Former Yorkshire CCC sponsor backs reform plans as he praises Lord Patel's 'great integrity'

A Yorkshire CCC sponsor which cut ties with the club in November over the Azeem Rafiq racism scandal has taken a major step towards returning after agreeing a £50,000 partnership deal with the club's charity arm.

Vertu Motors was among a raft of sponsors which cut ties with Yorkshire CCC in November over the treatment for its former player Azeem Rafiq. At the time, the company said it had "reluctantly" taken the decision to end its sponsorship deal, saying the two organisation's values were no longer in alignment. But it added at the time that its position "could be revisited if new leadership takes the club in a new direction".

The company has now agreed a partnership to provide support to the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation, which is the official charity arm of Yorkshire CCC.

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The partnership will include the provision of a 17-seater minibus for the Yorkshire Cricket College and community programmes; funding to support students who can't afford travel and kit and subsidising the cost of a primary school coaching programme.

Lord Kamlesh Patel, Yorkshire CCC chairman, and Robert Forrester, chief executive of Vertu Motors, discuss the company's decision to support the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation.

Robert Forrester, chief executive of Vertu Motors, said a return to full sponsorship remained possible. He said he had been impressed with new chairman Lord Kamlesh Patel's attempts to address issues at the club.

"We obviously ended our sponsorship with Yorkshire a number of months ago," he said.

"As one of the large sponsors, I don't think you can just walk away, I think we had a responsibility.

"I have had a number of sessions with Lord Patel over the last few months to be kept up to date with exactly what was happening.

"We felt as an organisation there had been some substantial changes. There are a lot more substantial changes to come. But the plan that is in place appears to be a very good plan.

"There is now an alignment of values between our organisation and Yorkshire CCC. It is important that Yorkshire CCC goes onto thrive for a variety of reasons.

"We thought the time was right, having heard of what the Foundation is actually planning to do which is absolutely vital work.

"The ability to fund programmes that can affect communities across Yorkshire and create aspiration to be part of cricket is vital."

When asked what would need to change further to result in full club sponsorship returning, Mr Forrester said: "The plans are in place, we need to see the execution of those plans.

"I have personally a lot of faith in Lord Patel who has spent an inordinate amount of time talking with me over the last few months. I think he is a man of great integrity.

"Whereas there was certainly not alignment of values prior, I think there is and we have a lot of faith in that. This is the first stage and I would like to continue discussions over the next few months and hopefully be part of the future of Yorkshire CCC."

Vertu's decision comes after Yorkshire CCC announced last week its new kit sponsor will be Kukri Sports. The company is replacing Nike, which cut ties with the club in November over the Azeem Rafiq scandal.

The announcement at Headingley comes after it was revealed that an emergency general meeting for Yorkshire members to approve governance changes that will allow the club to resume hosting international matches has been delayed until March 31 - the day of the deadline the ECB has set for voting the changes through.

A letter sent to members and seen by the Daily Mail said many sponsors are "lining up to return" should the changes be approved and the return of international cricket be given the green light.

But there has been a public war of words in recent weeks between former Yorkshire chairman Robin Smith and Lord Patel over the planned reforms.

Lord Patel, who did not wish to answer questions about matters outside of the new partnership agreement, said he was delighted with the initial deal with Vertu and hoped relationships can also be restarted with other previous sponsors.

"Today is a phenomenal first step and I'm so grateful to Vertu for building that foundation for us," he said.

"I regularly get stopped now on the train or in the street which is a bit scary sometimes but it is people actually genuinely saying, 'Thank you for coming and helping'. As Robert said, we are aligning our values and we are hoping to align our values through the fantastic work the Foundation does.

"The donation that has been made today will help so many young children and particularly young families."

Lord Patel said it was particularly pleasing that the initial partnership arrangement will support the work of the Foundation.

"We have gone on a long journey. What I'm really pleased about is the recognition that a significant part of the club - the Foundation - has been working tirelessly for the last two or three years. During a global pandemic, we have supported young children, we have supported families.

"The work the Foundation has done is not just about sport, not just about cricket but engaging with communities and working on education. We are so pleased that such a reputable organisation like Vertu has come and supported us and shown the support for our Foundation.

"We hope many others will follow in due course."

Will Saville, managing director of the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation, said: "We are absolutely delighted to welcome Vertu Motors as a new official partner of Yorkshire Cricket Foundation.

"The new education partnership will help us reach even more people in the community."

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