Former Sheffield cricket star Michael Vaughan ‘categorically’ denies making racist comments to Azeem Rafiq

Former Sheffield cricket star Michael Vaughan has 'categorically' denied making racist comments to former Yorkshire team-mate Azeem Rafiq, stressing that it 'simply never happened' and 'is the worst thing I have ever experienced'.

Monday, 15th November 2021, 4:50 pm

Vaughan confirmed earlier this month that he was implicated in an independent investigation into Rafiq's claims of institutional discrimination at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, but he denies telling a group of Asian teammates, 'too many of your lot, we need to do something about it.'

In a statement made to PA news agency, the former England captain said: "Anyone who has viewed the Sky footage of Yorkshire's pre-match huddle at the game in question in June 2009, and the interaction between the players, would find it hard to reconcile those scenes with the version of events that has been presented.

"I remember the match clearly because it was the first time in Yorkshire's history that four players of Asian heritage had been selected in the same team. It was an important milestone for the county and it was also a moment of pride for me personally.

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File photo dated 04-04-2018 of Former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan, who "categorically" denies making racist comments to former Yorkshire team-mate Azeem Rafiq, allegations which were supported by Adil Rashid on Monday, telling the PA news agency in a statement that it "simply never happened" and "is the worst thing I have ever experienced". Issue date: Monday November 15, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story CRICKET Yorkshire. Photo credit should read Aaron Chown/PA Wire.

"At the time, I was a senior professional nearing the end of my career, but, having been the first non-Yorkshire born player signed by the county, it was also a sign of the progress that had been made during my time. I made a point of shaking all four players' hands that day because I recognised it was a significant moment.

"In 2009, only weeks later, I wrote enthusiastically about this specific match in my autobiography, saying: 'This is going to be the shape of things to come for Yorkshire, as many of our most promising players come from the Asian community and it ought to be a good thing for our cricket'.

‘It goes against everything that I have always believed’

"Given my view that the inclusion of Asian players in the Yorkshire team was a very positive and welcome development, it is inconceivable I would have made the derogatory comment attributed to me. It goes against everything that I have always believed; it goes against what I expressly said in my book only weeks later; and it goes against the Sky footage showing me specifically congratulating each of the players concerned.

"I have been lucky enough to enjoy a 30-year career in cricket, both as a player and a commentator, and I have never been accused of anything remotely similar. To be confronted with this allegation 11 years after it has supposed to have happened is the worst thing I have ever experienced.

"It is extremely upsetting that this completely false accusation has been made against me by a former team-mate, apparently supported by two other players. For some time, Ajmal Shahzad has been on record as saying that he never heard me say what has been suggested. I have been in contact with the six other players from that team and not one of them has any recollection of the remark being made.

"I fully accept that perspectives differ, and I have great sympathy for what Azeem Rafiq has gone through, but I hope everyone understands why I cannot allow this to go unchallenged or my reputation to be trashed unfairly."

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Rafiq: ‘Time for truths’

Rafiq has declared that it is 'time for truths' and will enter Tuesday's landmark evidence session in parliament with Adil Rashid, England's World Cup-winning spinner, who has backed one of his claims of racist language in Yorkshire.

Rashid, who has played 199 times for his country and was a key part of the World Cup-winning side in 2019, has spent his whole career at Yorkshire but has previously kept his silence on the racism crisis plaguing the club.

On Monday, he issued a statement via The Cricketer echoing Rafiq's claims against Vaughan.

Rashid, who helped take England to the semi-finals of the Twenty20 World Cup this month, wrote: "I wanted to concentrate as much as possible on my cricket and to avoid distractions to the detriment of the team but I can confirm Azeem Rafiq's recollection of Michael Vaughan' s comments to a group of us Asian players."

The Bradford-born leg-spinner made his first team debut at Yorkshire 15 years ago, overlapping significantly with the careers of both Vaughan and Rafiq, and is one of the county's most successful players of recent times.

He made no new allegations against any of those he has played with or for over the years but welcomed recent steps taken to shine a light on the matter, including Tuesday's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee hearing. He also placed on record his willingness to assist in any future investigations.

"Racism is a cancer in all walks of life and unfortunately in professional sports too, and is something which of course has to be stamped out," he said.

"I'm encouraged by the fact that a parliamentary committee seems to be trying to improve the situation, whether that's holding people accountable or getting changes made at an institutional level.

"These can only be positive developments. I will of course be more than happy to support any official efforts when the time is right.

"For now, though, these matters are of an intensely personal nature and I will not be commenting on them further. I ask you to respect my privacy and allow me to focus on my cricket."

Earlier this month, BBC removed Vaughan as a presenter on Tuffers and Vaughan Show on 5 Live after it was claimed he made a racist comment to a group of Asian players.