CLEARED TO PLAY
The disciplinary panel charged both players with two breaches of ECB directive 3.3 © Getty
Ben Stokes and Alex Hales have been fined by the Cricket Discipline Commission following an incident outside a Bristol nightclub in September 2017. However both remain available for immediate selection for England through backdated (Stokes) and suspended (Hales) match bans.
The disciplinary panel, which is independent of the England and Wales Cricket Board, charged both players with two breaches of ECB directive 3.3. In separate hearings, both admitted to the charges handed down to them.
Stokes was handed a fine of GBP 30,000 and a ban for eight matches, which he has already served after missing the final two one-day internationals of the 2017 summer, the Ashes (five Tests) and the five-match ODI series against Australia that followed. He was also unavailable for the first two matches in the Trans-Tasman T20I series with Australia and New Zealand in February. Stokes also missed the Lord’s Test against India to stand trial on a criminal charge of affray relating to the Bristol incident. He was found not guilty.
Hales, on the other hand, had missed just those two ODIs. The Nottinghamshire batsman’s six-match ban and fine of GBP 17,500 has suspended elements of four matches and GBP 10,000 for 12 months from the date of the hearing. Should he commit any further serious breach of cricketing regulations in this time, those elements will be enforced.
While the first charge laid at the feet of Stokes and Hales relates to the brawl outside Mbargo nightclub in the early hours of September 25, 2017, the second is different for both players.
The second charge on Stokes is related to an inappropriate video that surfaced in which he is seen mimicking Katie Price’s disabled son, Harvey. The panel declared that GBP 15,000 of Stokes’ GBP 30,000 fine will be paid to a suitable charity.
For Hales, his second charge relates to graphic images which emerged around a similar time. The photographs of Hales, mostly screenshots from his Snapchat account – an application in which users can share pictures that disappear after a period of time – were widely circulated around WhatsApp and Twitter.
The nature of the images were such that not only did the panel impose a GBP 10,000 fine (GBP 5,500 suspended) but, as a condition of the suspension of the fine and match ban, ordered Hales undertake appropriate training regarding his behaviour. He must do so within three months.
Both players released statements on Twitter accepting the punishments handed down and apologising to supporters for putting themselves and English cricket in this situation.
“I am relieved to get back to playing the game that I love without this hanging over me,” concluded Stokes. “Although the disciplinary process is now over, I have learned lessons that will stay with me for much longer.” Hales stated his relief that Friday’s decision means the matter has come to an end and he can move on with his career.
— Ben Stokes (@benstokes38) December 7, 2018
— Alex Hales (@AlexHales1) December 7, 2018
A statement from the chief executive officer of the ECB, Tom Harrison, said: “We accept the decisions made by the Cricket Discipline Commission and the sanctions they have given to Alex Hales and Ben Stokes.
“Each pleaded guilty, admitted their charges and has accepted their sanctions. They will now be available to play for England, with the same support as all of our players.
“Today is a very strong reminder of the values that sit at the heart of our game and the standards that should always be expected.”
The Players Cricket Association, who offered counsel to both Hales and Stokes, also welcomed the line drawn under the incident.
That sentiment will be echoed by administrators, coaches, players and supporters of English cricket. That fateful Bristol evening more than a year ago has cast a shadow over the game in this country, albeit one that has shrunk as time has passed.
Winning has helped, too. A Test series victory at home versus India and a first in Sri Lanka since 2001, combined with the high standards maintained by the one-day team, has kept fans onside but dissipated the negative PR. It means England will go into bumper 2019 with this matter put to bed.
After the tour of West Indies in the new year, England will face their biggest home summer in recent memory, as they look to win their first 50-over World Cup and regain the Ashes. Now, they will do so shorn of what has been an embarrassing and unedifying distraction.