David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo
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Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale is braced for a further ban as the ECB looks for a face-saving exit route from its investigations into alleged racial abuse.
The ECB is expected to retreat from the suggestion that Gale's abuse of Ashwell Prince during a heated end to the Roses match at Old Trafford had a racial element. But the governing body is poised to justify its own investigation into the affair by extending the two-match ban that Gale served at the end of the season as Yorkshire won their first Championship for 13 years.
Clearing Gale of any charges of racial abuse is regarded as essential by Yorkshire as they seek to protect the reputation of a captain who, as the Champions Dinner at Elland Road in Leeds again testified on Thursday night, is held in high regard by players and administrators alike.
Colin Graves, Yorkshire's chairman, told a 700-strong audience that he would like to see Gale lead Yorkshire for many years to come.
Even though Yorkshire would regard an extension of Gale's two-match ban as unnecessarily severe, their priority in legal discussions with the ECB has been for any suggestion of racism to be dropped and a guilty plea could be lodged - with expectation of a further penalty - if they can rid Gale of an allegation that would besmirch his reputation for life.
A guilty plea by Gale, with such a concession by the ECB, adorned by rhetoric about upholding behavioural standards in the game, would be likely to bring a ban of up to two more matches. The first match would be the season's opener between the MCC and Champion County in Abu Dhabi, but if Gale is banned for two more games, he would miss the opening Championship match at a time when Yorkshire's resources could be stretched because of England's Test tour of the West Indies.
Gale was reported by the umpires Steve Garrett and Steve O'Shaughnessy for a Level 2 offence - essentially using language or a gesture of an offensive nature - and received an automatic suspension for two matches once previous incidents were taken into account.
The ECB guidelines for Level 3 offences refer to "using language or gesture that offends, insults, humiliates, intimidates, threatens, disparages or vilifies another person on the basis of that person's race, religion or belief, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin, age, disability, gender, sexual orientation or background."
The incident, towards stumps on the third day, came when Gale became infuriated by what Price has since admitted was deliberate time-wasting. Prince is alleged to have told Gale to "f*** off to your fielding position", causing Gale to respond by telling Prince to "f*** off back to your own country, you Kolpak f******".
The legal argument has centred on whether the term "Kolpak" has racial overtones, or even refers specifically to any particular race or country, or whether it is simply a generic term for a foreign player who qualifies to play professional cricket in England under the EU trading agreement that is popularly known as the Kolpak rule.
Both Prince and his batting partner at the time, Usman Khawaja, have been at pains to distance themselves from the ECB's investigation.
Yorkshire's anger with the ECB will remain long after the affair ends - with the only debate in the Broad Acres being whether it is Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, Alan Fordham, head of first-class cricket operations, or Gerard Elias QC, who chairs the cricket disciplinary panel, who should bear the brunt of their scorn.