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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Explained: Why Lord Kamlesh Patel is so important for cricket in Yorkshire

Within 72 hours of his appointment though, 61-year-old Lord Kamlesh Patel has already started implementing damage-control measures to help keep the Yorkshire County Cricket Club afloat.

Written by Shahid Judge , Edited by Explained Desk |
Updated: November 11, 2021 9:49:50 am
Lord Kamlesh Patel, yorkshire cricket county club, yorkshire racism row, who is lord kamlesh patel, Indian ExpressChairman Lord Kamlesh Patel during a press conference. (Reuters)

Following the resignation of Roger Hutton, the Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC) appointed Lord Kamlesh Patel as its new chairman on November 5. The YCCC has been embroiled in a damaging racism row, as former player Azeem Rafiq’s revelations shed light on an institutional racism problem at the club.

Within 72 hours of his appointment though, 61-year-old Patel has already started implementing damage-control measures to help keep the club afloat. His appointment becomes symbolic also because he is of Asian descent.

Who is Lord Kamlesh Patel?

Born in Kenya, Patel moved with his family to Bradford in West Yorkshire when he was one. He has been a keen social worker and was conferred an Officer for the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1999 because of his activities. A member of the House of Lords in the UK Parliament, Patel became the first British Asian to be appointed to the board of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), and held that position for five years. He was instrumental in the ECB’s South Asian Action Plan, which worked to improve relations with the Asian community in England.

Patel was a keen cricketer in his youth and played for several local clubs, later also serving as a part-time coach at the Yorkshire Cricket Academy.

Patel also mentioned, in a statement on the YCCC website, how he had faced racial abuse while growing up.

“When I was a child, I learnt to be a fast runner. Do you know why? Because some of the local kids liked to engage in ‘P*** bashing.’ You had to run or get beaten. I know that racism is not, and is never, ‘banter.’”

What has been Patel’s stance on Rafiq’s allegations?

Patel said in his statement: “Let me be clear from the outset – racism, or any form of discrimination, is not ‘banter’. It is simply not acceptable. I thank Azeem for his bravery in speaking out. Azeem is a whistleblower and should be praised as such, and he should never have been put through this.”

He took steps to settle an employment tribunal case to clear Rafiq’s dues with a ‘six-figure’ out-of-court settlement, as reported by The Times. The settlement, as Patel announced, “does not involve a non-disclosure agreement. Our offer means Azeem will be free to speak about his experiences publicly. He is free to answer any questions that are put to him when he wants – and that includes the Select Committee hearing on 16 November.”

What else has he done since becoming chairman?

According to his statement, he has worked to set up an “independent whistleblowing hotline” in order for former and/or current players to safely report any incident of racism they may have faced. He’s also commissioned a review of the process by which complaints are received and acted upon. He also worked with the Chief Constable of Yorkshire to ensure the safety of all officials who had received ‘death threats’ once news of Rafiq’s allegations was made public.

Patel has also opened up discussions with the ECB to end Headingley’s suspension from hosting international matches. The stadium had been expected to host a One-Day International and Test next year, as well as hold an Ashes Test in 2023, before the ECB decided to suspend the venue due to the racism row.

Additionally, since an array of key sponsors severed ties with the club, Patel has been looking to rebuild relations and also look for new sponsors to help ease the financial strain the club is under.

Lord Kamlesh Patel, yorkshire cricket county club, yorkshire racism row, who is lord kamlesh patel, Indian Express Azeem Rafiq, a former England Under-19 captain, said in interviews last year that as a Muslim he was made to feel like an “outsider” during his time at Yorkshire from 2008-18 and that he was close to taking his own life (File)

Where do Yorkshire’s finances stand?

The club is expected to suffer heavy losses. A number of key sponsors cut ties with the club, including kit supplier Nike. In addition to the reduced inflow of funds, the club also has to deal with payoffs.

Rafiq has been paid a six-figure sum. There’s also the prospect of two more key figures at the club being asked to leave.

Martyn Moxon, the director of cricket, has been signed off with a stress-related illness, and Mark Arthur, the chief executive, is also expected to be leaving the club shortly. Current head coach Andrew Gale too has been suspended after it emerged that he had made an anti-Semitic post on social media 11 years ago. In all, it’s estimated the club will have to pay around GBP 1 million in payoffs, according to The Times.

What has been the reaction to Patel’s appointment?

In a statement on Twitter, Rafiq penned: “I want to thank Lord Patel for making the offer and sorting this out within 72 hours of his appointment. It should not have taken the rest of the club a year to realise I would not be silenced through an NDA (non-disclosure agreement).”

In a column for The Times, former England captain Michael Atherton wrote: “Open and direct and able to talk uncompromisingly about the difficult issues of race, partly because of his own childhood experiences, Lord Patel will be more than a figurehead and will aim to make Yorkshire, he said, ‘the beating heart of English cricket again.’”

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