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ECB CDC Hearing latest: Michael Vaughan denies racism and Azeem Rafiq accused of being ready to play 'race card'

Michael Vaughan outside Hearing, in London
Michael Vaughan outside Hearing, in London

Former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan told a hearing into accusations of racism at Yorkshire on Friday it was "inconceivable" he would make the comment attributed to him by Azeem Rafiq as his former county team-mate was accused of being ready to play the "race card".

Vaughan and a number of other former players at the county cricket club face charges related to the use of racially discriminatory language.

Pakistan-born Rafiq, 32, first went public with allegations of racism and bullying in September 2020, related to his two spells at Yorkshire.

Rafiq alleged Vaughan told him and three other Yorkshire players of Asian origin "there's too many of you lot, we need to do something about it", before a 2009 Twenty20 match between Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge.

England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) lawyer Jane Mulcahy asked Vaughan at the ongoing Cricket Discipline Commission hearing in London whether the words "there's too many of you lot" were "totally unacceptable" as well as "racist and discriminatory".

"Absolutely," said Vaughan, 48, who in his witness statement said: "I consider it to be inconceivable that I would use the words contained in the allegation."

- 'Bad faith' –

Rafiq's conduct, however, was also called into question later Friday when Matthew Wood, a former personal development manager at the Professional Cricketers' Association and an ex-Yorkshire cricketer, said in a witness statement: "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."

Wood's statement also referenced a 2018 conversation with Rafiq in which he recalled: "I 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'."

Mulcahy told the hearing Wood had not made reference to Rafiq "using the race card" when speaking to Yorkshire investigators or an employment tribunal involving Rafiq.

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."

- 'Terrible look' –

Earlier, 2005 Ashes-winning skipper Vaughan insisted: "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."

He added: "You've got three or four Asian players in the (Yorkshire) team at the same time, I couldn't have been more proud."

Mulcahy asked Vaughan why, if nothing untoward had happened, he had arranged a meeting with Rafiq in November 2021.

Vaughan answered: "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."

The ECB brought charges against seven individuals, and Yorkshire, in June last year, with the club admitting four charges.

Vaughan is the only former player to contest the charges in person.

"Being named and implicated in this matter has had a profound effect on me," said the former Test batsman. 

"My health and personal wellbeing have suffered badly."

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