Yorkshire CCC racism scandal: Members numb as they take one hit after another

A FELLOW cricket writer rang the other day to check if I was OK.

Tough task: Lord Kamlesh Patel, the new Yorkshire County Cricket Club chairman, faces a huge challenge to save the reputation of the county (Picture: Simon Hulme)
Tough task: Lord Kamlesh Patel, the new Yorkshire County Cricket Club chairman, faces a huge challenge to save the reputation of the county (Picture: Simon Hulme)

He’d noticed that there was a bit going on at Yorkshire CCC – you can say that again – and kindly wondered how I was bearing up.

I thanked him for his concern and told him that I felt numbed and shocked by it all.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

I’m sure that many of you reading feel exactly the same.

Mark Arthur resigned as chief executive of Yorkshire CCC on Thursday (Picture: SWPix.com)

Now I may have bored you with this before, but I’m not a Yorkshireman myself – I was brought up in Lincolnshire, county of your great Lord Hawke.

But as another Lord – the new Yorkshire chairman Lord Patel – grapples with the greatest crisis that has ever visited a county cricket club, let alone one that has always done crises and controversy for a pastime, you must be wondering what on earth has happened to your club, one left utterly decimated by recent events.

It is worth a quick recap.

In just a few days, Yorkshire have lost their chairman, their chief executive, and two non-executive board members to resignation.

News channeles cut away from Barack Obama at Cop26 to boardcast the press conference with Lord Kamlesh Patel, the new Yorkshire County Cricket Club chairman (Picture: Simon Hulme)

They have lost their director of cricket to a stress-related illness and their first-team coach to suspension pending an investigation into an historic tweet.

They have lost pretty much all of their sponsors and partners. They have been suspended from hosting international cricket and major matches.

They have reportedly settled to the tune of £200,000 with Azeem Rafiq, the man at the centre of the racism storm, and they also reportedly face a seven-figure bill for eventual pay-outs to departed staff.

Other staff fear for their futures. There have been death threats flying around. The club has been crucified in the media and heaven only knows what the financial hit will be in the end.

In addition, Yorkshire have been summoned to a parliamentary select committee hearing on Tuesday to explain their conduct into Rafiq’s allegations of racism and bullying, and whether that will now be an emollient affair in terms of the club’s approach remains to be seen, given that Patel has already unreservedly apologised to the former player.

Other historic allegations have since emerged and the club’s reputation is in shreds – not least because of its truly appalling handling of the crisis, a masterclass in how not to be open, transparent and on the front foot that will go down as a lesson in all settings.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of this whole sorry business, this has been a truly disastrous, cataclysmic period.

The speed with which the whole thing has caught light, like wildfire spreading across woodland or brush, has been astonishing to witness, with the raging inferno still out of control.

Yes, it has been numbing and shocking alright, and I know that Yorkshire’s members and supporters will not quite believe it.

How has it come to this? Why didn’t the club handle things better? Surely this crisis could have somehow been avoided? All of those thoughts will be running through your mind.

It’s at times like this – and again without making any judgement or comment on the crisis – that you realise how much you care.

I may not be a Yorkshireman (we all have our cross to bear), but I’ve been proud and privileged to cover the club for the past 17 years, and I know many of its staff, members and supporters very well.

There are some mighty fine people among that lot – people I admire and respect greatly. And in acknowledging Patel’s sincere call for change and positive evolution, we must also acknowledge the prevailing pain now felt across the board.

Yorkshire is still the greatest cricketing county in England. It is synonymous with the sport. The love for cricket in this neck of the woods is second to none. The folk who flock to Headingley and to Scarborough each summer are among the most knowledgeable cricket watchers one will ever meet. They are cricket people at core; the game is in their blood.

Interest in Yorkshire cricket remains skyscraper-high. When Patel sat down to give his first press conference at Headingley on Monday, news channels cut away from Barack Obama speaking at Cop26 to Lord Patel speaking in LS6.

“Why wouldn’t they do that?” some Yorkshire folk might wonder, tongue wedged in cheek. “Is there anything more important than Yorkshire cricket?” But you take the point.

Cricket needs Yorkshire. The old phrase that a strong Yorkshire is a strong England could just as easily be adapted to a strong Yorkshire is a strong cricket per se.

The shadow that hangs over the club – the club of George Hirst and Wilfred Rhodes, Hedley Verity and Bill Bowes, Fred Trueman and Brian Close (other legends are available) – is affecting everyone right now.

So if you’re not feeling particularly OK yourself at the moment, don’t worry.

For you are not alone in your shock and your suffering.