Confirmation on the eve of the season that Thursday’s Headingley Test had been saved was greeted with great joy in the Broad Acres. Yet the tiniest scratch beneath the surface reveals Yorkshire remain a deeply unhappy club.
Yes, the demands for a new board have been met in the wake of the Azeem Rafiq racism scandal and the new regime have put on a positive face; the work of Ottis Gibson has been unceasing and Yorkshire have been competitive in four-day and Twenty20 cricket. But the last few days have seen a sea change.
In the wake of seven people, including former England captain Michael Vaughan, and the club being charged with bringing the game into disrepute by the ECB, David Willey — the club’s T20 captain — claimed the race row made being at the club ‘unsettling’ and that cricket is now secondary to repairing reputations.
He also contested Yorkshire’s statement on his contract offer as he jumped ship to rejoin Northamptonshire for next season.
Then it was announced that England hopeful Tom Kohler-Cadmore was being released from his contract 12 months early to join Somerset this September. With over a dozen players in their final year of deals, it is feared the duo are the thin end of the wedge.
Noises came from within that the actions of new chairman Kamlesh Patel before Christmas would lead to a mass exodus of players after it. It did not, as interim managing director Darren Gough tried to steady the ship. A month into the season, however, Gough admitted the dressing room was full of questions.
The demands for a new board have been met in the wake of the Azeem Rafiq racism scandal
Yet the tiniest scratch beneath the surface reveals Yorkshire remain a deeply unhappy club
The players were known to be angry at the treatment of people they respected, such as physio Kunwar Bansil and strength and conditioning coach Peter Sim. Both were dismissed alongside 14 others staff members, as signatories of a letter imploring executives to take a firmer stance in response to Rafiq’s allegations.
Bansil’s partner, the seam bowler Phoebe Graham, also left Yorkshire’s women’s team.
This is the biggest crisis in their history and navigating it will be a challenge which could extend beyond the tenures of both Lord Patel, who has said he may stay for just a year or two, and Gough, who will review his temporary position at the end of the summer.
Now to add to the stink, the four chairmen in charge during the years that cover Rafiq’s allegations have slammed the ECB’s handling of the affair. One of them, Roger Hutton, on Wednesday called for an independent regulator.
Seven people, including Michael Vaughan, and the club were charged with bringing the game into disrepute
It is feared the departures of Tom Kohler-Cadmore (R) and David Willey (L) are the thin end of the wedge
‘I found it deeply disappointing that they (have not) investigated the conduct of those at the ECB,’ Hutton, who resigned last November, told Sportsmail.
‘The ECB knew of Azeem’s allegations before I did. They did nothing about them. They did not offer to help Yorkshire investigate… and when Yorkshire asked them to help, they refused. Cricket would be better served by a wholly independent regulatory arm.’
Although the ECB’s investigation has led to no criminal charges, Vaughan, Matthew Hoggard, Tim Bresnan, Gary Ballance, Andrew Gale and the club itself will be subject to disciplinary hearings this autumn.
As they weigh up whether to submit a plea, or whether to even recognise the ECB charge, Yorkshire have this week entered mediation with six sacked employees who have been told by an employment judge that their ‘complaints of unfair dismissal are well-founded’.
Navigating the crisis will be a challenge which could extend beyond the tenure of Lord Patel
Managing director Darren Gough will review his temporary position at the end of the summer
Yorkshire face forking out hefty compensation payments, after accepting that due process was not followed. The case will start in October unless pay-offs can be agreed upon. Whatever road is taken, it won’t be smooth.
The six individuals are fearful they might never work in cricket again. Some may take their legal fight to the High Court — to cover potential future loss of earnings.
It promises to be a costly business, and one that a club with £17million of debt can ill-afford.
This is about much more than money, though. It is a scandal that has torn lives apart. In 2020, Rafiq said his treatment at Yorkshire had left him suicidal; his former best friend Ballance, who admitted calling Rafiq ‘P***’ during the first inquiry, is away from the game with a stress-related illness; and a senior member of the ECB-arranged probe was signed off sick during recent investigations.
Sure, the threat of losing international matches is gone. But the stain, the pain and the whole ugly saga will rumble on.
Rafiq’s former best friend Gary Ballance is away from the game with a stress-related illness