An in-house diversity group at the BBC has sent an extraordinary email to staff at the corporation criticising as “totally inexcusable” the decision to employ the former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan as part of its team covering the third Test against New Zealand at Headingley.
The email – written by BBC Sport’s Black, Asian and minority ethnic group and sent on Monday morning – said the decision to allow Vaughan to commentate on the game for Radio 5 live was “totally inexcusable” and “a shocking miscalculation” that had caused “excruciating, overwhelming and unbearable” distress among many members of staff.
Vaughan was dropped from coverage of the Ashes last November after he was accused by several players of making a racist comment before a Yorkshire game in 2009. He has repeatedly and categorically denied doing so.
Having returned to the commentary team for the English summer Vaughan’s participation in the BBC’s coverage came under renewed focus last week after it emerged that he had been charged by the England and Wales Cricket Board’s disciplinary commission with bringing the game into disrepute, in relation to the accusations first aired by Azeem Rafiq, and since corroborated by two other players present. Barbara Slater, the head of BBC Sport, nevertheless told staff that he would remain involved.
The Test was played at the home ground of Yorkshire, the club Vaughan represented throughout his career and which was plunged into crisis by Rafiq’s accusations of discriminatory behaviour. Last November the club’s former chair, Roger Hutton, admitted to the Commons digital, culture, media and sport select committee that it “falls within the definition” of institutional racism.
The email noted that Vaughan had been working at “the scene of one of the most devastating racism scandals to rock the sport – a racism scandal that Michael is heavily embroiled in”. Yorkshire were allowed to host the game only after members ratified a raft of proposed changes as part of reforms being driven by their new chair, Lord Kamlesh Patel.
“With Michael Vaughan implicated in this scandal and now understood to be charged by the ECB, it feels totally inexcusable that he should continue to appear as a representative of BBC Sport,” the group wrote. “The depth of feeling and outpouring of emotion towards this decision is excruciating, overwhelming and unbearable. Colleagues from all backgrounds from across the BBC have been in touch to share their disbelief and dismay, with some moved to tears because of the apparent lack of empathy, understanding and leadership over this.
“This really is a shocking miscalculation. We are exhausted. We are tired. We are fed up of having the same discussions and reliving the same trauma. The small steps forward we make to try and build greater inclusivity and understanding are totally undone by decisions like this and that really needs to be acknowledged.”
In a statement, the BBC said: “We acknowledge some staff have raised concerns and we will discuss those with them directly.”