Michael Vaughan cried with relief after being cleared of using racist language towards Asian players as he feared his life in English cricket would have been over had he been found guilty.
Former England captain Vaughan was alleged to have referred to a group of four Yorkshire players of Asian ethnicity as “you lot” in June 2009, but a Cricket Discipline Commission panel found the charge not proven.
The panel found “significant inconsistencies” in evidence from two key witnesses – Azeem Rafiq and Adil Rashid – regarding the exact wording of Vaughan’s alleged comment.
Five other individuals who played at Yorkshire, including former England players Matthew Hoggard and Tim Bresnan, were found liable on the same charge.
Vaughan, who was driving to collect his son from school for the Easter holidays when he found out he had been cleared, revealed the mental suffering his family have endured.
“I just burst out crying,” Vaughan told the Telegraph. “It was just the pure relief when your lawyer says you’re cleared.
“When your wife is having to take beta blockers for 16 months and you wake up in the middle of the night and she is crying her eyes out it is so hard. Anyone with kids knows they don’t give much away, but I know how hard it has been for them and the children of all those involved.
“There are people who wanted to see the back of me in cricket.
“It was only around 11am today when I had the radio on I realised how big news it was. Then it hit me. I thought, ‘Oh no, what if it had gone the other way?’ I would have been done.’”
Vaughan was one of seven individuals initially charged by the England and Wales Cricket Board last June, along with Yorkshire.
Those charges followed an investigation by the ECB into Yorkshire’s handling of racism allegations first made by Rafiq in 2020.
The panel added that its findings on Vaughan “do not in any way undermine the wider assertions made by AZR (Rafiq), many of which of course have been confirmed by the admissions of both YCCC and certain individuals, as well as by other findings of this panel”.
John Blain, Bresnan, Andrew Gale, Hoggard and Richard Pyrah were found liable of using racist and/or discriminatory language by the CDC panel.
All five were found to have used the term “P***”. Gale and Hoggard were additionally found to have used the nickname ‘Rafa the Kaffir’ towards Rafiq, and Hoggard to have used the phrase “token black man” to refer to wicketkeeper Ismail Dawood.
None of the five appeared at a public hearing into this case held earlier in March after they withdrew from the process. Vaughan did appear to give evidence to the panel.
The seventh individual, Gary Ballance, admitted using racist and/or discriminatory language prior to the hearing, while Yorkshire admitted four amended charges against them, including a failure to address the use of racist and/or discriminatory language over a prolonged period.
Sanctions on the admitted or proven charges will be determined by the panel at a later date.
Rafiq issued a statement after the decisions were published which read: “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. Hopefully, the structures of the game can now be rebuilt and institutionalised racism ended for good. It’s time to reflect, learn and implement change.”
There were immediate calls from the likes of television presenter Piers Morgan for the BBC to reinstate Vaughan, who had been part of the corporation’s Test Match Special commentary team.
The BBC said it noted the decisions of the CDC panel, and that it had remained in touch with Vaughan throughout the CDC process even though he was not under contract with the corporation.
ECB chairman Richard Thompson said the regulatory investigation and disciplinary process was the “most complex and thorough” ever conducted by the organisation.
“This has been an incredibly challenging period for our sport, but one we must all learn from in order to make cricket better and more inclusive,” he said.
“When Azeem Rafiq spoke out about his time in cricket, he exposed a side of our game which no one should have to experience. We are grateful for his courage and perseverance.
“Given the nature of these cases, they have taken a clear toll on everyone involved. There now needs to be a time of reconciliation where, as a game, we can collectively learn and heal the wounds and ensure that nothing like this can ever happen again.
“It is now for the panel to determine what sanctions are appropriate where charges have been admitted or upheld. Having only received the decisions today, we will need time to consider them carefully.”