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Lord Kamlesh Patel has accepted the challenge of steering Yorkshire through one of the most damaging chapters in their long history, taking over as chair on the day the Azeem Rafiq racism crisis deepened amid new allegations.
After a week of steadily escalating pressure – from politicians, campaign groups and a host of disappearing commercial sponsors – the dam broke on Friday morning with the resignation of previous chairman Roger Hutton.
He walked out of the club alongside fellow board members Hanif Malik, Stephen Willis and Neil Hartley, though the latter will remain to oversee a transition period, and called on the likes of chief executive Mark Arthur and director of cricket Martyn Moxon to follow suit over their handling of the Rafiq case.
Within a few hours Lord Patel of Bradford, a respected former England and Wales Cricket Board board member and chair of the governing body’s South Asian advisory group, had been installed in Hutton’s place and was attempting to plot a course beyond the immediate scandal.
He will host a press conference at Headingley on Monday but began his term with a short introductory statement which read: “I’m looking forward to taking this club forward and driving the change that is needed. The club needs to learn from its past errors, regain trust and rebuild relationships with our communities.
“There is much work to do, including reading the panel’s report (into Rafiq’s claims), so we can begin the process of learning from our past mistakes.”
The volume and severity of those mistakes is, perhaps, an open question after the emergence of new claims against the county. A second unnamed player of Asian heritage told the Daily Mail he was subjected to repeated racist abuse at Yorkshire, including one incident where he alleged a team-mate urinated on his head.
The club needs to learn from its past errors, regain trust and rebuild relationships with our communities.
New Yorkshire chair Lord Patel
A spokesperson for the club confirmed to the PA news agency that this matter was being investigated, though it is unclear who is leading that process after the panel which looked into Rafiq’s wide-ranging allegations was disbanded.
There may be a decision to make over Gary Ballance a previous club captain who apologised to Rafiq this week after admitting he used racial slurs against his one time friend and team-mate, while one of Yorkshire’s most decorated former players, Michael Vaughan was also drawn into the matter.
The 2005-Ashes winning England captain revealed in his Daily Telegraph column on Thursday that he was named in the Rafiq report, but categorically refuted suggestions he told a group of non-white team-mates there were “too many of your lot, we need to do something about it” over a decade ago.
Speaking to PA, he said: “I’ve never said anything racist in my life. I know that in my life, I’ve never said anything racist to anybody. So, that’s what I stand by.”
Former Pakistan international Rana Naved-ul-Haq, who was an overseas professional at Yorkshire in 2008 and 2009, has told ESPNCricinfo he heard Vaughan use racially insensitive comments.
The BBC stood Vaughan down from his hosting role on Monday night’s ‘Tuffers and Vaughan’ show on Radio 5 Live.
“The show focuses on topical discussion around current cricketing matters and given his personal involvement, we need to ensure we maintain the impartiality of the programme,” a corporation spokesperson said.
“We remain in discussion with Michael and his team.”
The pressure is likely to intensify over Arthur and Moxon’s roles at Yorkshire, which became more precarious when Hutton’s parting words appeared to take aim at the pair, though PA understands neither are preparing to resign.
Hutton, who was this week called to appear at a parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee on November 16, said: “I would like to take this opportunity to apologise unreservedly to Azeem.
“There has been a constant unwillingness from the executive members of the board and senior management at the club to apologise, and to accept that there was racism, and to look forward. For much of my time at the club, I experienced a culture that refuses to accept change or challenge.
“During my time as chairman, I take responsibility for failing to persuade them to take appropriate and timely action. I now call for those executive members of the board to resign, to make way for a new path for the club I love so much.”
Speaking to the PA news agency at his home, Moxon said: “There’s a new chair in place, it’s entirely in his hands what happens now.”
Head coach Andrew Gale, meanwhile, told the Jewish News he had been “completely unaware” of the meaning of an offensive, anti-Semitic word he used in a historic and subsequently deleted tweet, after the newspaper reported the story.
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As well as the reputational damage done to the Yorkshire name, there could be financial issues given the mass exodus of sponsors and the suspension of international hosting rights which threaten two England games next summer and an Ashes Test in 2023.
Lord Patel will be hoping to salvage those dates and ECB chief executive Tom Harrison made it clear driving the club to the wall was not on the agenda.
“It is a very serious financial crisis that will now take place at Yorkshire, and we must now make sure that we find the balance right between helping and rehabilitating this very famous club from financial oblivion,” he said.
There are other potential bumps in the road, with the possibility of legal action from the Equality and Human Rights Commission also rearing its head.
The organisation’s chief executive Marcial Boo told PA: “We have written to YCCC to ask for more information, including a full copy of their investigation report, to determine if there has been a breach of the law.
“We will take action if so. All employers have a duty to protect their employees from bullying and harassment.”