018.
Yorkshire released Rafiq that autumn.
His evidence asks further questions of the DCMS select committee, the England and Wales Cricket Board and the Yorkshire regime of outgoing chairman Lord Kamlesh Patel, who all accepted Rafiq’s version of events.
Wood was appearing in defence of Michael Vaughan, who has also been accused of racism by Rafiq after he claimed Vaughan used the phrase “you lot” in reference to a group of Asian players after a team huddle prior to a T20 match in 2009.
The former Ashes-winning captain said yesterday it was “inconceivable” he would make such a comment.
“If you go through the history of me being a player, I don’t know any time I would have gone on to a pitch and said something to my team-mates that would have put them in a bad state of mind to play cricket,” Vaughan said.
In written statements to ECB investigators, Wood laid bare what he considered to be the vengeful nature of Rafiq’s behaviour.
“In my dealings with Azeem, I was aware of two occasions in which he (directly or indirectly) acknowledged that he would be prepared to use the ‘race card’.
“By that, I understood Azeem to mean that he would make, or allude to, an allegation of racism in bad faith in order to gain an advantage.”
He went on to cite a discussion with Rafiq in 2018.
“I held a discussion with Azeem to understand his position about whether or not he would sign a new contract with YCCC if one was offered to him, and what his plans would be if no new contract was offered to him,” said Wood.
“I recall asking Azeem, ‘What will you do if Yorkshire offer you a new contract?’ Azeem replied with words to the effect of, ‘If certain people are removed from the club, I’ll sign it.’
“I then asked Azeem, ‘And what will you do if Yorkshire don’t offer you a new contract?’. Azeem replied with words to the effect of, ‘I’ll just hit them with the race card’.”
Wood added: “I remember asking him, ‘How does this all end, Azeem?’ and Azeem replied, ‘Someone has to pay’, to which I said, ‘Pay for what?’ and then Azeem said, ‘I don’t know.’”
During cross-examination England and Wales Cricket Board lawyer Jane Mulcahy said Wood had not made reference to Rafiq ‘using the race card’ when speaking to Yorkshire investigators or the employment tribunal involving Rafiq.
“The reason you didn’t is that Mr Rafiq didn’t play the race card,” she said.
Wood replied: “At the time it wasn’t asked and I wasn’t sure where it was going. My superiors at the PCA knew about Rafiq’s comments and I later added it to my statement.”