Michael Vaughan admits involvement in Rafiq report, denies racist comments

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Former England Ashes-winning captain denies he abused Rafiq during county match

Michael Vaughan, the captain of England’s 2005 Ashes-winning team, has admitted that he is the former player implicated in the investigation into Azeem Rafiq‘s allegations of institutional racism at Yorkshire.

Vaughan, who represented the county from 1991 until his retirement in 2009, used his column in The Telegraph to deny Rafiq’s claims that, in his final season with the club, he had told Rafiq and two other Asian players that there are “too many of you lot, we need to do something about it”.

The alleged incident occurred as Yorkshire were taking the field during a match against Nottinghamshire in 2009, Rafiq’s maiden season as a professional. In his column Vaughan told how he was approached 11 years later, in December 2020, to speak to the panel tasked with investigating the player’s claims of racism at the club.

“This hit me very hard,” Vaughan wrote. “It was like being struck over the head with a brick. I have been involved in cricket for 30 years and never once been accused of any remotely similar incident or disciplinary offence as a player or commentator.

“I completely and categorically deny that I ever said those words,” he added. “I responded to the panel by saying I was gobsmacked … It was 11 years after the alleged event. Nothing at all was raised or said at the time of the game in question, or at any stage over the next 11 years until the night before I was asked to speak to the inquiry.”

Vaughan’s revelation comes 24 hours after his former team-mate Gary Ballance admitted, via a statement issued by Yorkshire, that he had been the player who had used the racial slur “P**i” in conversations with Rafiq.

That detail, reported by ESPNcricinfo, triggered a wave of condemnaton, including from the government minister Sajid Javid, which has since culminated in Yorkshire’s hierarchy being called before a DCMS select committee hearing on November 16, and a tranche of club partners, including kit suppliers Nike and stadium sponsor Emerald, severing their ties with the club.

“As a lover of cricket and Yorkshire, and someone who has been a fan of Rafiq, it has been difficult to hear about the painful experiences he endured during his time at the club,” Vaughan added.

“But as difficult as that process has been, I recognise that it is equally necessary. At an individual level, it is clear that Azeem has endured a lot. It is not only right but essential that his experiences and his perspective are heard. There are unquestionably lessons to be learned.

“The statements made by Gary Ballance and others have laid bare awkward but necessary questions for cricket to answer regarding how dressing rooms, teams and individuals function in the modern era.”

Vaughan added that he had been aware for some time that he had been named in the report, and had divulged as much to his BBC colleagues in the summer.

“I felt uncomfortable that it could emerge and they would be asked some awkward questions,” he wrote. “Similarly, I am speaking now because it is right for people to hear my side and that I completely deny the allegations.

“I accept Yorkshire have dealt with this terribly. They will be honest enough to admit that. It is a good cricket club and it is close to my heart. I hope I can be part of the movement to rebrand the club and people will eventually look back on this time and say it changed for the better.

“I played professional cricket for 18 years between 1991 and 2009. All players in that period are now looking back on things that were said and admit they would not say them now. I never heard racist abuse but Yorkshire was a hard dressing room. As a second team player we had to knock on the dressing room door before entering. If you had a big nose, were bald or carried a bit of weight they would be commented on.

“I was the first non-Yorkshire born player to play for the county and that was commented on a lot. I am not comparing those examples with racism but they are examples of previously commonplace behaviour which is unacceptable now. We cannot change what was said or happened in dressing rooms 10-15 years ago but we can learn from it.”

(With Inputs from ESPN)

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