Yorkshire have been plunged deeper into financial crisis after six members of their sacked coaching team, including the former head coach Andrew Gale, won a preliminary hearing at Leeds Employment Tribunal into a case of wrongful dismissal.
Gale made his legal claim along with the 2nd XI coach Ian Dews, bowling coach Richard Pyrah, head of the academy Richard Damms and strength and conditioning coaches Ian Fisher and Peter Sim.
Gale spent his entire career at Yorkshire, making his playing debut in 2004, skippering the side between 2009-16 and then being propelled into a head coach role upon his retirement. Upon his sacking by Yorkshire, he also failed to win a new contract with the Headingley-based Hundred side Northern Superchargers.
The cases were filed individually, but were heard together as they involved identical circumstances. Gale and his fellow complainants are challenging the reasons given for their sackings - made without severance pay - the strength of any evidence against them and the lack of due process. Fourteen members of the county staff were abruptly sacked, and two agreed settlements, after signing a joint letter in October stating that Rafiq was on a "one-man mission to bring down the club" and questioning the club's confused response.
The affair is far from settled. A full tribunal hearing has now been scheduled in Leeds between October 31 and November 11. But following the conclusion of an employment judge that the case was "well founded", Yorkshire must now consider whether to try to avoid further damaging publicity and seek to settle the compensation figures. Their initial offer of compensation to the six before the judgment was made had been widely dismissed as derisory. Despite the ruling, their largesse cannot be taken for granted.
Indeed, Yorkshire's statement possessed an element of defiance. In that the new guard has something in common with the old. "The club acknowledges the judgment that no disciplinary process was followed, which it has accepted in order to minimise the tribunal time taken up by these cases," it said. "At this preliminary stage, the tribunal has not made any judgment on the reasons for dismissal and the club's firm view is that the dismissals were necessary and justified."
Lord Kamlesh Patel of Bradford, who took over as chairman of the club last November as the racism crisis caused sweeping changes, conceded the extent of Yorkshire's financial predicament in his annual report to members 10 days ago which revealed a £795,000 loss for the year and a provision of £1.9 million for compensation and legal fees associated with the affair.
Debts are in danger of spiralling once more towards £20 million and a financial restructuring is inevitable with the main question being the future involvement of the Graves Trust, which has loaned the club around £15 million on commercial terms. Colin Graves, a former Yorkshire chair, was forced to distance himself from the Trust when he became chair of the ECB, and is regularly heard emphatically refuting the suggestion that they give him an underhand influence on the club's affairs.
Yorkshire's pay-off to their former CEO Mark Arthur and director of cricket, Martyn Moxon, is already thought to have exceeded £600,000. The £1.9 million provision also includes a settlement with Rafiq of £200,000 and the payment of his legal fees.
Lord Patel wrote: "We have been rocked to our foundations. We have incurred £1.9 million of exceptional item expenditure during the year. These relate to various costs associated with the racism allegations against the club… This has a significant impact on the club's financial position and it will be necessary to complete a refinancing exercise over the coming months."
Further changes are underway. Paul Hudson, Yorkshire's finance director, is preparing to step down, with the COO Andrew Dawson stepping in until a permanent CEO is recruited. The post has been unfilled since Yorkshire paid off Arthur shortly before Christmas with Lord Patel fulfilling many of the functions, even though he has been a low-key public figure at Headingley during the season. A new coaching team, led by the director of cricket Darren Gough and head coach Ottis Gibson, has kept morale and ambition high in testing circumstances, although it would be a surprise if there was not some fallout with one or two departures as playing contracts end.
Yorkshire introduced reforms in March, emphatically accepted by the members, which led to the ECB lifting their suspension on the staging of international matches at Headingley. They host the third Test against New Zealand between June 23-27 and will be desperate for it to be a financial success. Their crowds for the Blast, however, have been disappointing as they have been forced to contend with six home fixtures in the first seven in the space of a fortnight.
Rafiq said the "institutional racism" he encountered while at Yorkshire left him close to taking his own life. Yorkshire's investigation took a year to complete and was marred by deep internal divisions. An independent enquiry concluded that Rafiq was the "victim of racial harassment and bullying", but upheld only seven of his 43 allegations. The report has never been made public for legal reasons.
An ECB inquiry into Yorkshire's mishandling of Rafiq's whistle-blowing on racism is also dragging on, with high-profile lawyers involved. Yorkshire anticipate disrepute charges and financial penalties with the added possibility that the club could still be docked points even though the season is two months underway.