Fans in the stands at Headingley partied like they always do but behind the scenes there is much angst and anger… the racism cloud hanging over Yorkshire cannot be forgotten for long and unhappiness still prevails in the playing squad
- Lord Patel confirmed the Headingley Test was at stake until 10 weeks ago
- Without it, Patel suggested the most decorated county would have gone bust
- This week, six people sacked by the club last December began mediation
- David Willey criticised the county for prioritising image over player welfare
For a moment, as a sun-baked Western Terrace rose to its feet and roared in approval at Stuart Broad’s dismissal of New Zealand captain Kane Williamson, it felt like any other Headingley Test.
Few crowds make more of such big moments and as the Western dwellers jumped, bounced and clapped in unison with Broad, the scoreboard read 62 for three, the dial struck a pre-lunch high of 28 degrees and the racism cloud that has hung over Yorkshire was briefly forgotten.
England’s quest for a fourth straight Test win in Leeds and the backdrop to its hosting cannot be separated for long, however, and as the club’s chairman Lord Patel spelt out on Thursday, this match — and therefore Yorkshire’s future — was at stake until 10 weeks ago.
Stuart Broad’s dismissal of Kane Williamson brought the Western Terrace to its feet
Few crowds make more of such big moments and the racism cloud over Yorkshire was briefly forgotten
‘Walking in this morning it really resonated,’ Patel said in an interview with the BBC’s Test Match Special.
‘Until I walked in and saw the ground it didn’t register. Being totally honest, going back to November this seemed a very distant opportunity. It seemed a bit of a pipe dream.’
For it was only on the eve of the 2022 season that Yorkshire met the ECB’s governance reform demands, vowed to tackle historic episodes of racism and showed a commitment to diversity and inclusion that allowed them to keep this Test match.
Without it, Patel suggested, the English game’s most decorated county would have gone bust.
But Lord Patel spelt out this match — and Yorkshire’s future — was at stake until 10 weeks ago
‘In simple terms, yes. I think we would have,’ Patel continued. They wanted absolute evidence that we had put things in place that we were going to change and move. We had to fight really hard to get it back.’
While those in the stands partied, however, behind the scenes there is much angst and anger.
This week, six people sacked by the club last December — as part of the changes Patel sanctioned — began mediation after Yorkshire accepted a consent judgment that their claims of unfair dismissal ‘were well-founded’.
Unhappiness prevails in the playing squad, to the extent that David Willey, the club’s Twenty20 captain, publicly criticised the county for prioritising image over the welfare of their cricketers.
David Willey publicly criticised the county for prioritising image over player welfare
Oddly, given that they came in a personal social media post on the day it was announced he was returning to Northamptonshire, Patel said Willey’s words were out of context.
Somerset-bound Tom Kohler-Cadmore is also on the move at the end of the season, but the long-serving Adam Lyth is understood to have been offered a three-year contract and Dawid Malan another extension — following another England international, Harry Brook, in committing long-term.
Patel estimates that 90-95 per cent of the club’s supporters have bought into the necessary regime change, but in a concerning development revealed that he had collected a bag of ‘phenomenally racist’ letters that ‘if I was to take to the police, I think people would be prosecuted’.
As Sportsmail revealed, Azeem Rafiq, the whistleblower whose harrowing testimony led to seven people plus the club being charged by the ECB’s Cricket Discipline Commission last week, will be a guest of Yorkshire on Saturday.
England international Dawid Malan is understood to have been offered another extension
Patel said: ‘Azeem’s role has been really clear from day one. He said, ‘I want people to apologise and I will draw a line under it. If you don’t walk the walk, I will challenge you’. And he has.
‘That is a great role. I have probably done more than anyone expected but I am getting old so things have to be done quickly.’
How long Patel stays in the post of chair remains uncertain. Paul Hudson, the acting chief executive, will be replaced by the autumn.
‘We will advertise in the next few days for a chief executive of this great club. I am hoping that people will be queuing round the corner to come here,’ Patel added. ‘It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to really make a diference and we have to capitalise on it.’
As revealed by Sportsmail, whistleblower Azeem Rafiq will be a guest of Yorkshire on Saturday