Following a mass exodus of sponsors and partners, and an unprecedented suspension from international cricket, which could potentially cost Yorkshire millions, Patel, 61 – officially Baron Patel of Bradford – admitted that the club has its work cut out as it seeks to implement “the change that is needed”. After Roger Hutton resigned as chairman on a dramatic day at Headingley, with non-executive directors Hanif Malik and Stephen Willis also standing down, and with vice-chairman Neil Hartley, the former Yorkshire player, to follow suit “in the near future” after helping “to ensure a smooth transition to new leadership”, Patel spelled out the challenges ahead.
“The club needs to learn from its past errors, regain trust and rebuild relationships with our communities,” he said.
“There is much work to do, including reading the panel’s report (into Rafiq’s allegations of racism), so we can begin the process of learning from our past mistakes.
“Yorkshire is lucky to have a vast talent pool of cricketers and passionate supporters from all of our communities and we must re-engage with everyone to make a better Yorkshire County Cricket Club for everyone.
“I’m looking forward to taking this club forward and driving the change that is needed.”
Hutton’s position had become untenable owing to the disastrous handling of the investigation into former player Rafiq’s claims of racism at the club, which related to his time there between 2002 to 2014 and then from 2016 to 2018.
Not only had Hutton seemed to compromise the investigation from the start by appointing a law firm for which he had previously worked to run it, but the ongoing delays since the process began in September last year, the lack of updates and information, created a growing swell of public discord and the impression that Yorkshire had something to hide.
However, in his resignation statement, Hutton blamed others for causing the debacle.
“There has been a constant unwillingness from the executive members of the board and senior management at the club to apologise and to accept racism and to look forward,” he said.
“During my time as chairman I take responsibility for failing to persuade them to take appropriate and timely action.
“This frustration has been shared by all of the non-executive members of the board, some of whom have now also resigned,” he added.
Mark Arthur, the chief executive, and Martyn Moxon, the director of cricket, remain in position as executive board members, with other sources having told The Yorkshire Post that they – rather than Hutton – wanted transparency.
As previously reported, Colin Graves, the former Yorkshire supremo and ex-England and Wales Cricket Board chairman, is understood to have indicated a willingness to return as chairman if needed. It remains possible that Graves could come back in some other capacity as matters develop.
Seven of Rafiq’s 43 allegations relating to racism and bullying at Yorkshire were upheld by the independent investigation launched last year, with those claims now also the subject of an ECB investigation along with the scrutiny of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee on November 16.
Hutton, who will attend that hearing along with Yorkshire officials, also criticised the ECB for its part in the affair – less than 24 hours after the governing body had suspended Yorkshire from hosting international cricket and major matches.
“I was saddened when they declined to help as I felt it was a matter of great importance for the game as a whole,” said Hutton. “It is a matter of record that I have continually expressed my frustration at the ECB’s reluctance to act.”
However, the ECB said that “couldn’t be further from the truth”, insisting that it had to act independently of the investigation as the game’s regulator.