England v New Zealand: Lord Patel feared Headingley would not host Tests again

Lord Patel
Lord Patel was appointed Yorkshire chair in November

Yorkshire chair Lord Patel feared international cricket would not return to Headingley after seeing evidence of racism levelled against the club.

The ground is hosting the third England v New Zealand Test, its first international since a ban was lifted.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) imposed the sanctions following the racism scandal that first came to light when Azeem Rafiq detailed his experiences.

“If you had seen all the evidence I have seen, you would put your mortgage on that we were not going to get this back,” Patel told BBC Test Match Special.

“It was by no means a given.

“We worked phenomenally hard seven days a week and had a nine-week window within which to change the environment and make a big difference.”

The ban on hosting lucrative England fixtures, which Patel said would have bankrupted Yorkshire if it had been imposed, was lifted after the ECB deemed Yorkshire had made improvements following the testimony of Rafiq and others.

Former Yorkshire spinner Rafiq said “institutional racism” encountered while he was at the club left him close to taking his own life.

Yorkshire passed a series of structural reforms at an emergency general meeting in April, while there has also been significant changes to the club hierarchy.

However, Patel said he still received a “substantial” amount of “phenomenally racist” letters since being appointed in November 2021.

“If I was to take them to the police I think people would be prosecuted,” he said.

“We have a very small but very vocal group of individuals that do not accept that racism happened at this club.

“We have to move beyond that denial.”

Last week the club and a “number of individuals” were charged by the ECB following its own investigation.

Hearings are expected to take place in September and October, after which further punishments could be handed out.

Yorkshire have also offered free kit and coaching to those in its junior pathways in an attempt to allow a more diverse range of people to play the game.

Patel said he hoped afterwards Yorkshire could “draw a line” under the scandal and be a “blueprint” for other counties to follow in the future.

“That is not to say the rest of the counties aren’t doing great work,” he said.

“What we need to have is systemic change. It is not just about initiatives. It is about systemic change and good governance.”

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