BBC confirm Michael Vaughan will return after Ashes while BT drop him from series coverage

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Michael Vaughan - BBC bow to pressure and prepare to welcome Michael Vaughan back from the cold following Ashes series - PA
Michael Vaughan - BBC bow to pressure and prepare to welcome Michael Vaughan back from the cold following Ashes series - PA

The BBC bowed to pressure to bring back Michael Vaughan on Wednesday after announcing he would return to Test Match Special after the Ashes.

But BT defied a growing backlash against the corporation’s decision to axe Vaughan for the series by dropping him from its own coverage of England’s bid to regain the urn.

As the fallout from cricket’s racism scandal continued, Vaughan also revealed he had tested positive for coronavirus, ruling him out of travelling to Australia in time for next week’s first Test.

He did so after the BBC issued a statement saying it expected to “work with Michael again in the future” following his axing from Test Match Special and its wider coverage of the sport amid an investigation into accusations he made racially-insensitive remarks while playing for Yorkshire 12 years ago – something he has vehemently denied.

Dropping Vaughan had seen the BBC accused of prejudging the case against him – with former England team-mate Monty Panesar among those to condemn the decision – while even the man at the centre of the claims against him, Azeem Rafiq, said the furore had been blown out of proportion.

A BBC spokesperson said: “We’re in regular contact with Michael and have had positive conversations with him in recent days. Our contributors are required to talk about relevant issues, so Michael’s involvement in a story of such significance means it’s not possible for him to be part of our Ashes coverage or wider cricket coverage at the moment. We’re pleased with how our conversations are going and expect to work with Michael again in the future. He remains on contract to the BBC.”

Vaughan, who is also contracted to Fox Sports for the Ashes, then posted his own news on Twitter, writing: “I’ve had to delay my flight to Australia until next week because of a positive Covid test, which is frustrating. But at least I’ll avoid the rain in Brisbane for a few days! And I’ll be no more under cooked than both teams when I get there.!!”

That was followed by an announcement from BT Sport, which holds the live UK television rights to this winter’s contest, axing Vaughan from its own coverage, proclaiming allowing him to be seen and heard by its viewers would not fit with its “values”.

Confirming plans to all but scrap a deal to carry audio from host broadcaster Fox, struck after it decided not to send its own team Down Under during the pandemic, a spokesperson said: “Given these recent events and the controversy with the situation, we have taken the decision that including Michael Vaughan within our Ashes coverage would not be editorially appropriate or fit with BT Sport’s values.

“We are still finalising plans but we are assessing the option of taking a hybrid approach, using Fox commentary where possible with the aim of putting our own commentary team in place if necessary.”

BT’s axing of Vaughan came days after it streamed a boxing press conference in which a series of vulgar insults were made by Tyson Fury’s father, John, about the girlfriend of another fighter.

It apologised for comments that went “against all the values that BT Sport wants to uphold” but made no mention about the future of Fury snr, who has featured frequently as a pundit for the broadcaster.

Vaughan’s positive Covid-19 test spared BT needing to change its plans for next week’s first Test.

It also meant he would be unable to attend the second Test in Adelaide due to quarantine rules in South Australia, forcing him to commentate on the match from Melbourne.

Wednesday’s developments came days after Vaughan apologised to Azeem Rafiq “for the hurt he has gone through” at Yorkshire – albeit denying again he had said, “Too many of you lot, we need to do something about it” to his former team-mate and other Asian players back in 2009.

England’s 2005 Ashes-winning captain also declined to criticise the BBC’s decision to axe him from its team from this winter’s series, adding he hoped to return soon as working on Test Match Special was his “one joy”.

In an interview with BBC Breakfast, Vaughan maintained “I never heard racial language in the dressing room” at Yorkshire but said he hoped to shake Rafiq’s hand and move on.

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