Lord Patel recognises pressures on Yorkshire but hopes team can focus on cricket

Lord Kamlesh Patel

Yorkshire chair Lord Patel recognises the lingering external pressures on the club over their much-publicised cultural shift but he hopes the playing group can now focus on the season ahead.

Patel has overseen sweeping reforms after being parachuted into his role amid one of the most turbulent spells in Yorkshire’s history following Azeem Rafiq’s damning claims of racial harassment and bullying.

But several institutions are monitoring the situation closely, from the England and Wales Cricket Board to a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Yorkshire were plunged into turmoil amid Azeem Rafiq's account of racial harassment and bullying (House of Commons/PA)
Yorkshire were plunged into turmoil amid Azeem Rafiq’s account of racial harassment and bullying (House of Commons/PA)

And speaking to promote a venture with the aptly-named Clean Slate Studioz – an India-based global streaming platform which has a “mission for equality” – Patel knows the club are not out the woods yet.

He told the PA news agency: “We keep looking back because it informs us looking forward. But this is certainly not an overnight case. We’ve still got a lot of pressures, rightly so.

“Everybody talks about the ECB and the DCMS but what people tend to forget is had the Equality and Human Rights Commission investigated us, we would have been in the wilderness for at least a couple of years, because it’s a damning thing for a regulator who felt unlawful discrimination had taken place.

“That keeps us on our toes, it makes us do what we want but it’s going to take time, there’s no question about it.

“I just hope that we can be a beacon for others, we can be a blueprint and we’ll make some mistakes along the way but having partners like Clean Slate will challenge us.”

Yorkshire start their season this week (Danny Lawson/PA)
Yorkshire start their season this week (Danny Lawson/PA)

Several sponsors cut ties with Yorkshire and they were temporarily stripped of staging England games at Headingley, which has since been restored, after their initial handling of Rafiq’s allegations.

But while the club – as well as some current and former employees – could still face punishment from the ECB, Patel hopes the players can now concentrate on what happens on the field, starting with their LV= Insurance County Championship opener against Gloucestershire at Bristol on Thursday.

Patel said: “If I was a player with all that had happened with the media and political attention, losing international status, your career’s on the line and then in comes this ‘Lord so and so’ and we make some big, drastic changes, I’d have been nervous and worried.

“Now we’re moving forward. Hopefully the players are going in now, keen and excited and thinking ‘we’re safe’.

“Inevitably, there’s likely to be sanctions for individuals, as well as Yorkshire. I’m trying to get everybody to put it to the backs of their minds and get on with the game. If it happens, it will.”

Yorkshire last week announced a partnership with Clean Slate Studioz (Clean Slate handout/PA)

Yorkshire have partnered with Lahore Qalandars in Pakistan and Multiply Titans in South Africa, as they attempt to explore ways to improve the representation of culturally diverse communities in the game.

A principal partnership with Clean Slate, which describes itself as a “female-forward, female-first” platform, is the first time an Indian business has gained major naming rights at a UK sporting venue.

Clean Slate co-founder Amreesh Chandra told PA: “One very important aspect is we could see a club being changed and reforming itself into an institution of cultural change.”

The deal does not include the renaming of the entire stadium but Yorkshire’s main pavilion will now be referred to as the Clean Slate Pavilion while the company will appear on the playing kits of the women’s Northern Diamonds team.

Patel added: “I’m very conscious of the branding called Clean Slate: it was almost a tongue-in-cheek for some people but it feels like someone’s handed me something that was just right: the name, the ethos, the philosophy. Everything just fits so well.

“But Amreesh and his colleagues needed to understand it would not be good for their company if we get something wrong again. We’re going to have to work 24/7 so it’s really important that we take people on a journey, we’re prepared for the ups and downs on the roller coaster.”