By: Sarwar Alam
BT Sport has said it will not use former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan in its upcoming coverage of the Ashes series following allegations of racism made by Azeem Rafiq.
English cricket has been rocked by racism revelations from Pakistan-born Rafiq.
He recently gave harrowing testimony to lawmakers in which he said his career had been ended by the racist abuse he received while at leading English county Yorkshire.
These included an allegation Vaughan told the now 30-year-old Rafiq and other Yorkshire players of Asian origin there were “too many of you lot, we need to do something about it” during a county match in 2009.
Two of the other players in question, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and England spinner Adil Rashid, have corroborated the accusation.
Vaughan, 47, categorically denies the allegation.
BT Sport has exclusive UK TV rights for the five-match series between Australia and England which is scheduled to start on December 8.
But due to Covid and travel restrictions, BT Sport had planned to take a feed from Australia’s Fox Sports channel, where Vaughan is a member of the commentary panel.
Vaughan, however, tweeted earlier Wednesday he had delayed his flight to Australia because of a positive Covid-19 test, potentially affecting his ability to commentate on the Brisbane and Adelaide matches.
BT Sport said it was now considering a “hybrid approach” for the Tests where Vaughan would be involved.
This could see BT Sport putting its own team in place, or opting to use a different host broadcaster such as Australia’s Channel 7.
– Controversy –
“The recent report presented to UK Parliament uncovering institutional racism within cricket, and specifically Yorkshire County Cricket Club, is extremely disappointing and a concern for all,” a BT Sport statement said Wednesday.
“Given these recent events and the controversy with the situation, we have taken the decision that including Michael Vaughan within our Ashes coverage would not be editorially appropriate or fit with BT Sport’s values.
“We are still finalising plans but we are assessing the option of taking a hybrid approach, using Fox commentary where possible with the aim of putting our own commentary team in place if necessary.”
After being stood down from his BBC radio show last month, Vaughan was subsequently left out of the broadcaster’s coverage because of a potential “conflict of interest”.
Last week Vaughan apologised in a BBC interview for the pain experienced by Rafiq but still insisted he had not made a racist remark to the former bowler.
Wednesday saw the BBC confirm Vaughan, an Ashes-winning skipper in 2005, remained “on contract” and talks were continuing over his return to air.
A BBC statement issued Wednesday said: “We’re in regular contact with Michael and have had positive conversations with him in recent days.
“Our contributors are required to talk about relevant issues, so Michael’s involvement in a story of such significance means it’s not possible for him to be part of our Ashes coverage or wider cricket coverage at the moment.
“We’re pleased with how our conversations are going and expect to work with Michael again in the future. He remains on contract to the BBC.”
Last week also saw the England and Wales Cricket board publish a 12-point action plan to tackle racism and all forms of discrimination.
England managing director Ashley Giles, who played under Vaughan, backed the plan but warned cricket would “have a problem” in the fight against racism unless it gave people “second chances”.