Former England bowler Matthew Hoggard says the disciplinary process relating to the Azeem Rafiq racism investigation “has failed everybody” after withdrawing his co-operation.
Hoggard, Tim Bresnan and John Blain have joined Andrew Gale in pulling out of the Cricket Discipline Commission hearing, which is due to be held in public at the start of March.
Former Yorkshire bowlers Hoggard, Bresnan and Blain and ex-Tykes captain and coach Gale were among seven individuals charged by the England and Wales Cricket Board last June in a case examining allegations of racism and bullying made by Rafiq during his time at Headingley.
Hoggard, Bresnan and Blain believe they will not get a fair trial at a public hearing and their withdrawals mean only Gary Ballance, Michael Vaughan and Richard Pyrah are still co-operating.
Speaking to the BBC, Hoggard said: “The process has failed everybody. 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.
“I’m pulling out because I don’t think it’s a fair process. 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.”
Speaking to The Times, Bresnan said: “I am willing to release everything because I’m out of the process. But they 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.
“Two and a half years of non-stop articles, leaks, tweets, different stuff coming out without any right of reply. I couldn’t guarantee to witnesses that statements they wanted to make in private would not appear in the public domain.
“We’ve been ordered to keep quiet up until this point now because it might have affected the case. It just hasn’t felt right, the whole thing.”
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.
Gale announced last year he was not willing to engage with the process, which he described as “tainted”.
The ECB issued a statement on Friday which 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 ECB’s investigation and disciplinary process has been overseen by an independent committee and specialist leading King’s Counsel (K.C.).
“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.”
Rafiq said the withdrawals of Hoggard, Bresnan and Blain were “regrettable”.
He said: “Over the past two years, I have been vindicated time and again.
“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.”
The hearing had originally been scheduled for November last year but was pushed back due to a dispute over whether it should be held in public, which Rafiq had argued was important for “transparency and closure”.
Former England captain Vaughan has written in the Daily Telegraph he is happy to make his defence in public but some of those who have been called to appear have raised objections and proceedings have been put on ice while their appeals are considered.
Rafiq has previously indicated he may reconsider his own participation in the process if there was no public element.
Former Yorkshire chair Roger Hutton has also made it clear he will not participate under any circumstances due to a lack of faith in the procedure.
Rafiq’s explosive testimony rocked the sport in November 2021 when he gave an emotional appearance in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee.
During Rafiq’s most recent appearance in front of the committee, in December last year, he said he had not received any support from the ECB since first giving evidence and had been forced to leave the UK because of the abuse he has received.