Azeem Rafiq open to meeting with Michael Vaughan

Monitoring Desk

LONDON: Azeem Rafiq has said he is open to meeting Michael Vaughan with a view to finding a way forward for the sport after the findings of the Cricket Discipline Commission’s (CDC) racism hearings were published last week.

On Friday, Vaughan was cleared of using racist language towards Rafiq and three other players of Asian descent before Yorkshire’s T20 match against Nottinghamshire in 2009. The former England captain was one of seven individuals formerly connected to Yorkshire who faced charges of bringing the game into disrepute over the alleged use of racist and/or discriminatory language. Matthew Hoggard, Tim Bresnan, Andrew Gale, John Blain and Rich Pyrah had charges proved against them, while Gary Ballance pled guilty in advance.

Following the publication of the verdicts, Vaughan released a statement saying the dismissal of his case “takes nothing away from Azeem’s own lived experience”. He went on to state he would be willing “to help bring about positive change in any way”.

On Saturday, the Telegraph, where Vaughan is a columnist, reported he would be open to meeting Rafiq again. The pair had originally done so 18 months ago, before charges were brought by the ECB. On Monday, Rafiq said he was willing to do the same.

“The one thing I’ve always tried to do is try to get in a room and have conversations because we’re only going to get things better if humans start to have conversations with each other and get each other’s perspective,” Rafiq told the Press Association. “And from that point of view, I would always be open to that.

Rafiq also referenced the Independent Committee for Equity in Cricket report, which is expected to be published soon.

“I feel the game has an opportunity through the CDC findings. but also through the ICEC report. The game’s got a very simple choice. It’s either going to confront its failings and really make a commitment and drive forwards together or it’s going to live in the level of denial that it has continued to for a long period of time and we’re going to end up with another Azeem Rafiq in 20 years’ time or probably not even that long.”

“I’m not in any position to be making those decisions. [But] If there’s a willingness [to meet] – absolutely.”

Rafiq also revealed he has been subject to an increase in abuse since the CDC’s findings were released. “The level of abuse since Friday has felt like the two-and-a-half years of it all put together in three days,” he said. “I’ve repeatedly been called the P-word, I’ve had a few tweets where I’ve been called ‘Rafa the K*****’.” Both terms featured prominently in the hearings.

“I reported one to Twitter and I got an email this morning saying it doesn’t violate the rules. We’re having the same conversations again and again and it’s just really sad.”

Rafiq plans to step back and take stock after a harrowing few years since he went public with his experiences in 2020. He said he hoped his example will not discourage other whistle-blowers from coming forward in the future.

“It’s been tough. The inside of me is broken to the absolute core. The level of trust that’s been broken inside me – I don’t know whether that will ever heal.

“The next bit of what I do is going to decide whether people will come forward and that’s why I’m very determined to make sure that what happens to me moving forward is positive. In terms of the abuse and the attacks, quite clearly it’s been a message to everyone else, ‘don’t come forward’.

“But my message to everyone else will be: ‘Stand up for what you believe in. Don’t be a bystander. Stand up for what you believe in and you’ll have way more support than I did’.”