Lord Patel is facing calls to quit Yorkshire just four months after he was brought in as chairman following claims his reign has been ‘riddled with mistakes and damage’.
Ahead of a crucial members’ vote which will determine whether Headingley can host England matches, ex-Yorkshire chair Robin Smith has told Sportsmail he will ‘not give up’ until Patel ‘withdraws from the scene’, describing his leadership as the worst of his lifetime.
Patel took charge in November in the wake of the Azeem Rafiq racism scandal and is trying to push through reforms to ensure the club’s international status is restored by the ECB.
Lord Patel is facing calls to quit Yorkshire just four months after he was brought in
However, his appointment will not be official until he is voted in at an emergency general meeting (EGM) at the end of this month and Smith is urging members to reject the ‘ECB plant’.
‘He should withdraw from the scene,’ said Smith, who was Yorkshire chairman from 2002-2005 and again from 2018-2020. ‘His history, brief though it is, has been so riddled with mistakes and damage that his credibility has gone.
‘Yorkshire deserves to have the very finest management and until it gets it I shall not give up. At the moment, I’m afraid it has got the worse management it has ever had in my lifetime.
‘The club has reached such a pass in its affairs that it needs new leadership and also a new board because of the handling of the last few months.’
Smith started the civil war last month when he claimed Patel’s chairmanship is technically invalid because Yorkshire allegedly failed to file a rule change with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) allowing them to appoint a non-member to the board.
Former chairman Robin Smith (centre) will ‘not give up’ until Patel ‘withdraws from the scene’
According to Smith, that means Patel may be personally liable for all action he has taken since November, including sacking 16 members of staff – which could cost as much as £3million.
He also claims Patel’s bid to elect eight independent directors onto a board of 12 would not be lawful because Yorkshire is a ‘co-operative society’ so must, he says, be democratically controlled by members.
In addition, Smith alleges that, because a board is not yet technically in place, the EGM scheduled for March 31 has ‘not been validly convened’ and ‘none of its decisions will be effective in law’.
Smith put the complaints to Patel in an email over the weekend, also copying in ECB acting chair Barry O’Brien and chief executive Tom Harrison, but says he has not yet received a response and has warned of a future legal fight.
‘If he refuses to engage, the end result will be litigation, which will be very expensive and for which he will be personally liable,’ said Smith.
‘The club is careering down a road steeped in illegality and is doing things that ought not to be done by any decent business. They are planning embarrassment on to embarrassment and damage on to damage.
‘When an external force comes along, chucks out a board elected by the members and puts itself in charge without any members’ involvement, that is a big step.
Patel took charge of the club in November in the wake of the Azeem Rafiq racism scandal
‘If you are doing it, the first thing you do is check that you’ve got it legally right. No professional man or anyone of any experience would ever contemplate a step of that sort without some rigorous due diligence.
‘We have got to find a way forward otherwise it is going to career into yet more problems and incriminations and argument.’
On the sacking of Yorkshire’s entire backroom staff in December, Smith added: ‘That angered me because that was a step which was seriously wrong. Some of the staff had not even been employed during Rafiq’s time.
‘If he wanted to get rid of them because he had to clear out the Augean stable, if that was the conclusion he came to, as a manager he is entitled to that view.
‘But surely any decent manager would have done the job in accordance with conventional good practice and he did not.’
Patel has previously hit back at Smith by claiming there is a ‘clear agenda to undermine the club, driven by opposition to our progress’ from a group who feel the county is being ‘sacrificed on the altar of Black Lives Matter’.
In response, Smith said: ‘There is no basis on which he can rationally, never mind reasonably, make such a suggestion.
‘All I have done is raise with him issues of the lawfulness of the very steps that he has taken and of his own position within the club.
Yorkshire’s civil war threatens to push the club past its ECB deadline for retaining international matches at Headingley this summer
‘Any suggestion that we are trying to disrupt his worthy efforts to reform the club in the wake of the Rafiq allegations are just baseless. I could go further – they are a monstrous calumny.’
Last month, the ECB lifted their suspension on Yorkshire hosting international matches on the proviso that key governance reforms were passed by the end of March, something Smith’s campaign against Patel threatens to prevent.
But Smith added: ‘If the price I’m being asked to pay personally is that I’m to support a policy which I know to be unlawful, simply so Yorkshire get Test matches back, then I’m sorry, I’m not prepared to do that.’
Smith’s anger also extends to the ECB and the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, including its chair Julian Knight, who he describes as ‘irresponsible’.
He believes Knight’s committee, who interviewed whistleblower Rafiq as a witness last year, put ‘unlawful pressure’ on the ECB to ban Yorkshire from staging England games until they overhauled their board.
‘That seems to me to be a gross abuse of power, both by the DCMS committee and by the ECB,’ said Smith.
‘The ECB have specified 10 conditions that Yorkshire have to satisfy and one of them (having a majority of non-members on the board) is unlawful. That just shows the ECB itself is in disarray.
‘It is time the ECB gets to grips with this as they initiated the whole problem by parachuting Lord Patel into the club, a club that had never heard of him.’