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Yorkshire appoint Lord Patel as new chairman amid racism scandal

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Lord Kamlesh Patel was appointed as Yorkshire’s new chairman on Friday as the racism scandal that has engulfed the country cricket club continues.

Patel’s predecessor, Roger Hutton, resigned on Friday morning in the wake of an exodus of major sponsors and widespread political pressure after the club deemed that no disciplinary action was required, despite a report finding that Azeem Rafiq had been the victim of racial harassment and bullying.

Hanif Malik and Stephen Willis also stepped down from the board after an emergency meeting, with Neil Hartley to follow after a transition period. Former England captain Michael Vaughan was also further implicated in the scandal.

Vaughan, who represented Yorkshire from 1993–2009, revealed he was named in the report in a column in The Daily Telegraph but categorically denied telling a group of Asian players, including Rafiq: “Too many of you lot, we need to do something about it.”

But on Friday morning, a second player, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, subsequently told ESPN that he was standing next to Vaughan when he allegedly made the racist comment at Trent Bridge in 2009. The former Pakistan all-rounder said he was willing to give evidence to an enquiry and claimed that racist comments were a regular occurrence at the club.

A BBC spokesperson confirmed that the broadcaster is discussing the allegations with Vaughan and would issue a statement in due course. Vaughan first joined the Test Match Special team in 2009 after retiring as a player.

Hutton and Rafiq will both speak at a Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee hearing on 16 November.

Hutton, who joined the board in 2020 – almost two years after Rafiq left Headingley – said there had been “a constant unwillingness from the executive members of the board and senior management at the club to apologise”.

“I would like to take this opportunity to apologise unreservedly to Azeem,” he said in a statement. “I am sorry that we could not persuade executive members of the board to recognise the gravity of the situation and show care and contrition.”

Hutton was also critical of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), claiming he had “immediately reached out” to the sport’s governing body after becoming aware of Rafiq’s allegations but that the ECB had been “reluctant to act” and “declined to help”.

On Thursday, the ECB said that Yorkshire’s response to the allegations had been “wholly unacceptable and is causing serious damage to the reputation of the game”, and stripped the club of their right to host international fixtures.

Headingley had been due to stage a Test against New Zealand and a one-day international versus South Africa next summer, as well as an Ashes encounter in 2023, but have had their hosting status suspended until they can “meet the standards expected of an international venue, ECB member and first-class county”.

In response to Hutton’s resignation, a further statement read: “Yorkshire CCC did reach out to us at the beginning of the investigation with a request that we partner with them on exploring Azeem’s allegations of racism and bullying against the club.

“Our role is to operate as a regulator across the entire game. We must act independently of any club investigations, should we ever be required to intervene as regulator - either during or after. The reason why our governance is structured in this manner, is perfectly demonstrated in the way that these issues have played-out at Yorkshire County Cricket Club.”

Yorkshire were met with fierce criticism last week after concluding there had been “no conduct or action taken by any of its employees, players or executives that warrants disciplinary action”.

Details of the club’s report into the allegations were subsequently leaked, containing graphic details of the abuse directed towards Rafiq, including the repeated use of the word “P***” by a senior player still at the club, later revealed to be Gary Ballance.

In a lengthy statement, Ballance said he “deeply regrets some of the language I used in my younger years” but added that “at no time did I believe or understand that it had caused Rafa distress” and said he didn’t recall reducing Rafiq to tears.

Upon being appointed the club’s new chairman, Lord Patel, who has been a senior independent director of the ECB since 2016, said he was “looking forward to driving the change that is needed” at Yorkshire.

“The club needs to learn from its past errors, regain trust and rebuild relationships with our communities,” Patel said. “There is much work to do, including reading the panel’s report, so we can begin the process of learning from our past mistakes.

“Yorkshire is lucky to have a vast talent pool of cricketers, and passionate supporters, from all of our communities and we must re-engage with everyone to make a better Yorkshire County Cricket Club for everyone.”

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