The club’s chairman, Lord Kamlesh Patel, said Yorkshire would have gone bankrupt if the ECB had not lifted Headingley’s suspension from hosting international and major cricket matches.
Those sanctions were imposed in November after the province’s handling of the Azeem Rafiq racism scandal and were lifted in February under certain conditions. Those include the ability to demonstrate a commitment to building a culture of equality, diversity and inclusion, along with a Yorkshire commitment to identify and address historic cases of discrimination.
Also, were the administrative resolutions related to rule changes and decisions at the club showing procedural errors, along with rule changes related to the appointment of a new board, including the lifting of the powers of the Graves Trust.
All those requirements have not been met, and last week Yorkshire was informed by the ECB that they will be charged, leading many to question why the third test between England and New Zealand, which started Thursday, was allowed to take place on Headingley. An ODI against South Africa will also take place on 24 July.
Speaking in a pre-recorded interview with Test Match Specialwhich aired over lunchtime on day one, Lord Patel said hosting this match was necessary not only to bring about change at the club, but for its survival.
“In simple terms, yes. I think we would have,” Patel replied, when asked if Yorkshire’s future was at stake. “I don’t think people get it.
“You can’t blame anyone for this. Something very unusual has happened in cricket. It was huge. It touched the whole press. The politicians were involved. It touched the governing body. It affected all of English cricket, not just Yorkshire and the brought in the commission on equality and human rights. That’s pretty serious — they’re government regulators on human rights. When you put those five pieces together, this is something that we’ve never seen before. It was a moment when you thought that all the views of these people have to change.
“It was understandable that in the early days when I walked through the doors, all five of those groups said Test Matches are not coming back here. It was because of that panic situation and being trapped in the headlights that people couldn’t see beyond what they actually were, like Test Matches or international matches didn’t come back here, we’d go bankrupt, we literally were. What were you going to do – lay off all the staff, all the players and try to come back in a few years with all your sponsors gone? That wasn’t realistic. But at the same time, all those groups had to feel comfortable and reassured that we were going to make seismic changes to get here. It was a real balance.”
Lord Patel is also hopeful that the coming days of international cricket, along with the improvement of the club’s image, will encourage more sponsors to return. He revealed that the majority of 43 who had cut ties with the Yorkshire had returned.
“That says something about our reputation. We should not just focus on the ECB or cricket payments. We need to become a viable sports venue. The new skills in governance will help us do that.”
Patel, 61, also revealed that he has received a “small but substantial bag of letters” of “phenomenally racist” letters from opponents of his work.
“We have a very small but very vocal group of individuals who do not accept that racism has happened in this club,” he said. “I think we need to move beyond that denial. Racism runs in society. It certainly happened at this club. We just saw the gymnastics report. We know what happened in athletics. We know there is misogyny, discrimination, inequality of power and these Things happen. It’s happened here. There are people, for whatever reason, and I don’t try them… It has affected our lives and made our lives very difficult.
“It’s not about me. It’s about all the staff who work tirelessly here, who have been in the headlights for a year and a half and abused for a year and a half – some physically, some verbally. It’s them and their families and the players. We had to change for the better and I really think we are.”
Lord Patel also revealed that the club will be promoting a new chief executive in the coming days who will take on some of the duties he has taken on. That includes preparing for the Cricket Discipline Committee hearing that will take place in September and October.
“I hope people will line up around the corner to get here. The CDC will be there. We have to deal with that. We have to deal with the small number of naysayers. That doesn’t help the club. “
“I also see a lot of excitement. It’s a once in a generation opportunity to really make a difference and we have to capitalize on that.”
Vithushan Ehantharajah is a sports journalist for ESPNcricinfo