Yorkshire CCC in members plea to back ‘chairman’ Lord Kamlesh Patel

YORKSHIRE last night dramatically admitted that Lord Kamlesh Patel’s chairmanship is invalid.

Lord Kamlesh Patel, when he was announced as the new Yorkshire County Cricket Club chairman. Picture: Simon Hulme
Lord Kamlesh Patel, when he was announced as the new Yorkshire County Cricket Club chairman. Picture: Simon Hulme

The club has been forced to concede that Patel has been acting without proper authority since coming to office in early November.

Yorkshire are now appealing to their members to call an emergency general meeting on the club’s behalf – they cannot call it themselves because they do not have a properly appointed board – to release Patel from potential liability for every decision taken since then and also fellow board members Paul Hudson (whose status as acting chief executive is also invalid) and existing directors Neil Hartley and Trevor Strain.

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The news comes hours after Yorkshire’s members were told that they must back Patel’s plans to reform the club or else risk the loss of international cricket, after the England and Wales Cricket Board conditionally lifted the suspension on the club staging international and major matches in the wake of the racism crisis just 99 days after that sanction was imposed.

Former Yorkshire chairman Robin Smith. Picture Tony Johnson

The latest twist to an extraordinary saga comes as a huge embarrassment to a club which has taken significant financial decisions in the past three months.

Patel has settled an employment tribunal claim with former player Azeem Rafiq – the man at the centre of the racism storm – to the reported tune of £200,000.

He has also sacked 14 staff members – some of whom were not even at the club when Rafiq was a player – for signing a letter that was effectively a cry for help to the previous administration over their handling of the racism crisis.

The Yorkshire Post understands that decision – with the club confirming it has settled with previous chief executive Mark Arthur, ex-director of cricket Martyn Moxon and former batting coach Paul Grayson – could cost Yorkshire in the region of £3m.

Former Yorkshire chairman Robin Smith believes that Patel should be liable for the mass sackings (a cull that has gone down badly with many Yorkshire members) as opposed to the club itself, which would otherwise see its debt potentially rise back above £20m. Other decisions not technically ratified are the appointment of former Yorkshire and England fast bowler Darren Gough as managing director of cricket and ex-West Indies’ all-rounder Ottis Gibson as head coach.

Yorkshire made their admissions in a circular to members, seen by The Yorkshire Post, which asked for 400 people to come forward to requisition an EGM on the club’s behalf, with a deadline of next Friday lunchtime.

Members were told it is vital to “end the potential paralysis of the board”, to “confirm the validity of recent club decisions”, to “improve the transparency and oversight of the board through the appointment of a diverse range of independent non-executive board members”, and to “remove barriers to the club’s smooth operation by introducing a three-year default term of appointment and (with the Graves Trusts’ agreement) removing the Trusts’ veto over board 
appointments and rule amendments”.

The latter request, with former Yorkshire supremo Colin Graves’s family trusts owed around £15m of the club’s £18m debt, is one of the key stipulations made by the ECB for the return of international cricket to Headingley.

Yorkshire are scheduled to host a Test match against New Zealand in June and a one-day international against South Africa in July, along with an Ashes Test in 2023.

The invalidity of Patel’s status and that of the Yorkshire board vindicates the concerns of Smith, the former Yorkshire chairman, who had warned that the club was acting without necessary authority following a failure to register key rule changes with the Financial Conduct Authority.

Smith wants members to be given the chance to discuss all key decisions taken by Patel and the board, including each individual sacking, with a two-thirds majority understood to apply.

In a letter sent to Patel yesterday and also to ECB chief executive Tom Harrison, seen by The Yorkshire Post, Smith also calls on Patel to reconsider the “outsiders to members” board ratio that would see up to eight non-members on a 12-strong board.

Smith said that would leave the club “unrecognisable as a Yorkshire institution” and feels Patel’s “apparent preparedness” to push forward unilaterally “amounts to a breach of the trust which all Yorkshire board members inherit”.

Patel had convinced the ECB he was making headway and had found a seemingly friendly ally in Julian Knight MP, chair of the DCMS select committee.

Knight had expressly called on the ECB to state that international cricket could return to Headingley – “on the strict proviso that members back Lord Patel’s changes”.