Lord Kamlesh Patel’s chairmanship of Yorkshire CCC is invalid, claims Robin Smith

YORKSHIRE cricket was thrown into fresh chaos last night amid claims that new chairman Lord Kamlesh Patel could be “personally liable” for the financial decisions that he has made in the wake of the Azeem Rafiq racism crisis that are set to cost the cash-strapped club millions of pounds.

Lord Kamlesh Patel, the new Yorkshire County Cricket Club chairman at Headingley on 8th November 2021. (Picture: Simon Hulme)
Lord Kamlesh Patel, the new Yorkshire County Cricket Club chairman at Headingley on 8th November 2021. (Picture: Simon Hulme)

After it emerged that Yorkshire had failed to file a key rule change with the Financial Conduct Authority, which gives them the ability to appoint to the board a non-member or a member of under two years’ status such as Patel, former club chairman Robin Smith said that Patel’s appointment was consequently “invalid” and that he had no authority or right to be chairman.

On taking office last November, Patel immediately settled an employment tribunal claim with Rafiq reportedly worth around £200,000 and then controversially sacked 14 staff members – some of whom were not at Yorkshire when Rafiq was a player – for signing a letter in support of the previous executives, Mark Arthur and Martyn Moxon, which said that the former spin bowler was a “problematic” figure on a “one-man mission to bring down the club”.

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Smith, the Yorkshire chairman from 2002-2005, and again from 2018-2020, drew to the attention of club officials earlier this week the administrative error which meant that the rule change passed at the annual general meeting last March was not actually registered with the FCA, a change that only came into force once it was finally registered on Monday.

Former Yorkshire County Cricket Club chairman Robin Smith (Picture: Tony Johnson)

“Thus only from Monday of this week has it been possible to appoint to the board a non-member or a member with less than two years’ membership like Patel,” said Smith, with total staff departures thought likely to cost Yorkshire around £3m.

Yorkshire last night blamed the previous regime for the oversight, describing it in a communication to members as “a legacy issue as the previous leadership of the club had failed to ensure registration of the amended club rules”. However, The Yorkshire Post understands that the person with responsibility for that function is part of the current regime.

The latest twist to a crisis that has left a club that was already circa £18m in debt before it began led to the 11th-hour cancellation of an extraordinary general meeting at Headingley yesterday that was set to vote on Patel’s proposals to permit up to eight non-members to join the Yorkshire board, a decision that Smith believes would put the club in the hands of “strangers” and end Yorkshire’s 159-year history as a members’ club.

It is understood that members were told at a forum last month, from which the media were excluded, that support for Patel’s plans was essential to help ensure the return of international cricket to Headingley, with a decision on the lifting or otherwise of Yorkshire’s suspension due to the Rafiq affair presently awaited from the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Lord Kamlesh Patel was appointed in November (Picture: Simon Hulme)

Patel and Paul Hudson, the acting chief executive, are understood to have presented earlier this week evidence to the ECB that Yorkshire are now fit for purpose – an irony that will be lost on no one familiar with the workings of the governing body.

However, after taking legal advice, Yorkshire were forced to admit that the EGM had not been properly called and that any decisions made during it would have been worthless.

“The club is currently making the necessary arrangements for a further EGM to be convened as soon as practicable and preferably before the end of this month,” said the club.

It is Patel’s position as chairman, however, that is perhaps of most singularity with Yorkshire having previously stressed that all procedures were correctly followed when he replaced the previous chairman, Roger Hutton.

Smith said it was “a serious problem” and told The Yorkshire Post: “Lord Kamlesh Patel was appointed by the rump of the old board. He had not been a member for two years and therefore his appointment is invalid.

“As he was not validly appointed, he could be personally liable for the decisions he has made. Why should the club or its members pay for decisions taken by someone who shouldn’t even be in office?”

Smith warned three weeks ago that the EGM was “a nullity”, adding: “There is no way forward for any organisation which is not soundly, legally based, and the club is acting unlawfully. It hasn’t got a properly constituted board.

“My big objective is to get Test matches restored to Headingley. There is no route to that which is based on fragile, indeed broken, legal ground. It cannot be done.”

Yorkshire have said that the ECB will no longer nominate an individual to sit on the club’s nominations committee, which recommends potential board members.

“Thank goodness they’ve seen the error of their ways on that one,” added Smith.

“The ECB cannot play a part, even a peripheral part, in the management of a club that they also regulate. It’s basic stuff.”