Alex Hales and Ben Stokes arrive at ECB disciplinary panel hearing

England stars Ben Stokes and Alex Hales have arrived at an ECB disciplinary panel to learn their fate over their involvement in a brawl outside a Bristol nightclub in September 2017.

Stokes and Hales will learn this week whether they face punishment from England cricket chiefs over bringing the game into disrepute.

Stokes was cleared of affray at Bristol Crown Court earlier this year, after a trial in relation to an incident outside a nightclub in the city in September 2017. Hales was with Stokes at the time of the incident, but faced no criminal charges. 

Alex Hales arrives at an ECB disciplinary panel to learn his fate over the Bristol brawl in 2017

Alex Hales arrives at an ECB disciplinary panel to learn his fate over the Bristol brawl in 2017

Alex Hales arrives at an ECB disciplinary panel to learn his fate over the Bristol brawl in 2017

Stokes was seen arriving to face the panel himself on Wednesday afternoon

Stokes was seen arriving to face the panel himself on Wednesday afternoon

Stokes was seen arriving to face the panel himself on Wednesday afternoon

Stokes pictured in Sri Lanka, where he played for England in their 3-0 series victory

Stokes pictured in Sri Lanka, where he played for England in their 3-0 series victory

Stokes pictured in Sri Lanka, where he played for England in their 3-0 series victory

The ECB’s Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC) could impose fines or suspensions on either or both players.

All-rounder Stokes was omitted from England’s squad for last winter’s Ashes series, but has since been restored to the international fold.

The disciplinary hearings will take place on Wednesday and Friday, with each player charged with two counts of breaching ECB Directive 3.3, which states: ‘No participant may conduct themselves in a manner or do any act or omission at any time which may be prejudicial to the interests of cricket or which may bring the ECB, the game of cricket or any cricketer or group of cricketers into disrepute.’

Former Derbyshire batsman Tim O’Gorman – now a respected lawyer and the panel chairman – former Gloucestershire seamer Mike Smith, an employment lawyer, and judge Chris Tickle, a long-serving Warwickshire committee member, make up the Cricket Disciplinary Commission panel and have the power to ban, fine or reprimand the pair. 

The whole affair has been a cloud over English cricket ever since the night when the friends went out, along with other team-mates, to celebrate victory in the third one-day international at Bristol.

The whole affair has been a cloud over English cricket since the night they went out in Bristol

The whole affair has been a cloud over English cricket since the night they went out in Bristol

The whole affair has been a cloud over English cricket since the night they went out in Bristol

England's erstwhile vice-captain Stokes was found not guilty of affray at Bristol Crown Court

England's erstwhile vice-captain Stokes was found not guilty of affray at Bristol Crown Court

England’s erstwhile vice-captain Stokes was found not guilty of affray at Bristol Crown Court

Stokes, and his supporters, are pinning their hopes of a lenient verdict on the fact that he missed the whole of the Ashes series because of the incident. 

Certainly, the England coach Trevor Bayliss spoke for the whole squad when he said after the 3-0 victory over Sri Lanka in Colombo last week that he very much hoped Stokes would be cleared to tour the Caribbean early next year.

Stokes has never lost the support of team-mates and coaching staff, who apparently accept he was defending two gay men when he became embroiled in a punch-up with Ryan Hale and Ryan Ali.

Stokes and his legal team will need to explain how he became involved at such a late hour when he was on international duty.

Hales’ role will also come under scrutiny as the only price he has paid so far has been to miss the last two one-day internationals of that 2017 series and lose his 50-over place to Jason Roy as a consequence.

Not only will Stokes have to defend his behaviour that night in Bristol, but also for appearing to mock the disabled son of television personality Katie Price in social-media footage that emerged after the brawl. Hales, too, faces a second charge pertaining to his use of social media.

Stokes has never lost the support of team-mates and coaching staff and starred in Sri Lanka

Stokes has never lost the support of team-mates and coaching staff and starred in Sri Lanka

Stokes has never lost the support of team-mates and coaching staff and starred in Sri Lanka

It would be no surprise if Stokes and Hales were forced to serve a ban for the incident

It would be no surprise if Stokes and Hales were forced to serve a ban for the incident

It would be no surprise if Stokes and Hales were forced to serve a ban for the incident

The pair still have much to explain. Stokes, for example, admitted in court he had drunk more than 10 alcoholic drinks midway through the series.

There was no curfew in place but it is still astonishing that Stokes and Hales, together with several other members of the team, were out drinking in a student area of Bristol at such a late hour.

Other players have been fined for being out so late and warned as to their future conduct, but, crucially, they did not get involved in the physical altercations that shamed the game.

Stokes has never shown any sign of remorse or regret for his involvement even though Bayliss, his biggest supporter, has said he expects him to make a full and public apology.

Hales, meanwhile, was said in court to have ‘kicked and stamped’ on a man even though he was never charged nor called as a witness in the subsequent affray case against Stokes. 

FIVE KEY QUESTIONS FOR THE PANEL TO CONSIDER

1 What was England’s Test vice-captain doing drinking at least 10 alcoholic drinks on a night out midway through a one-day international series? And how many drinks did Hales have?

2 Should they have still been out in Bristol city centre after 2am?

3 What impact did the CCTV video of Stokes and Hales (left) in a street brawl — and the subsequent criminal proceedings — have on the sport?

4 Did the criminal charges brought against Stokes — and the seven-day trial — bring the game into disrepute?

5 Was missing the Ashes series (in the case of Stokes) and two one-day internationals (Hales) sufficient punishment for the incident?

By Laura Lambert

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