BBC under pressure to reinstate Michael Vaughan as Azeem Rafiq says furore 'made bigger' than necessary

Michael Vaughan and Azeem Rafiq - BBC under pressure to reinstate Michael Vaughan as Azeem Rafiq says furore 'made bigger' than necessary
Michael Vaughan and Azeem Rafiq - BBC under pressure to reinstate Michael Vaughan as Azeem Rafiq says furore 'made bigger' than necessary

The BBC was on Friday night under mounting pressure to reverse its decision to stand down Michael Vaughan after Azeem Rafiq said the "you lot" furore had been blown out of proportion.

Speaking 48 hours after the corporation axed Vaughan from its Ashes team, the man that accused him insisted "I don't hold a grudge" against the 2005 Ashes-winning captain.

Meanwhile, Vaughan's former England team-mate Monty Panesar became the latest figure in the sport to criticise the BBC for presiding over "a distortion of natural justice".

Rafiq suggested on Friday the alleged 2009 comment – which Vaughan vehemently denies making – had been "made bigger" than necessary. The 30-year-old, who had been meeting a Holocaust survivor as part of efforts to make amends over his own anti-Semitic messages, added: "I'm nobody to be forgiving someone."

Vaughan, who first revealed in Telegraph Sport column how he had been accused, has given a BBC interview which was broadcast on Saturday morning. He has already issued two strenuous denials to the allegation he said "too many of you lot, we need to do something about it” within earshot of Rafiq, Adil Rashid, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and Ajmal Shahzad.

Naved-ul-Hasan and Rashid rallied behind Rafiq's claim, but Vaughan claims the other seven players present in the pre-match huddle at Trent Bridge have "no recollection" of the comment.

Panesar, writing in a new column for Telegraph Sport, said the BBC had made a mistake in dropping him. "This feels deeply unethical – a classic case of someone being tried and convicted without any form of due process being undertaken," he added.

After his bombshell appearance before MPs last week, Rafiq had appeared to call for the BBC to take action against Vaughan, who had already been temporarily stood down from his Radio 5 Live show. "People who apologise should be given a second chance, but people in denial, I think it's important that employers send a message out to the public whether they're going to be [given] green light," he had told ITV.

However, during a meeting with Holocaust survivors, Rafiq appeared to have softened in his stance. "Throughout the process I have said it's not about individuals," he told the Jewish Chronicle website. "It never has been in my eyes. Obviously, that issue [Vaughan] has been made bigger."

Rafiq added that the alleged comment "will always stick with me, but I don't hold a grudge". "I've said all along anyway, accepting an apology was all I was looking for," he added. "And even if I don't get that it's not a big deal. I'm nobody to be forgiving someone or deciding what should happen with someone's future. I just feel like from my point of view, I owned up to what I did, I regret it. How people want to decide how they want to move forward is completely their choice and it's up to them. I'm in no position to decide what they do or don't do."

The BBC had announced on Wednesday that Vaughan had been dropped from Test Match Special and its wider coverage of the sport amid an investigation into accusations he made the racially-insensitive remark. BT followed by stating it was reviewing its commentary plans for England’s bid to win back the urn, something that could yet see Vaughan vanish from its own coverage.

David Gower, another former England captain, has expressed concern at Vaughan being left "in limbo", and Panesar, the former English international left-arm spinner who made his Test debut in 2006, says that the BBC and BT "have taken the easy option by blocking him from broadcasting this winter". "The BBC say they do not want him commenting on a story in which he features, but that should not stop him analysing the Ashes," Panesar – who has repeatedly stated that Vaughan is not racist – added.

Vaughan has previously quoted his own autobiography, which references his delight at the Asian trio's involvement in the 2009 match in question. Sky footage also shows him greeting a smiling Rafiq during the pre-match huddle in which he is alleged to have made the comment.

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