The ECB opened the long-awaited, much-delayed Cricket Discipline Commission’s racism hearings by laying out its case against, among others, former fast bowlers Matthew Hoggard and Tim Bresnan.On the opening day of hearings at the International Arbitration Centre in London, the ECB accused Hoggard, Bresnan and John Blain of repeatedly making racist remarks while at Yorkshire. The trio were accused of directing words and phrases such as p***, “you lot”, “Rafa the K****” and “Fit p***” at players including Azeem Rafiqand Adil Rashid, as well as Azeem’s sister Amna, on a number of occasions over the course of a decade from 2008.
All three strongly deny the charges.
In all, the ECB has charged six players, including Michael Vaughan, Richard Pyrah and Andrew Gale, as well as Yorkshire. Five of those charged have refused to attend the hearings. That added a procedural but surreal feel to matters on the opening day, where Azeem appeared three times on the witness stand for the ECB only to not face any questioning either from the ECB or the three-person CDC panel.
The charges stem from allegations made by Rafiq. According to the ECB, in an initial response to the charges, Hoggard, who withdrew from the process in February, admitted having used the term “Rafa the K***” and “p***” but denied racist or discriminatory intent. He could not recall the exact occasions when he used the terms. Hoggard was also accused of using “you lot” with reference to Rafiq and other players of Asian origin but denied racist intent. As a consequence, Hoggard admitted in part to having breached ECB directive 3.3 – on prejudicial and discriminatory behaviour.
The accusations against Bresnan are based on his alleged use of the term “the brothers” when referring to players of an ethnic minority, to using “you lot” and “fit p***”. These are all said to have taken place between 2009 and 2018. In his initial response to the ECB, Bresnan denied being in breach, admitting that he did use the first two terms but not in a way that was in breach of directive 3.3. In that response, Bresnan denied using the third term altogether.
As part of its evidence against Bresnan, the ECB referred to an allegation of bullying against Bresnan that was upheld in the Squire Patton Boggs (SPB) report from August 2021. That report was based on one of the first investigations into Rafiq’s allegations of racism at Yorkshire and has never been released in full. In a summarised version that was released, seven of Rafiq’s 43 claims were upheld.Yorkshire have admitted to all four charges laid against them and will not appear at the hearing. The mishandling of the SPB report was one of the charges the ECB laid against the county. Another emerged last week in the admission by Yorkshire that it had deleted emails or documents related to the Rafiq case in or around November 2021.
Blain, the former Scotland cricketer, was accused of having used the term “p***” during pre-season training at Headingley in April 2010 and, non-specifically, on other occasions while at Yorkshire in 2010-11. Blain denied the incidents in his initial response to the ECB. In their evidence, the ECB referred again to the SPB report which they said upheld the allegation that Blain used the term “p***” against Rafiq.
As a result of the absences, the first day developed into a frictionless one. The ECB’s lead counsel Jane Mulcahy KC would detail the board’s case against each defendant, a couple of witnesses – including Rafiq – would be called up and simply be asked to confirm their witness statements were correct and authentic. The panel, having read those statements, had no questions and because the defendants didn’t appear, had nobody to question.
That will change with the expected appearance of Vaughan on Thursday, the only one of the six individuals charged to be appearing. Vaughan has been accused of having said “There’s too many of you lot” at the start of a T20 game in June 2009 to four Asian-origin or Asian players in the Yorkshire team that day. He has denied the charge.
The ECB did, however, take the opportunity to “correct a number of misrepresentations” about the disciplinary process, in light of the withdrawals of the defendants. Pyrah had said he had not been questioned by the ECB on the charges, which the ECB said was “false”. They detailed communication with him on the matter. Similarly, they refuted Bresnan’s claims to have been charged without being spoken to by pointing to a transcript of an interview with the ECB.
Adil Rashid, currently in Bangladesh with England’s ODI team, is also expected to appear as a witness via video call. The ECB’s cases against Gale and Pyrah are also still to be heard.
“The non-attending Respondents have referred, both in these proceedings and in public, to Mr Rafiq’s allegations not having been appropriately challenged,” Mulcahy said. “Of course, by withdrawing from these proceedings, the Respondents have denied themselves the opportunity to challenge Mr Rafiq’s allegations themselves.”
The hearing is expected to end on Tuesday next week, though the CDC’s judgment is expected at a later date.
Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo