Yorkshire Cricket chair Lord Patel felt 'uncomfortable' on day one at Headingley

Lord Kamlesh Patel
Lord Kamlesh Patel Credit: PA

Yorkshire County Cricket Club's chairman Lord Kamlesh Patel says he "didn't feel comfortable" when he walked into Headingley on his first day in the job.

Lord Patel took over in November after Roger Hutton resigned in the wake of the Azeem Rafiq racism scandal that rocked the club.

Speaking to a panel of MPs in London, Lord Patel said the club was changing, but revealed his unease on day one.

"From nine weeks ago when I first walked in, it fundamentally feels different," he said. "The day I went in, in day one I didn't feel quite comfortable.

"Walking through the corridors every day, I enjoy going to work, I enjoy seeing people, I enjoy speaking to them. That wasn't the case on day one.

"So fundamentally we are changing but there's a long way to go. I think the foundations are in place, the scaffolding is up, but to build a skyscraper is going to take time. But I'm very optimistic."

Lord Patel was one of a number of chairmen from cricket clubs who were called to give evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee.

It comes after former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq spoke openly about his experience of racist abuse during two spells at the club.

Azeem Rafiq gave evidence to the DCMS Select Committee in November

Patel was asked about his reasons for sacking 16 members of staff in one swoop in December, including head coach Andrew Gale and director of cricket Martyn Moxon.

He said: "This decision wasn't taken lightly. I'm a social worker by profession, it's really hard on a human level to let people go for things that happened.

"There was no doubt that we needed a fresh leadership in the organisation. People had been allowed to do things, there'd been a culture where you couldn't challenge or you couldn't speak or you felt that you couldn't.

"It feels now members of staff come to me and say, 'are you sure this is the right thing to do, can we tell you another way?'. I don't think they had that in the past."

Committee chairman Julian Knight asked Lord Patel if he had blighted the careers of those that he sacked.

Lord Patel said: "I feel everyone at the club feel their careers have been blighted if i'm honest and that's the saddest part in all of this.

"Going in everyday seeing young men and women who are working their socks off but come February they might not have a job.

"It was sad to hear a young man say 'I got a job in here serving tea and it was the day of my life getting the Yorkshire badge' [but] he says he has to hide it now when he leaves.

"I've had members of staff who have been told in the street to take their Yorkshire shirts off because it's racist."

In the wake of the revelations by Azeem Rafiq, the England and Wales Cricket Board suspended Headingley, Yorkshire's home ground, as a venue for International matches.

Lord Patel was asked when he thought International cricket would return to Yorkshire.

"The ECB have set us a very tough criteria, a ten point action plan. We'll submit all our evidence this month, then we will present it to the ECB on 1 February, then we will await a decision to see if we've met the criteria," said Patel.