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ECB influence in spotlight at Yorkshire, as timing of data deletion comes under scrutiny

Focus on Lord Patel's role as chairman, as CDC hearing enters concluding week

Michael Vaughan arrives at the International Arbitration Centre in London, Yorkshire CDC hearings, March 2, 2023

Michael Vaughan arrives at the International Arbitration Centre in London  •  Justin Tallis/AFP

A new dossier of evidence has come to light that is expected to cast doubt on the validity of Yorkshire's guilty plea at the ongoing racism hearings, amid claims that Lord Patel - the outgoing chair - was unduly influenced by the ECB during his time in the role.
Following negotiations with the ECB, Yorkshire pleaded guilty to four amended charges, as opposed to the original six levelled against them, and as a consequence, chose not to be represented at this month's hearings at the International Arbitration Centre in London.
One of those four charges related to the "the deletion and destruction of documents" pertaining to Azeem Rafiq's claims of institutional racism at the club, with Yorkshire's original statement on the matter claiming that this act had occurred in a "time period prior to the appointment of Lord Patel".
According to the Daily Mail, however, evidence has emerged which casts doubt on this claim, with senior officials at the club insisting that the documents in question were still in Yorkshire's possession in March 2022, more than four months after Lord Patel had taken over as chair.
In response to the claims, Yorkshire issued a fresh statement on Sunday evening, in which it did not deny that the data deletion had taken place, but stopped short of specifying when.
"Subsequent to the appointment of Lord Patel on November 5, 2021, it is understood that certain documents and emails created prior to his appointment - and relating to the allegations of racism and the club's response to those allegations - were unable to be located," the statement read.
"We engaged independent specialists to investigate and we are informed that their conclusion was that emails and documents, held electronically by the club and in paper copy, had been irretrievably deleted from both servers and laptops and otherwise destroyed."
The hearing, which is due to be concluded this week, resumes in a private session on Monday prior to the closing speeches from the lawyers, including those acting for Michael Vaughan, who is the only person facing charges who has chosen to defend himself.
On Friday, Lord Patel's relationship with the ECB came under scrutiny from Christopher Stoner KC, Vaughan's lawyer, particularly in light of a recent interview with the Eastern Eye, in which Patel claimed his decision to dismiss 16 members of Yorkshire's back-room staff in December 2021 had come after "the ECB urged him to get rid of people", but that "when the going got tough the ECB didn't back him".
Meena Botros, the ECB's director of legal and integrity, denied any knowledge of the ECB "urging Mr Patel to take action and sack those individuals", but was pressed on the board's ability, as the sport's regulator, to remain independent of the actions taken by its member counties.
"That's just not what happened, is it?" Stoner asked. "It is what happened," Botros replied.
The issue of the data deletion has not yet been raised in the proceedings. However Vaughan, who appeared as a witness on Friday, told the hearing: "Whatever happens, this has a terrible look on the game."
He continues to deny Rafiq's claim that he told a group of four Asian players, "there's too many of you lot", ahead of a Yorkshire fixture in 2009.
"The comment I have been alleged to have said is a comment where a team-mate would not be able to perform to their maximum, and that's not what I'm about," Vaughan said.