Ashes winners Matthew Hoggard and Tim Bresnan have withdrawn from the disciplinary process involving allegations made by their former Yorkshire team-mate Azeem Rafiq over fears they will not get a fair hearing.
The duo, along with the former Scotland bowler John Blain, have pulled out of next month’s hearings of the Cricket Discipline Commission, which sits “at arm’s length” from the England and Wales Cricket Board, after they were charged with bringing the game into disrepute.
“The process has failed everybody,” Hoggard said in an interview with BBC explaining his decision. “Every party involved has a problem with the way this process has been dealt with.
“Azeem [Rafiq] 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.
“I’m pulling out because I don’t think it’s a fair process,” Hoggard said. “There are no winners in this. It is not an admission of guilt. The people who know the truth, know the truth. That is all that matters to me.”
Bresnan was equally scathing about the process.
“I am willing to release everything [about the allegations] because I’m out of the process,” Bresnan says in an interview with The Times. “But they [the ECB] just charged me. How is that possible without even speaking to me? It’s like being charged and tried without even being arrested. That’s how it feels.
“He’s [Rafiq] saying I did use that language [the P-word], along with others, but gave no example. There are no witnesses. I vehemently deny that. I grew up in a place where that’s not right.”
Hoggard attacked the way that the Cricket Discipline Commission has conducted the hearing. He said that 56 witnesses had been interviewed as part of its investigation, but that the ECB was not turning over all of the evidence collected despite multiple requests from Hoggard’s lawyers
“How can we defend ourselves?” Hoggard said. “How can anyone have a fair trial? The ECB have got evidence – whether it helps or hinders us – that they will not let us see. Why is this?
“This process has been flawed from the start, from both aspects. I feel sorry for Azeem if he doesn’t feel like his voice is heard. It’s not fair on anyone in this process. How come it has taken so long for it get here?”
In a statement made in response to the news of the withdrawals from the disciplinary process – but before the comments from Hoggard and Bresnan were made public – the ECB said: “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 charges against the seven relate to alleged breaches of ECB 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.’’
However, the three players have joined former Yorkshire captain and coach Andrew Gale in withdrawing from the process in the belief that they will not receive a fair hearing. Gale – who is Bresnan’s brother-in-law – was among 16 members of staff dismissed by Yorkshire last year.
Former Yorkshire captain Rafiq first alleged racism at Yorkshire in 2020, which led to the charges from ECB last year.
As things stand, only former England captain Michael Vaughan, who strongly denies an allegation from 2009, Gary Ballance, and Richard Pyrah, another of the dismissed 16, remain involved in the process.
Ballance, the former England batsman, is due to make his Test debut for Zimbabwe against West Indies on Saturday, and has apologised to Rafiq for his previous conduct.
The hearings are scheduled to take place in public, which caused a delay from late last year until March 2023.
Hoggard, 46, is a decorated former England seamer who played in Vaughan’s Ashes-winning team in 2005, while Bresnan is a double Ashes winner who also won the T20 World Cup in 2010.
The ECB statement added:“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.”