Rafiq's demands for public hearing could derail Yorkshire racism case

Is the Yorkshire racism case on the brink of COLLAPSE? Azeem Rafiq’s demands for a public hearing threaten to leave the saga in limbo… with cricket disciplinary issues typically resolved privately

  • The probe into alleged racism at Yorkshire threatens to descend into chaos
  • A preliminary disciplinary hearing for the long-running case is set for Monday
  • But Azeem Rafiq, the key witness, is pushing for it to be carried out in public 
  • Cricket Discipline Commission hearings are routinely held behind closed doors as they are not covered by privilege, sparing witnesses from potential lawsuits 

The long-running probe into alleged racism at Yorkshire heads for a preliminary disciplinary hearing on Monday, which threatens to descend into chaos and potentially towards complete collapse.

Azeem Rafiq, the key witness in charges handed out by the ECB to seven individuals including former England captain Michael Vaughan, Ashes winners Matthew Hoggard and Tim Bresnan, former Yorkshire captain and coach Andrew Gale, plus the club itself, is pushing for it to be held in public.

Cricket Discipline Commission hearings are routinely held behind closed doors but the two-day preliminaries will allow for applications to be made by respondents and it appears Yorkshire’s current regime is supportive of the wishes of Rafiq, who suggested evidence should be examined in the open in June.

Although there is a lack of precedent for it being held in such a manner, ECB regulations state: ‘Subject to following the rules of natural justice, ensuring the process is consistent with a fair and just consideration of the charge, the disciplinary panel shall determine its own procedure.’

They also must consider that this is a higher-profile case than any in the sport’s history, and one that represents the first opportunity for Vaughan — who is known to have spent huge sums on legal counsel in addition to suffering a loss of earnings — to address the allegations against him.

Vaughan, 47, denies them but he was dropped by the BBC last year after former Yorkshire spinner Rafiq claimed that in 2009 he told a group of non-white players: ‘There are too many of you lot, we need to do something about it.’

The probe into alleged racism at Yorkshire threatens to descend into chaos and collapse 

Azeem Rafiq, the key witness in charges handed out by the ECB to seven individuals, is pushing for Monday’s preliminary disciplinary hearing to be carried out in public 

However, should the appeal be thrown out, and Rafiq subsequently refuse to appear behind closed doors, it would leave all sides in limbo despite the saga already being in its third year.

On Twitter, Rafiq entered the row again by insisting the hearing should be open. ‘I get it the hearing is on Monday and there’s an attempt to intimidate and scare. Why is everyone so scared of transparency?’

The CDC process — in which a three-member panel determines guilt or otherwise — tends to be held in private because the hearing is not covered by privilege, which spares witnesses from potential lawsuits.

That contrasts to last November’s appearance before a Commons select committee in which Rafiq, 31, was protected by parliamentary privilege in making a string of allegations and telling MPs that his career of two separate stints at Yorkshire had been ended by racism.

With the burden of proof on the ECB, and the standard of proof the civil standard, it is up to the governing body, who have never named the seven individuals after carrying out their initial investigations, to show on the balance of probability that discriminatory conduct took place.

Whether other witnesses would feel comfortable providing evidence in a public environment is a moot point. One of them is England spinner Adil Rashid, who is currently at the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia.

But Rafiq’s wishes go against typical cricket disciplinary hearings, which are held in private

Details of the full hearing are due to be thrashed out over the next couple of days, although some have failed to recognise the legitimacy of the process.

Gale, who received a six-figure settlement from Yorkshire after they conceded sacking him unfairly in light of Rafiq’s accusations, has refused to co-operate while former club chairs Colin Graves, Steve Denison and Roger Hutton have criticised its lack of independence and a failure to engage with those at the helm at Headingley in the period to which the disrepute charges relate. 

The ECB are also set to investigate allegations that Rafiq used anti-Semitic and homophobic language during his playing career, which could lead him to being put on another misconduct charge, given a willingness to investigate historic cases.

Rafiq said a series of explosive claims reported by the Daily Mail were ‘categorically untrue’ and on Saturday took to Twitter to share a text from an opponent — whose name was blacked out — that made clear he had not been aware of an alleged slur made about his team-mate Paul Wilkinson’s sexuality during a club match between Barnsley and Darfield in 2009.

‘I heard nothing and the player said nothing to me or the team after this. I have stated this also. No matter what you have said or done in the past people do need to stand up and admit there is much worse things happening in society that are much bigger than individuals,’ read the text.

Duncan Hague, the standing umpire, said of the incident: ‘Rafiq was fielding close to the wicket. He did call Paul Wilkinson a “f****t”. I did hear it but it was towards the end of game and I didn’t want things to escalate so I said I hadn’t. I was trying to calm things down. I’ve since apologised to Paul.’

Rafiq also responded to the posting of a story on social media that he and his family were being forced to leave the UK due to abuse and intimidation by saying it was the ‘sad reality of speaking out’.

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