Photo 236382828 | Yorkshire Cricket © James Copeland | Dreamstime.com

On 5th November 2021 Lord Kamlesh Patel was appointed Chair of Yorkshire CCC following the resignation of former Chair Roger Hutton. Within days he would set in progress irrevocable actions that would define the future of Yorkshire CCC and affect the lives of all its’ employees.

Hutton had resigned following the club’s botched handling of Azeem Rafiq’s allegations of racial discrimination during his playing career. Before he quit, Hutton had accepted the club’s responsibility for Rafiq’s perceived treatment, something which many of the playing and coaching staff were shocked at and wholeheartedly disagreed with.

Hutton had also chosen not to publish the Squire Patton Boggs report which the club had commissioned to look into Rafiq’s allegations. Instead, a short summary was released which emphasised the 7 of Rafiq’s 43 claims that were upheld by the report. This led to a completely one sided narrative where everyone who worked for the club was labelled a potential racist while the evidence that could cast doubt on many of Rafiq’s accusations was kept under wraps.

However, if the staff of Yorkshire CCC thought things were bad now, then they were about to get a whole lot worse.
Lord Kamlesh Patel’s first act was to unequivocally accept that Azeem Rafiq was the victim of racism and this his version of events was the correct one. He did this with no time to properly scrutinise or examine his claims and with virtually no communication with the staff accused. Instead, Patel met with Rafiq and agreed a unilateral settlement of £200,000 for the former spinner two days after taking charge at Yorkshire. There were no strict conditions on this payment, no requirement for Rafiq to sign an NDA or undertakings about his future relationship with the club. By taking this action, Patel confirmed Yorkshire’s guilt and, by association, the guilt of everyone Azeem Rafiq had accused, regardless of the evidence. It is alleged that the club also agreed to pay Rafiq’s legal costs estimated at an additional £150,000.

A public apology to the former spinner from Patel and a statement praising him as a “whistleblower” followed the following day, again without any time for the incoming Chair to scrutinise the evidence.

Rafiq and Patel’s previous relationship is a subject of debate. Both men claimed to have never met each other before the latter’s appointment as Yorkshire Chair but they appeared together on a Sky Sports cricket programme as early as 2018 so this is clearly untrue. Why they would both feel the need to lie about knowing each other is an interesting question.

Worse was to follow though. By now the fate of the Yorkshire 16, the employees of the club who signed a letter questioning the club’s response to Rafiq’s claims, is common knowledge. Their sacking by Patel and their subsequent fight for justice will be the subject of a following piece in this series. What is worth noting here is that Patel sacked these 16 staff summarily, with no disciplinary procedures or due process. Among the dismissed were employees who had not even been at the club when Azeem Rafiq played there. No matter, according to Patel a clean slate was needed and the human cost to achieving that was irrelevant. The irony of Headingly’s first sponsor of the Patel era being a company called Clean Slate is beyond parody.

Almost all of the sacked staff have since received settlements from the club with unfair dismissal being admitted by Yorkshire CCC in several cases including that of former Head Coach Andrew Gale. A public apology from the club was issued to former physio Wayne Morton when he settled his case earlier this year. Quite why Patel would feel that illegally dismissing the club’s staff on mass was a way to build bridges and usher Yorkshire CCC into a new era is beyond imagination. It evidently pleased the most vocal of Rafiq’s cheerleaders, including George Dobell who said on The Last Word Cricket Podcast, “I would re-hire them all tomorrow just so I could sack them again”.

A narrative has subsequently been pushed from Patel’s supporters that his actions were necessary to save the club from bankruptcy. The argument goes that due to Yorkshire shedding sponsors and being stripped of international matches by the ECB as a result of the scandal that such a drastic action was the only way to ensure the club’s survival. This argument holds no water. The ECB wanted to see that Yorkshire CCC were taking the racism allegations seriously and not merely brushing them under the carpet. Instituting a transparent investigative and disciplinary process would have ensured this far more than arbitrarily and illegally sacking staff without any recourse for them to defend themselves. The pay outs to the Yorkshire 16 have been estimated to total over £3.5 million, pushing the club further to the edge of financial oblivion.

A Yorkshire employee, speaking to The Bouncer on the condition of anonymity, has detailed allegations of staggering largesse by the club from 2021-2023. These include over £1 million allegedly paid to a London law firm for its’ services, £150,000 of payments to a PR firm, £75,000 for a “Listening exercise” conducted by another law firm and £80,000 for a “Governance review” that, according to the source, achieved little apart from dividing the HR handbook into separate Word documents. All while the club’s finances were so bleak that its’ very survival was in the balance.

Yorkshire’s 2023 accounts reveal a financial shortfall of £7,050,776, hardly surprising if all of these allegations are true.

Arguably, the most concerning aspect of all this, however, involves the amount of money paid by the club to Lord Patel during his tenure. Until May 2022 the constitution of Yorkshire CCC forbade any Chairman or club director from taking a salary for their work. Indeed, no Chair in the 159 year history of the club had ever taken a salary. Despite this, Lord Patel was allowed to draw a sizeable salary from Yorkshire CCC, under what the club describe in its’ 2022 accounts as a “Service agreement” despite the club battling to avoid financial oblivion at the time.
An examination of Yorkshire CCC’s accounts for the years 2022 and 2023 reveal some shocking figures. In the year ending 31st December 2022 10 club directors are listed. Under the column marked “renumeration” there is a blank space next to 9 of the names. Lord Patel, however, is listed as receiving £104,167, the only club director to receive a single penny other than expenses.
In the year ending 2021 he received a further £38,141 despite having only been employed by the club in November of that year, meaning he was paid this amount for less than two months work.  That is a total of £142,308 from a virtually bankrupt club for a role that was not supposed to involve payment.

The Bouncer has seen minutes and letters from senior figures at the club detailing confidential meetings at Yorkshire CCC including a rushed EGM in March 2022 that suggest that, in appointing Lord Patel and several other board members the club may have been in breach of its own rules as a co-operative society. Yorkshire CCC’s previous rules stated that anyone being appointed to the board must have been a club member for at least two years, something which it is believed that neither Lord Patel nor the other new board members had been. The club realised it’s mistake and hastily re-arranged an EGM scheduled for February 2022 to give them time to regroup and correct their error. Changes to allow non members to be appointed to the board were only approved at the EGM on 31st March 2022, meaning that Lord Patel’s appointment in November 2021 may have been considered legally invalid. Given that he sacked 16 of the club’s staff and approved the £200,000 plus pay out to Rafiq during this time, the club was on very shaky legal ground. Indeed, it is extraordinary that this has not been further investigated since.

The club’s way around this legal debacle was to pressurise members to vote to ratify Patel’s appointment and retrospectively approve the actions he had already taken the EGM.

They were aided in this by Julian Knight MP, who had chaired the first DCMS hearing where Rafiq detailed his claims, and the ECB who had taken international fixtures away from Headingly. Members were made to feel that the only way to keep their club in business was to approve Patel and his decisions. The fact that the members of a co-operative society felt they were pressured by the sport’s governing body and the government into approving unconstitutional appointments to their club, ones that had left Yorkshire CCC at risk of breaching their obligations to the Financial Conduct Authority, is a situation that has not been looked into enough. Unsurprisingly the changes to the constitution, and Patel’s appointment, were voted through.

The gravy train continued unabated in the years that followed. Darren Gough was appointed Director of Cricket in December 2021 despite having no previous experience in the role and was reportedly the highest paid DOC in the game on a staggering salary of £250,000 a year, over double what Martin Moxon had been paid for the same job. Upon leaving his post in April of this year following the return of Colin Graves as Chair, Gough was given a £300,000 compensation package.

In the meantime, many of the Yorkshire 16 have been crippled by legal fees and lost earnings as employment offers have been withdrawn and coaching contracts cancelled in the wake of the scandal. John Blain has set up a Go Fund Me page to pay his legal costs as he continues to fight to clear his name. Patel and Rafiq appear to have no such worries. Follow the money and you will find the truth, as the saying goes. In this case the financial trail throws up some serious questions for the people who were tasked with preserving Yorkshire CCC and ensuring its survival.  

3 thoughts on “The Yorkshire Files Part 2 – Lord Patel and a club on the brink

  • I am not a member of Yorkshire CCC but I am an ardent fan of the game and I am dismayed at the doubtful way in which this sordid affair has been conducted. It would seem that a thorough investigation is due, not only to clear the names of those falsely accused of racism but to find out where all the money has gone and whether it was distributed legally and to the right people. Cricket cannot afford to have one of its senior clubs denigrated in this manner and without due cause.

    • I was at that meeting and flew in specifically from Ireland for it. Basically we were told accept Patel version of events or the ECB and government led by Julian Knight would for close. Subsequently the ECB protested long and loud that at no stage did the ECB tell Patel to sack 16:staff . It should also be noted according to Patel Wayne Morton had a public affair with a high profile female staff member. It was a smear campaign on behalf of Rafiq to discredit all staff.

  • I really wish the hr manager could speak openly about the threats and the horror of what really happened as a result of the ‘lies’ that were told.

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