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News

Lord Patel: Black Lives Matter opponents are behind Yorkshire reform delays

Chairman hits out at predecessor following cancellation of EGM to determine Test viability

An aerial view of Headingley, with Yorkshire's former sponsors removed from the ground, November 10, 2021

An aerial view of Headingley, with Yorkshire's former sponsors removed from the ground  •  Getty Images

Lord Kamlesh Patel has accused a group of Yorkshire members of attempting to "delay and derail" Headingley's reinstatement as an international venue, because they believe the club is being "sacrificed on the altar of Black Lives Matter".
Yorkshire's hopes of meeting the ECB's conditions for hosting fixtures against New Zealand and South Africa this summer suffered a setback this week, after the club was forced to delay a proposed Emergency General Meeting (EGM), which had been expected to confirm governance changes in the wake of the Azeem Rafiq racism scandal.
The EGM had been due to take place on Wednesday evening, but was cancelled after Yorkshire admitted it "had not been properly called under club rules". The news was followed by claims from former chairman Robin Smith that the process to appoint Patel as the new chairman last year was "invalid".
In a statement to the PA news agency, Patel said: "It is plain that, when I joined the club in November, it had a wealth of legacy problems inherited from previous leadership, of which former chairman Robin Smith was a part.
"I made a conscious decision that we would focus on a positive future for Yorkshire and remediate the inherited issues. For me and others at the club, this was part of a positive programme for change as there is no benefit to Yorkshire CCC in arguing about the past. That is a block to reform.
"There is emerging, however, a clear agenda to undermine the club, driven by opposition to our progress and a desire to maintain an outdated status quo. It is disheartening and pernicious in equal manner.
"We have become aware of a small group of individuals who have indicated a belief that, by looking to make progress and change for the better, 'the lamb that is Yorkshire Cricket Club is to be sacrificed on the altar of Black Lives Matter'. This is unacceptable in every possible way.
"This group is actively seeking to delay and derail the essential reforms and consequently the return of international cricket by litigating process issues, without presenting any positive alternative."
Patel has been the driving force behind Yorkshire's response to being stripped of the right to host international matches by the ECB, following their mishandling of a report into Rafiq's claims of institutional racism. Patel was brought in as chair in November, shortly after the incumbent, Roger Hutton, resigned.
He said last month the club had made "significant progress" but warned that they could not remain "financially viable" without the restoration of major match status, with Headingley otherwise set to lose out on hosting a Test on New Zealand's tour and an ODI featuring South Africa.
However, the Yorkshire Post reported on Thursday that Yorkshire's failure to register a rule change, which had been voted on at last year's Annual General Meeting, with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), meant that Patel's authority had been called into question.
In a written statement, Smith responded: "Lord Patel's comments seek to damage me for drawing attention to his own failures.
"The members will in due course have an opportunity to pass judgement on Lord Patel's actions since November last year and their enormous financial consequences for the club (currently rumoured to be more than GBP 3million).
"In the meantime he should focus on getting the club's legal position corrected in timely fashion.
"As to the majority of members wanting his reforms, we shall see in due course. The reality, though, is that all Yorkshire members wish to see Test cricket returned to Headingley and have been threatened that that will not happen unless they support the reforms.
"That is no way to ascertain members' true views. Yorkshire members are true lovers of the game and are entitled to more respect than Lord Patel is showing them."
Among Patel's first actions taken as chair was settling an employment tribunal with Rafiq, and overseeing the removal of Martyn Moxon, Yorkshire's long-serving director of cricket, and Andrew Gale, the head coach, as part of a cull of 16 staff members.
Yorkshire had been hoping to push through changes to the structure of their board, which reportedly included the ECB being given a seat on the club's nominations committee, this week - with the outcome expected to influence the possible return of international cricket to Headingley.
Martin Darlow, the ECB's deputy chair, said during an appearance before the Department of Culture, Media and Sport select committee last week that the governing body "will be making a decision and considering their options" following the EGM. Rafiq himself said last month that the "time is right" for Yorkshire to regain its hosting rights.
Yorkshire released a statement saying that it had cancelled the EGM after taking "specialist legal advice", suggesting that the failure to notify the FCA of changes to its rules was "a legacy issue" attributable to the previous leadership. The club also said that it hoped to rearrange the EGM before the end of the month.