Professor The Lord Patel of Bradford OBE, Chair of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, made the following opening statement at today’s press conference.
Professor The Lord Patel of Bradford OBE said:
Thank you for coming today.
My name is Kamlesh Patel, and I was appointed as Chair of Yorkshire County Cricket Club on Friday 5th November.
I would like to make an opening statement as I take on this position, before opening the floor up for questions.
I have been appointed with the clear remit of righting the wrongs of the past and making sure that this club is an inclusive home for aspiring players of the future.
The revelations about complaints of racial discrimination, and their handling, at this Cricket Club over the past 18 months have rocked the sporting world.
Let me be clear from the outset – racism, or any form of discrimination, is not ‘banter’. It is simply not acceptable.
My heart goes out to anyone who has experienced racism, or discrimination or abuse of any kind.
This has been a painful and difficult period for Yorkshire County Cricket Club, and all those associated with it.
I thank Azeem Rafiq for his bravery in speaking out. Azeem is a whistleblower and should be praised as such, and he should never have been put through this.
And I would like to apologise to him. We are sorry for what you and your family experienced and the way we have handled this. What happened to you must never be repeated.
As an outsider coming into this situation, it is clear to me that we have handled this issue badly and the investigation was flawed.
We need to learn from our mistakes and ensure the right people are in place and ensure we do better.
Not only in terms of the root issue of racism or discrimination, but also how as a Club we deal with any issues that arise going forward.
Clearly there is a problem, and I have been appointed to see if this Club is institutionally racist and how we can address that.
Part of my role will be to examine and be clear about:
• what errors have been made in the handling of Azeem Rafiq’s complaints, both in terms of the investigation and the actions required following it, and how we can learn from them;
• the report which looks at several specific instances of alleged racism, but not the totality of the issue, and I am determined to look at any pattern of behaviours which could suggest institutional racism within the Club, how this manifests itself, and what we can do about it.
This is a complex situation, and it will not be easy.
While some strides have been made in the area of racism across the world of sport, this episode highlights the huge amount of work that still needs to be done.
There is clear and urgent need for seismic change, starting from within.
And I am determined to lead this Club to a better and more positive future.
I am a proud Yorkshireman, growing up in Bradford having left Kenya with my family at the age of one.
I have experienced racial abuse throughout my life, and my earliest childhood memory is racism.
It’s a story that I have told before but when I was a child I learnt to be a fast runner.
Do you know why? Because some the local kids liked to engage in “P-word bashing”. You had to run or get beaten.
I know that racism is not, and is never, ‘banter’.
Cricket saved me. I was a tiny, scrawny kid, but I became captain of the school cricket team and that gave me a different standing. I didn’t get beaten up anymore.
I went on to Bradford league cricket, I love the game and believe in sport as a driving force for good, bringing us together and uniting us.
That is the light I want to bring back.
In my professional career, I have been motivated to help people, whether in social work, or rehabilitation of prisoners.
My whole life has been about organisational change and tackling injustice.
I have worked at the ECB with a focus on good governance and good stewardship – working with colleagues across the world of cricket to produce the South Asian action plan to increase participation in our game from minorities.
I have fought against discrimination, including a five-year project working to tackle institutional racism in mental health care.
I am convinced that we have good people fighting for change, and we can educate and inspire young people and communities to be the best they can be.
Inclusiveness for everybody is in my blood.
Yorkshire is my home, and I want to help make Yorkshire County Cricket Club a place for everyone, from all backgrounds.
In the last few days, I have spent much of my time speaking to as many people as possible who are connected to this great Club.
This Club should be at the pinnacle of English cricket and, as a proud Yorkshireman myself, it pains me to see it in this situation.
There must be a period of truth and reconciliation to get to the bottom of our culture, and our processes, to learn from our mistakes and re-establish trust.
Trust is a much-used word, but once it is shaken, it is hard to regain.
Trust and transparency will be the key words for my tenure.
I am committed to ensuring the Club is wholly inclusive, and actively anti-racist from this point on.
A Club we can be proud of as people of Yorkshire and as a nation of cricket lovers.
I ask for space and time to listen and to learn in order that I can create change that has impact, is long-lasting and authentic.
It is essential that my first undertaking as Chair is to listen to those who have experienced racism, discrimination and abuse – and to ensure that their guidance is central to how we move forward as a Club.
I urge others to come forward to share their experiences.
Yorkshire County Cricket Club should be a club for everyone in Yorkshire.
And we are ready to listen, to believe, and to change.
While I am speaking today, I am acutely aware of the need for actions, not words.
I have only been in the role for 72 hours and I ask for patience as I get to grips with the scale of this situation.
I have had hundreds of messages from people from the world of cricket and beyond following my appointment. I thank them for those, and apologise that I haven’t responded to each and every one. I will do.
There are many actions which we have taken since I was appointed on Friday.
I want to announce that we have made the first, vital step on what will be a long journey for this club. We have settled the employment tribunal case – the legal proceedings – with Azeem Rafiq. Absolutely no restrictions have been placed on Azeem and what he can or cannot say about his experiences.
The settlement does not involve a non-disclosure agreement. The Club was wrong to have asked Azeem to agree to an NDA in the past and he rightly refused, and we have apologised unreservedly for previously making that demand.
Our offer means Azeem will be free to speak about his experiences publicly. He is free to answer any questions that are put to him when he wants – and that includes the Select Committee hearing on 16 November.
Second, we need to listen.
I have asked for an independent whistleblowing hotline to be set up as quickly as possible. I want to curate a safe space for people to come forward with disclosures.
I have instructed for this to be set up quickly – and will report on progress by the end of this week.
We want anyone who may have suffered issues to come forward and I’ve noticed that some people who have come forward recently appear to have felt unable to step forward in Azeem’s case.
This hotline will provide us with important data as to where the specific problems lie so that we can begin to make improvements. Its independence will allow any of those who felt silenced or intimidated to now come forward in a safe place.
Third, I will be commissioning a specialist independent review of our processes and procedures on diversity and inclusion (including discrimination against protected characteristics, such as race, gender, religion, disability).
We need to look at our processes and procedures around reporting incidents of racism, abuse, discrimination or bullying of any kind, informed by what has happened here over the past 18 months.
Our fans, the cricketing world and the wider public need to trust that we are fit for purpose, and can deal with issues in a fair and transparent way.
My aim is to work together with a range of stakeholders to do this, and this will be part of my action plan.
Fourth, in the spirit of transparency and in light of the investigations now underway, I have asked that the full report be shared with relevant parties who have a legal interest in this matter: Azeem’s lawyers, the England and Wales Cricket Board, the EHRC and the Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.
I am deeply troubled to have learned over the weekend that some current staff have been harassed and have even received death threats. I categorically condemn this and I have asked for a meeting with the Chief Constable to discuss further. Nobody should feel discriminated against or abused and that includes the staff at Headingley.
I can confirm that I have had a preliminary meeting with the England and Wales Cricket Board about restoration of International cricket, and we now know what is expected of us. We will have to demonstrate that we are addressing the root causes of the issues, and that we are leading change before having any concrete conversations on that.
On top of this, clearly the withdrawal of sponsors and International cricket has caused a financial hiatus. I’ve appointed Trevor Strain (FD at Morrisons) as our chair of finance and audit. And I will be having conversations with the sponsors.
There is more to be done, which will become clear in the days to come.
I am happy to answer questions, but please be aware that I may not have answers for everything.
I am determined to make this Club the beating heart of English cricket again.
After 158 years, we are ready to change, accept the past and become a Club which people can trust to do the right thing.