BT Sport’s plans for their live Ashes coverage have been thrown into turmoil only 12 days before the first Test in Brisbane, due to the ongoing furore surrounding Michael Vaughan.
As Sportsmail revealed on Thursday, BT are adamant they do not want to use Vaughan following allegations he used racist language towards Azeem Rafiq and three other Yorkshire players 12 years ago.
But the former England captain remains contracted to commentate for the Australian rights holders Fox Sports, who have agreed to supply an audio feed to BT’s London studio.
BT Sport do not want to use Michael Vaughan (left) during the Ashes following allegations he used racist language towards Azeem Rafiq (right)
BT remain hopeful that Fox will solve their problem by dropping Vaughan, but have begun to explore other options and are encountering numerous difficulties.
Sportsmail has learned that negotiations with the other Australian rights holders Channel Seven about taking their feed have not progressed, while BT are also struggling to assemble a team of ex-players and broadcasters willing to work through the night on live commentary from London.
Experienced broadcaster Matt Smith has been signed up to front BT’s coverage, with former England captain Sir Alastair Cook and fast bowler Steve Harmison providing expert analysis during the lunch and tea intervals. But putting together a full commentary team is proving far more challenging.
Michael Vaughan looked sullen as he was spotted out and about in Alderley Edge, Cheshire on Wednesday. BT Sport have decided to cut his commentary from their coverage of the upcoming Ashes series, while BBC Radio have stood Vaughan down from their commentary
Sky Sports’ coverage of England’s tour of Sri Lanka last winter featured the likes of Michael Atherton, Nasser Hussain and Rob Key commentating off the television from London. But Channel Four took the feed provided by host broadcaster Star Sports after winning the rights for England’s tour of India later in the winter.
BT may not have that option due to the Vaughan issue, but also lack a permanent cricket staff to do the job remotely so are attempting to recruit freelancers and ex-players. The timing of the delayed series has not helped matters, with many people reluctant to work overnight in the run-up to Christmas and the New Year — particularly with five Tests to take place in only seven weeks.
Vaughan has categorically denied that he said ‘too many of you lot, we need to do something about it’ to Rafiq before a Twenty20 Cup match in 2009. He insisted this week that he was looking forward to travelling to Australia to work for Fox after being stood down by the BBC.
Azeem Rafiq alleged Vaughan made racist remarks towards Asian players at Yorkshire CCC, claims the former England captain denies
‘Very disappointed not to be commentating for TMS (Test Match Special) on the Ashes and will miss working with great colleagues and friends, but looking forward to being behind the mic for @foxcricket in Australia,’ Vaughan posted on Instagram.
‘The issues facing cricket are bigger than any individual case and I want to be part of the solution, listening, educating myself and helping to make it a more welcoming sport for all.’
The ECB have suffered an embarrassment as they prepare to announce a new 12-point diversity action plan today — with the sudden resignation of Leicestershire chair Mehmooda Duke.
Vaughan took to Instagram after the announcement to say he was ‘very disappointed’ he was taken off the BBC’s coverage and said he was looking forward to working with Fox Sports
The lawyer is the only female chair among the 18 first-class counties and one of only two people of colour in such roles, with her departure an untimely blow for the ECB as they seek to tackle the chronic lack of diversity in the sport.
Duke was due to step down next March but has opted to go immediately and appeared to take aim at ECB chief executive Tom Harrison in her resignation statement.
‘Cricket has been torn apart by recent events and I am deeply saddened by the hurt felt by individuals within our game,’ she said.
‘With fresh leadership at national level and with a determination to learn from the recent past, I hope that racism will be expunged from the dressing rooms, the fields and the game as a whole, allowing us to celebrate the diversity which makes cricket and sport in this country so great.’
England captain Joe Root pictured during a training session ahead of the Ashes in Australia. The first Test gets underway in Brisbane on December 8
Tim Paine, who has since been forced to step down as Australia captain, with the trophy in 2019 after they retained the Ashes in a drawn series in England