Yorkshire County Cricket Club has reportedly agreed a £23m (€26.5m/$28.4m) deal to sell its historic Headingley Stadium to British businessman Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group.
The Daily Mail said Ashley, former owner of Premier League football club Newcastle United, has seen off competition from Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Rajasthan Royals and ex-Yorkshire chairman Colin Graves to complete a sale and lease-back deal that intends to safeguard the club’s future.
Yorkshire in September said it was “making strong progress” on securing its long-term future, amid an initial report that it was considering selling Headingley, its home since 1891, in an effort to raise funds.
Yorkshire has been hit with financial difficulties following the fall-out from the high profile Azeem Rafiq racism scandal two years ago. Headingley only retained its status as a venue for international matches after Yorkshire members passed three special resolutions in March 2022 as part of reform efforts following the scandal that enveloped the organisation.
Mail Sport today (Friday) said Yorkshire rejected several offers to buy the club outright to focus on the deal with Ashley as it was determined to remain in the control of its members. The Leeds-based club is said to have negotiated an option to buy back the ground at a fixed price as part of the sale.
For the foreseeable future, the club will continue to play at Headingley as a tenant of Frasers, which will reportedly charge Yorkshire around £1m per season in rent. The deal is also said to incorporate a 10-year naming rights pact through which retail group Frasers will promote one of its brands.
For its part, Yorkshire will reportedly use the £23m to pay off its £15.9m debt to the Colin Graves Trust, which agreed to defer a £500,000 instalment due last month. Yorkshire acquired Headingley in 2005 from the Leeds Cricket, Football and Athletic Company in a £12m deal that resulted in the club securing a 15-year international match-staging deal from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).
If Ashley completes the deal, Headingley will become the latest major English sports stadium to fall under his ownership. Almost a year ago, Frasers secured ownership of Coventry Building Society Arena, home of Championship football club Coventry City.