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Yorkshire's attempts to secure the return of international cricket this summer have suffered a setback 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 Lord Kamlesh Patel to lead the board last year was "invalid".
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.
Smith, who had two spells as Yorkshire chairman between 2002-05 and 2018-20, raised the issue with Yorkshire, who belatedly contacted the FCA this week. Until that point, the club should not have been able to appoint "a non-member or a member with less than two years' membership like Patel," according to Smith.
Smith had previously written to Yorkshire claiming that Patel could not table proposals without being formally elected by members.
"Lord Kamlesh Patel was appointed by the rump of the old board," Smith told the Post. "He had not been a member for two years and therefore his appointment is invalid.
"As he was not validly appointed, he could be personally liable for the decisions he has made. Why should the club or its members pay for decisions taken by someone who shouldn't even be in office?"
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.
"The decision to cancel the EGM scheduled for February 2 was based on specialist legal advice, after it had come to the club's attention in recent days that the meeting had not been properly called under club rules," the statement said.
"Specifically, this was a legacy issue as the previous leadership of the club had failed to ensure registration of the amended club rules with the financial conduct authority. The relevant amendments to the club rules had been approved overwhelmingly by members at the March 2020 and March 2021 annual general meetings.
"Owing to this failure to register the changes, the club now understands that the notice of the 2021 meeting and this EGM should properly have been given to members by post only, rather than by post and electronic means including the YCCC website (as members had approved by passing the resolution at the 2020 meeting).
"Accordingly the notices of the meetings at the time they were called - before the registration of the changes with the FCA - were invalid until the FCA registration was completed.
"Following discovery of this oversight, YCCC has now rectified the position: the rule changes in 2020 and 2021 have been filed with the FCA as required, and they are available for public inspection."