In his first media interview since settling into his role as the new Yorkshire chairman, Lord Kamlesh Patel expressed confidence that the club will meet the stipulations demanded by the England and Wales Cricket Board when it stripped Headingley of the right to host international games.
Imposing that sanction on Yorkshire last November, the ECB described as “wholly unacceptable” the club’s handling of the racism allegations made by its former player, Azeem Rafiq, and banned it from hosting international and major matches “until it has clearly demonstrated that it can meet the standards expected of an international venue, ECB member and first-class county”.
Patel, who has been working round-the-clock to achieve what he described as the club’s “immediate priority”, said that Yorkshire had already gone “above and beyond” in their efforts to comply and is optimistic that Headingley could still host the Test against New Zealand in June and the one-day international against South Africa in July, adding that he believed Yorkshire’s cricket-loving public should not be penalised.
“In broad terms, and quite rightly, we’ve got a detailed set of criteria that we have to meet around changing our culture, around equality and diversity, around governance, around leadership and all our policies, so it’s fairly extensive,” Lord Patel told The Yorkshire Post.
“We’ve been working 24-7 to deliver against that criteria and what I can say is that I’m fairly confident that by the end of the next couple of weeks, we should have documentation and undertaken a series of actions that clearly shows we are going to hit all those targets – and hopefully more.
“All I can hope and pray is that the evidence we present to the ECB gives it the confidence and assurance that we are a dramatically changed club – not just changed, but that we have an opportunity to be a template for the future for others as well.
“I’m working hell-for-leather to make sure that happens and that nothing derails it, and when the Equality and Human Rights Commission says that it thinks that we’re doing a positive piece of work, as it did recently, that does give you some confidence that we’re on the right road.”
In condemning the “serious damage to the reputation of the game” caused by Yorkshire last year, which it described as “abhorrent and against the spirit of cricket and its values”, the ECB also launched its own regulatory investigation following Rafiq’s allegations, of which seven out of 43 were upheld following an initial year-long investigation commissioned by the club.
Patel is unclear when that will be finished, with possible further sanctions against the club and/or individuals.
However, the ECB probe will not be concluded before a decision is taken on this year’s internationals or the imminent announcement of the domestic fixtures. Yorkshire will remain in Division One of the County Championship but could potentially be hit with a points deduction.
“There are two processes,” said Patel. “The ECB board obviously has the power to sanction the international games, and our sole focus is to get that returned.
“Then there is an ongoing (ECB) investigation which is independent of the ECB board, and I don’t know what will come out of that or what the timescales are.
“I know lots of people and players have been spoken to, and it’s an extensive inquiry.
“Whether we or certain individuals are sanctioned or punished after that, I don’t know, but I hope that we can demonstrate that we’ve done so much work and that we’re genuinely positive about how we’re going forward as a club.”
It remains to be seen whether the ECB will publish a report after their investigation and to what extent, with one of the main criticisms levelled at Yorkshire being that they did not publish a full report into Rafiq’s allegations due to legal reasons – only a list of summary findings/recommendations. The government’s DCMS select committee will publish its report into cricket’s racism crisis on Friday.
Yorkshire have almost completed a review of their own governance, which was independently commissioned and part of the ECB criteria, and are working hard to gain and regain sponsors, some of whom may wait for the outcome of the ECB investigation.
Patel said that “literally hundreds” of organisations and individuals want to help and engage with the club, and that Yorkshire are determined to make headlines once again for “all the right reasons”.