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The 61-year-old last week took over as club chairman from Roger Hutton, who was strongly criticised and eventually resigned after an internal investigation dismissed Raiq being called a “P***” as “banter”.
Speaking on Monday, Patel praised former England youth international Rafiq, 30, for coming forward and refusing to accept Yorkshire’s previous attempts to quash the matter.
“Azeem is a whistleblower and should be praised as such, he should never have been put through this,” he said at a press conference.
“We’re sorry for what you and your family have experienced and the way in which we’ve handled this. I thank Azeem for his bravery in speaking out. Let me be clear from the outset, racism or discrimination in any form is not banter.”
Patel also confirmed Yorkshire had settled a separate employment tribunal with Rafiq.
He said: “Absolutely no restrictions have been placed on Azeem on what he can or cannot say about his experiences.
“The settlement does not involve a non-disclosure agreement.”
Patel, an OBE and former shadow front bench minister, said he was also commissioning a specialist independent review of the county’s processes and procedures on diversity and inclusion.
Patel has spoken to the ECB about the restoration of international cricket but that Yorkshire would have to “address the root causes” that had led to the suspension first.
Despite noting that he had not been fully able to digest Yorkshire’s report into Rafiq’s allegations, he added: “What I’ve seen so far does feel uncomfortable. It makes me feel the process wasn’t as well completed as it should have been.”
Patel said he would release the report to those who had a “legal interest” rather than simply publish it. This would include, he said, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee Julian Knight MP.
Asked about the future of senior leaders at Yorkshire, including chief executive Mark Arthur and director of cricket Martyn Moxon, he said: “Leadership is important in any of these circumstances.
“But I need to look across the system and how people behaved, what made that happen and where we need to go next.”
Patel said he had spoken with Rafiq for six and a half hours since his appointment as chair on Friday.
“It was difficult and it was actually quite sad. It was tough for me, it was incredibly tough for him,” he said. “You did feel, ‘Why would we do this to any human being’?”
Patel said he had asked Rafiq to “sit on his shoulder” and “challenge him” on how he handles matters from this point onwards and added: “It would be a shame not to work together to seek his help to find a way forward.”
Additional reporting by PA Media.