Speaking to MPs on the Department of Culture, Media and Sport Committee this morning to update them on the club's progress in tackling racism in light of the Azeem Rafiq scandal, Lord Patel said that without the return of international cricket, "we are financially not viable".
The ECB has currently suspended Yorkshire from hosting international games in response to the scandal, putting a scheduled England Test match and One-Day match this year into major doubt and raising questions about whether they will be able to host an Ashes match next year.
The club’s most recently-published accounts showed that in 2019, from its overall £18m revenue £10.4m came from international games and £3m from commercial income. In the Covid-affected 2020 season, of its £8.7m revenue, £1.4m came from international matches and £900,000 from commercial sponsorship.
Lord Patel said the ECB has set Yorkshire a ten-point action plan with "very tough criteria" to complete before it will consider returning international cricket to the club. He said they have been asked to make changes to the board, leadership and culture of the club while a governance review is to be due to completed tomorrow.
He said: "We've made immediate priorities and we're making immediate actions now. So we have a series of short term actions now to three months, which we've surpassed completely. [Then] six nine months of longer term.
"We will submit all our evidence by the end of this month that we will present to the ECB on February 1, and then we will await the decision by them to see if we've met the criteria."
At the start of the hearing, committee chair Julian Knight revealed former Yorkshire chair Colin Graves has been invited to “put up or shut up” over the role of a family trust in the running of the county.
Roger Hutton, who resigned as chair over the county’s handling of Azeem Rafiq’s allegations of racial harassment and bullying, told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee in November that the Graves Trust, a major creditor owed almost £15m by the club, had vetoed the removal of two board members.
Committee chair Julian Knight said on Tuesday that Graves had been invited before the committee in November and refused, saying he did not have anything to add, and was invited again after Hutton’s comments.
Knight said: “Mr Hutton at that committee claimed the Graves Trust was a roadblock to change at Yorkshire and had actually stopped him from making the necessary changes to the board in order to easily tackle the ongoing issue of racism.
“We would probably have left it at that, but Mr Graves decided to brief a journalist where he expressed his view that the Trust is only a passive participant in the board at Yorkshire and that he did not know why we were so concerned about its role.
“We asked him to come in, having put his head above the parapet, to come before the committee. However, he is in Barbados.”
The exchange follows Mr Graves telling The Yorkshire Post last week that his Trust had no influence on the decision-making process at Yorkshire.
Mr Knight read out a letter to the committee from Mr Hutton, who wrote: “What was happening on a weekly basis sometimes appeared to me as if Mr Graves was influencing the Trust and sometimes spoke as if he was (the Trust).
“He expressed concern on how the investigation had taken place, some of which I empathised with, but his views on Azeem Rafiq, the findings of the report, and how the club should respond to those findings were very different from mine.
“I formed the view that some of his opinions were very similar to those of the executive of the board (chief executive Mark Arthur and director of cricket Martyn Moxon) and others in the club who later wrote to the board.”
Mr Knight said: “It seems to be from this letter, and they are only allegations, that there seems to be substantial and ongoing interference by Mr Graves in the governance of Yorkshire.
“So we reissue our invitation to Mr Graves in order to explain himself, and the role of the Graves Trust then, and going forwards. It may not seem like a Yorkshire statement, more of an Americanism, but we really do think Mr Graves should put up or shut up in this instance.”
Lord Patel said he had a more positive experience with the Trust.
“Since I started I wouldn’t say they had been a roadblock in anything that I had to do with them,” Patel said.
“However, I understand where people are coming from and where you have a financial agreement where you have those added extras – you can have an observer on the board – you could veto the appointment or exit of a person.”
Patel said he did not believe any veto had been used prior to his appointment in November but said legal documents were being drawn up to make sure that all those powers were removed and these would be presented to the annual general meeting.
He also said the Trust’s rights to observe were set to be removed, and that the Trust had been “incredibly supportive” in that.
ECB deputy chair Martin Darlow said a vote on governance changes at Yorkshire’s extraordinary general meeting on February 2 would be key in relation to the restoration of hosting rights for international matches at Headingley.
“Once we’re through that, I anticipate the (ECB) board will be making a decision and considering their options soon after that,” he said.
Asked whether resolution of the Graves Trust’s role at Yorkshire was critical to the outcome, Darlow said: “I understand the Trust has accepted the need to remove those powers (of veto and a board observer).
“My view is that it would be a better-run organisation if they didn’t have the vetoes in place.”
Asked if the failure of the EGM to adopt the governance changes would mean international matches being kept away from Yorkshire, Darlow said: “I was asked this on Saturday (at a Yorkshire members’ forum) and my response to that was that you are not voting for the return of international cricket, you’re voting for the future of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, and it’s the right thing to do.”
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