Yorkshire chair Lord Patel says cricket hierarchy failed to support anti-racism endeavours

The Headingley chief believes there remain "some people who completely deny anything is wrong" and calls for an independent regulator


Lord Patel, the Yorkshire chair, has accused the English cricket hierarchy of failing to support him sufficiently amid the fall-out from the racism scandal which engulfed the club.

Patel's appointment as chair at Headingley was formally approved in March 2022, amid a shake-up behind the scenes following the experiences of racist bullying and discrimination documented by Azeem Rafiq.

The England and Wales Cricket Board published its own Equity, Diversity and Inclusion report and the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket is due to unveil its findings in early 2023.

"Every time there is an issue, every time people needed to stand up and support you, they didn't and that was sad because I was part of the ECB for five-and-a-half years," he told the DCMS committee during an update on the racism in cricket investigation.

"If I was attacked in the press or if cricket leaders or previous cricket leaders made unsubstantiated statements nothing was done. It was very distressing. I'm looking forward to the new leadership. I am hopeful for Richard Thompson, the few meetings I've had with him seem positive. If feels like it is going forward. Up until the past 12 months, the answer has to be no.


Azeem Rafiq provided evidence to the DCMS committee 13 months year ago (Shane Anthony Sinclair/Getty Images)

"People do not understand this. I don't think the ECB have got it. They're reacting to the headlines. It is not the wholesale systematic approach to say we've got to have root and branch review. We've got to look at the culture of cricket and get under the skin and have a really good look at this."

Patel was appearing at the session via video link, alongside The Cricketer's George Dobell who provided in-person evidence

An independent regulator was the main recommendation from the fan-led review of professional football led by Tracey Crouch MP. Patel feels a similar structure would benefit cricket.

"In an ideal world an independent regulator would be excellent," he added. "If I am realistic, the time it would take to put in a primary regulator, to set up a system, we'd end up navel gazing for years to come about an independent regulator. 

"But should the CDC and the EB change, absolutely. Having gone through this process the regulatory approach that the ECB take with the CDC is completely flawed."


Yorkshire County Cricket Club (OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

Patel, a member of the House of Lords who has worked in physical and mental health, also took aim at the Yorkshire Post for their coverage during the scandal. Included in his evidence was a letter he had received that included racist language, which were sometimes triggered by specific articles.

"We're working extremely hard," he added. "We're going somewhere and then you get, almost daily at times, an article that saps everyone's morale and every time an article appears it triggers something.

"Every time the Yorkshire Post did an article, either social media would happen or letters like this would happen. 

"Counter that with the thousands of Yorkshire people who support you but it does impact you personally, your family and impacts on the people who work with me."

Following the removal of the Graves Trust powers at the club's AGM in March, the former president Colin Graves attempted to rejoin the board. It came after a public campaign which almost derailed reforms which were required of Yorkshire to return international cricket to Headingley.

"I think it going to be a really long journey because hope doesn't carry it all the time and some tough decisions have to be made"

"We had a problem because I was clearly told Colin could not be associated with the governance of this club by the ECB," explained Patel. "Colin heard different, applied to be a member of the board and was unsuccessful. 

"A number of people, Robin Smith, Tony Vann, Martin Butterworld and others have took it upon themselves to wage a campaign of whether it is PR or perceived roadblocks that have been an incalculable cost."

Next year is expected to be similarly challenging for English cricket. The disciplinary process relating to charges of racism at Yorkshire are imminent, with the ICEC report - which has had thousands of respondents - also due.

"There are some people who completely deny anything is wrong, that racism or discrimination exists," Patel admitted. "Yorkshire has just begun a long journey - a lot of people are going to have to get off the bus on the way. there is no question about it. The way things need to change.


Patel is confident of swift action under Richard Thompson (Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

"I am hopeful that (ICEC) report will identify some solutions, I am hopeful that report will tell us how to do systematic change across the piece. I am hopeful Yorkshire can be a bit of a template of how to do it. 

"And I am hopeful the ECB's new leaders who have said what they want to do and have a new direction of travel. I think it going to be a really long journey because hope doesn't carry it all the time and some tough decisions have to be made."

An ECB statement, in response to the evidence, read: "We welcome the change that Lord Patel is leading at Yorkshire CCC and support his vision of making the club one that everyone in the county can be proud of.

"We are appalled at the level of racist abuse he has also received and recognise the pain this has caused him."

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