The new chair of Yorkshire County Cricket Club has warned it would be a “catastrophe” if they can’t host international cricket again after the racism scandal at Headingley.
Lord Patel was brought into the club after former player Azeem Rafiq laid bare the racism he had endured during his career.
Since then, 4,000 people have shared accounts of racism throughout the game with the Independent Commission for Equality in Cricket.
The fallout at Yorkshire has seen multiple sponsors abandon the club, a series of sackings among the coaching staff and the ECB removing the privilege of hosting international cricket until they can prove they have changed.
“I think if international cricket doesn’t come back here this year, we have two major catastrophes,” Lord Patel told Sky News.
“One is hundreds of thousands of fans, boys and girls, Yorkshire people, will suffer tremendously because we miss out and secondly there would be a major financial crisis.”
“Many of the existing sponsors hopefully will return to us, some in the coming weeks – a lot of new sponsors have come and spoken to us but a lot of it rests on the idea that we get international games back.”
Change doesn’t happen overnight
Former Yorkshire and England star Darren Gough has quit his job at Talksport and has returned to the club to become the new Director of Cricket at Headingley.
Despite one of his interim coaches, Ryan Sidebottom, having to apologise this week for saying in an interview with Sky Sports that the club should “forget” about what had happened with Azeem Rafiq, Lord Patel accepted this was a genuine mistake and believes the culture has already started to change.
He said: “We have to change and that is not going to happen overnight… we are on the first step of that ladder”
“It was the dressing room culture and beyond.
“Only one or two of us have come out like Azeem to do anything about it, and that’s what’s distressing but that’s what the opportunity is.
“Now we can call it out and talk about it.”
The club has also signed a partnership agreement with the Lahore Qalandars in Pakistan to share players, ideas and resources.
Talent search mission
Yorkshire is also planning a talent search inspired by the way the Qalandars have scoured Pakistan for young cricketers.
Lord Patel said: “Like any franchise, they can buy lots of players (but) what they chose to do is to go out to the remotest parts of Pakistan and hold a talent hunt.
“I have seen the figures for myself – half a million young men got a trial in two and a half years… we can go to the four corners of Yorkshire and give every young boy and girl an opportunity.
“I don’t want to stop there I am talking to another couple of other countries in the world where we can do that.”
Serious about change
Lord Patel added that he hoped the cricket authorities, and everyone in the game, is as serious about change as he is.
He added: “I desperately hope that all the counties, the ECB and all the fans of cricket can see that this is the right direction of travel, and if we rip ourselves apart we won’t get there.
“The only thing we will damage is cricket.”
Cindy Butts, Chair of the Independent Commission for Equality In Cricket (ICEC), said: “We have had an overwhelming response to the first part of our Call for Evidence, with over 4,000 people (from diverse backgrounds) sharing their experiences with us.
“I would like to personally thank everyone who has taken the time to respond. Your contributions are invaluable to our work.”
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