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DCMS chair weighs in as Yorkshire crisis deepens with potential resignation of Lord Patel


Committee accused of pressurising ECB into suspending club from Test hosting

Julian Knight MP, the chair of the parliamentary select committee investigating claims of institutional racism in English cricket, has weighed into the feud that threatens Yorkshire’s future as an international venue, by calling on the club’s former chair, Robin Smith, to retract his claims that the committee has brought “unlawful pressure” to bear on the ECB.

Knight, who heads up the Department of Digital, Cultural, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee, has intervened after Yorkshire’s incumbent chair, Lord Kamlesh Patel, warned that he may have no option but to resign following two failed attempts to meet the ECB’s criteria for Headingley’s reinstatement as an international venue this summer.

The club was stripped of its major-match status in November, having lost all of its major sponsors including Emerald, Nike and Yorkshire Tea, following Azeem Rafiq’s emotional testimony to the DCMS committee, in which he laid bare his experiences at Yorkshire and claimed that he had “lost his career to racism”.

With the ECB’s deadline looming at the end of March, Yorkshire have one last opportunity to rubber-stamp the necessary governance reforms, including the removal of the influence of the family trust run by the former chairman, Colin Graves, which bailed out the club to the tune of approximately £15 million in the early 2000s.

However, Smith – whose supporters Patel recently accused of trying to “delay and derail” the process – remains implacably opposed to the proposals, and told the Mail on Sunday that the club’s suspension only came about after the ECB had been pressurised by the DCMS select committee to take firm action.

Furthermore, Patel now fears he may be held personally liable for millions of pounds in compensation, following the controversial removal of 16 members of Yorkshire’s coaching and medical staff last year.

“Without firm formal support from ECB I am left wide open legally to be sued. I cannot carry on in this position,” Patel told Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive, in a letter seen by the Daily Telegraph.

“I have now told YCCC that I will step down working seven days a week and simply do what I can pro bono (as hopefully the team can get on with the work needed). But the issue of Robin and his colleagues still remains and it feels like no one is prepared to tackle him?

“I believe that all his demands will not fulfil ECB conditions? However, if it allows the club to move forward properly I am more than happy to step away.”

Writing on behalf of the DCMS committee, Knight urged Smith to retract his “serious and unfounded accusations”, and called on him to make his own appearance before the committee. To date, the only Yorkshire representative aside from Patel to appear at the parliamentary hearings is Roger Hutton, shortly after his resignation in November.

“I was astounded to read in the Daily Mail [sic] yesterday that you have accused my Committee of putting ‘unlawful pressure’ on the England and Wales Cricket Board to sanction Yorkshire County Cricket Club for failing to address issues of racism at the club,” Knight wrote.

“You were also reported as accusing us of an abuse of power. We considered it unbelievable that Azim [sic] Rafiq should have suffered racist abuse while playing at Yorkshire and were shocked by the reluctance of the club to acknowledge its responsibility in how this happened.

“We now find it inconceivable that anyone should be looking to use technical points of law to challenge efforts to restore the reputation of the club and to risk the financial future of the club while threatening Lord Patel with financial ruin.

“My Committee would like you to explain what you think we have done that was unlawful or an abuse of power. These are serious and unfounded accusations to be made against a Parliamentary Select Committee and we think you should seriously consider publicly retracting them.”

Yorkshire are currently due to hold an Emergency General Meeting on March 31 – the final day before an agreed deadline to secure Headingley’s international fixtures – where the proposed changes to the club’s working will be voted on.

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