What now for Azeem Rafiq, Michael Vaughan and Yorkshire CCC?
The Yorkshire racism furore left a trail of destruction as authorities attempted to restore trust in cricket after Azeem Rafiq raised his claims. Michael Vaughan was finally cleared of racism on Friday morning but the future is still uncertain for many of the other key figures of the past two years.
Azeem Rafiq: ‘I will take time out to heal’
Rafiq moved overseas citing abuse he has received and police are still hunting a man who defecated in his garden. His family opened a fish and chip shop with relatives of former Yorkshire team-mate Adil Rashid, who corroborated his evidence, in October 2021. It is unclear what is now planned for the business, but Rafiq has a book coming out soon and appears to be dedicating himself towards a life in activism.
Rafiq said of the verdicts: “Charges against seven of the eight defendants, including the widespread use of the ‘P’ word, have been upheld by the CDC today. This comes in addition to the other reports, panels and inquiries that found I and others suffered racial harassment and bullying while at Yorkshire.
“The issue has never been about individuals but the game as a whole. Cricket needs to understand the extent of its problems and address them.”
In an interview with Sky News, he added that he plans to take time for himself, not only to go through the report, but to take himself out of the firing line.
“I need to understand the findings and digest what’s happened and heal a little bit myself,” Rafiq said. “It’s been a tough two-and-a-half years and I’ve faced the brunt of it, but it’s really important now that there’s a real willingness to make cricket – the game that we all love – what it should be.
“The hearing for me was some sort of closure and I just want now for my family to get some healing time. It’s been tough for us all and I just hope that the game and sections of the game can really start to come together, because if the game doesn’t then there was absolutely no point of me, my family and everyone else going through everything that we have.”
Michael Vaughan: BBC return still in doubt
The Ashes-winning former England captain emerges from this saga with his reputation intact. He has continued to write for Telegraph Sport throughout and his employers in Australia, Fox, have stood by him too.
But he has not worked for the BBC since he was charged in July. He will be spending the coming weeks in India covering the IPL and appears to be open to a return to the British broadcaster.
A BBC spokesperson said: “We note the findings by the Cricket Discipline Commission in relation to Michael Vaughan. Michael is not currently under contract with the BBC, although we have remained in touch with him throughout the process. At this stage, we won’t be commenting further.”
In a statement, Vaughan said it had been “both difficult and upsetting to hear about the painful experiences which Azeem has described over the past three years”.
“The outcome of these CDC proceedings must not be allowed to detract from the core message that there can be no place for racism in the game of cricket, or in society generally,” he added.
“There is still a job to do and I remain keen to help bring about positive change in any way that I can. Cricket has been my life.”
Addressing the toll it had taken on his life, he added: “At times, this process has brought me to the brink of falling out of love with cricket. I won't address here the toll that it has taken on me and my family, but I have no doubt that it has also been incredibly stressful for all of the others concerned. I hope that for them and for cricket, an inclusive healing process can now begin.”
Yorkshire: Must fix their finances
As the CDC hearing was delivered, Yorkshire's board was midway through interviews for its vacant chair role. Colin Graves, a previous incumbent, is among the runners and riders to replace Lord Patel, who has been overseas for several months. Patel left Yorkshire this month and told Telegraph Sport he is now “out of the loop”, dealing with pressing family matters.
The most immediate concern for the club is addressing a debt repayment of £500,000 due in October to the trust owned by Graves.
The county's latest accounts warn refinancing is needed, and sources claim the club is “effectively trading insolvently” as it struggles to attract new investors concerned by the ongoing fallout.
However, Stephen Vaughan, the Yorkshire chief executive, told the club’s annual general meeting last week that the club is not at risk: “We have just had our accounts signed off as a going concern. We have regular professional advice on the matter. People are rabble-rousing and trying to cause trouble. We are not wrongfully trading.”
Telegraph Sport understands that Graves and the Labour peer Lord Mann are working on separate attempts to put consortiums together to refinance the club’s debt. Sanctions hearings will take place from April 17 to May 24, so the club will start the season not knowing its fate.
The ECB: Needs a new board
The Vaughan verdict from the CDC will be seen as a defeat for the ECB but major change was already under way at the governing body. One key decision-maker in the saga, chief executive Tom Harrison, has already left, while deputy chairman Martin Darlow, who was overseeing reform at Yorkshire, is also standing down.
Insiders, however, readily admit it has been a “chastening episode” for all concerned at the governing body. Darlow's resignation – a year earlier than planned – means there are a record six replacements to be decided at the ECB's AGM in May. He has told colleagues he believes his successor would benefit from joining at the same time as other incoming directors. The ECB had already appointed a new chief executive and chair over the past year.
The other six individuals charged: Considering appeals
The five who walked away from the process – Richard Pyrah, Matthew Hoggard, John Blain, Tim Bresnan and Andrew Gale – did not face blanket guilty verdicts. The CDC threw out four of eight claims against Bresnan, one of four against Hoggard and two of four against Pyrah. All other verdicts were found proved, while Yorkshire and Gary Ballance, now playing in Zimbabwe, pleaded guilty to the ECB's charges of bringing the game into disrepute.
Blain has confirmed that he is ready to challenge the findings via the High Court, if necessary. Blain remains heavily involved on the frontline of the game in Scotland as director of cricket at Grange Cricket Club in Edinburgh, but says he has had suicidal thoughts. He says he has “lost vast sums of income”.
He told Telegraph Sport as verdicts were returned: “I'll continue to fight this by whatever means are available... It's unfair and very difficult to digest when I've done nothing. I've done absolutely nothing wrong and that's the hardest thing.”
The careers of all concerned have been turned on their heads. Gale has taken work as a joiner while he considers a return to the game. Bresnan, who branded the investigation a “circus”, is understood to have spent some time travelling with his family in Australia. Ballance remains the only one in full-time cricket. He is playing in Zimbabwe this year, but is likely to attract offers from the County Championship for a return to the English game.
Of those sacked by the club, there were payouts in October to soften the blow. However, some are said to have fallen ill due to the strain of the ordeal.