Matthew Hoggard, Tim Bresnan, John Blain withdraw from ECB racism hearing
Trio join former coach Gale in pulling out of delayed hearings, citing a lack of faith in process
Matthew Hoggard and Tim Bresnan, the former England fast bowlers, have hit out at the ECB's disciplinary process after confirming that they will not be attending the hearings into historical racism at Yorkshire. Former Scotland international John Blain has also criticised the process and withdrawn his cooperation.
Hoggard, a veteran of England's 2005 Ashes victory, told the BBC that the inquest into allegations of institutional racism made by their former Yorkshire team-mate Azeem Rafiq had "failed everybody", while Bresnan told the Times that they had pulled out because they believed they had "no chance of a fair hearing".
The three former Yorkshire cricketers were among seven people due to appear before the Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC) in March, on charges levelled by the ECB in June in the wake of Rafiq's emotional testimony before the DCMS select committee in Westminster in November 2021.
However, Hoggard, Bresnan and Blain have now taken the same approach that their former captain and ex-club coach Andrew Gale took last year, informing the ECB that they have lost confidence in the process and that they will not attempt to defend themselves against the charges.
"The process has failed everybody," Hoggard said. "Every party involved has a problem with the way this process has been dealt with. Azeem has a problem with it, all the respondents have, [former Yorkshire chairman] Lord Patel has, Yorkshire have. There has got to be a better way."
After what the ECB described as a "thorough and complex investigation", the players were charged in accordance with Directive 3.3, which says: "No participant may conduct themselves in a manner or do any act or omission at any time which is improper or which may be prejudicial to the interests of cricket or which may bring the ECB, the game of cricket or any cricketer or group of cricketers into disrepute.''
Gale, the former club captain and latterly head coach - who is also Bresnan's brother-in-law - responded two weeks later with a statement that denied all the allegations against him, adding that he had "moved on with his life". He was also one of the members of staff who won an employment tribunal against Yorkshire last year, after their collective sacking in the wake of the allegations.
In a subsequent statement, the ECB insisted that the laying of the charges in June last year had "not been a finding of guilt", and claimed that the disciplinary process had been undermined by "significant misreporting" in the media.
"Individuals are entitled to choose not to participate in the hearings if they wish, but the cases will still be heard in their absence and we are satisfied that the disciplinary process in this matter has been both rigorous and fair," the statement read.
"The ECB's investigation and disciplinary process has been overseen by an independent committee and specialist leading King's Counsel (KC).
"As with any case before the Cricket Discipline Commission, defendants are entitled to a fair hearing by an independent and experienced CDC Panel where they can call witnesses, and they can also challenge the evidence in support of the charge, including through cross-examination of the ECB's witnesses. It is entirely the decision of defendants if they choose not to take advantage of this opportunity.
"At the end of the hearing it is for the independent CDC Panel, not the ECB, to determine guilt or otherwise and any sanction."
Hoggard's witness statement, parts of which were revealed in The Cricketer last week, will be his only contribution to the commission. However, he told the BBC that he was pulling out because he didn't think it was a "fair process".
"There are no winners in this," he added. "It is not an admission of guilt. The people who know the truth, know the truth. That is all that matters to me. I, as a respondent, have not been spoken to by the ECB once."
Bresnan, who played in the 2010-11 Ashes win in Australia and was also part of the England team that won that year's World T20, likened the experience to "being charged [by police] and tried without even being arrested".
"The thing that is hardest to swallow is that these allegations came out in such a way. It has been two-and-a-half years of nonstop articles, leaks, tweets, different stuff coming out without any right of reply," he told the Times. "I had witnesses who wanted to provide statements in private, but we couldn't guarantee they wouldn't appear in the public domain."
Blain said: "The decision to withdraw was quite an easy one in the end, given the process we have gone through. But it slightly hurts me, because I know my role in this and what I was at the club at the time.
"For nearly 800 days I've kept my counsel on this. I haven't been interviewed by the ECB and yet they've charged me without talking to me. It's an allegation that was brought for an incident on an unstated date.
"The leaks have been quite distasteful and reduced the whole thing to a bit of a circus. It didn't have any class or traditional values about it. It had this feeling of being substandard."
Responding to the trio's decision, Rafiq issued a statement in which he insisted his claims had been "vindicated time and again".
He added: "This has included: a legal investigation that confirmed I was a victim of racial harassment and bullying; a Yorkshire commissioned panel that concluded I suffered discrimination; numerous apologies, both public and private, from people who witnessed or were involved in this behaviour; and others have come forward to confirm the culture in the wider game.
"It is regrettable that these defendants are not willing to go to a public hearing and face what happened."
At the time of writing, only Hoggard's former England captain and fellow 2005 Ashes-winner, Michael Vaughan, and former bowling coach Richard Pyrah are due to participate with the process. Gary Ballance, who has left Yorkshire and returned to play for Zimbabwe, the country of his birth, accepted his CDC charge on five counts, including the use of racist language, but will not appear at the hearings.
In November 2022, the CDC announced the hearing would be made public which in turn led to a delay in the process due to respondents appealing the decision. However, the ECB confirmed to the Press Association on January 13 that those appeals had been dismissed by an independent Appeal Panel convened by the CDC.
The CDC panel comprises chair Tim O'Gorman, a lawyer and former professional cricketer, alongside Mark Milliken-Smith KC and Dr Seema Patel, a Senior Lecturer in Law who is an expert on discrimination in sport.
Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo