LEEDS: Yorkshire chairman Kamlesh Patel said on Thursday he had received “phenomenally racist” letters following Azeem Rafiq’s allegations of racist abuse and bullying while playing for the county.

On the day Test cricket returned to Yorkshire’s Headingley headquarters, Patel also revealed the county would have gone bust but for England playing in Leeds again.

Pakistan-born former off-spinner Rafiq first raised allegations of racism and bullying in September 2020, related to his two spells at Yorkshire.

Rafiq gave evidence to a parliamentary committee last year, sparking mounting pressure on Yorkshire over their previous failure to take any disciplinary action.

That eventually led to a mass clear-out of senior boardroom figures and coaching staff.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) also threatened to withdraw lucrative internationals from Headingley unless changes were made.

Reforms promoted by new chairman Patel staved off what could have been a financial disaster for Yorkshire.

But the issue is far from concluded, with ECB disciplinary charges laid against the club and “a number of individuals”, whom officials have yet to name.

Patel, speaking on the first day of the third Test between England and New Zealand at Headingley on Thursday, was asked on BBC Radio if he had received racist mail.

“Phenomenally racist,” he replied. “We have a very small but very vocal group of individuals that do not accept that racism happened at this club. “I think we have to move beyond that denial. Racism happens in society. It certainly happened at this club.”

Patel, however, added: “Ninety to 95 per cent of members and people I meet on the street and on the train have said thank you for doing what you are doing and have been extremely supportive.

“We know there is misogyny, discrimination, power imbalances and these things happen. It happened here badly.

“We had to change for the better and I genuinely think we are.”

Asked if Yorkshire would have gone bust if they had been stripped of Test cricket as punishment, Patel said: “In simple terms, yes. I think we would have.

“If Test matches or international matches didn’t come back here, we were going to go bankrupt.”

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2022

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