Yorkshire members back Graves takeover

Featured image credit: Yorkshire CCC

Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s members have approved the contentious return of Colin Graves to the helm of the club, being told that his offer was the only one that would “keep the business solvent going forward”.

After Yorkshire’s board last month approved the takeover of the club by a consortium led by former chairman Graves, an extraordinary general meeting was held at Headingley Cricket Ground today (Friday).

One special resolution was voted on during the meeting, relating to a number of changes to the rules of the club required in relation to a refinancing proposal from Graves. Some 746 members voted in favour, with 99 against, resulting in 88% majority backing. Graves will now return to the board pending approval from the Financial Conduct Authority, which is expected later this month.

Yorkshire has been hit with financial difficulties following the fall-out from the high-profile Azeem Rafiq racism scandal two years ago. Headingley, which Yorkshire owns, 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.

Yorkshire has had substantial borrowings for a number of years and the club has an overdraft totalling nearly £17m (€19.9m/$21.7m), which is due for repayment by October 2024. Headingley will not be hosting a Test match this year and Yorkshire said it has needed to carefully manage its cash resources in order to pay its creditors as they fall due.

It is proposed that Graves will be appointed to the board and then be elected as its chair, with a number of other directors to be appointed alongside him. These will include independent non-executive directors Philip Hodson, Sanjay Patel and Sanjeev Gandhi.

Graves will personally advance an unsecured loan of £1m to the club. Should the new directors be appointed to the board, they will work with the newly formed board to subsequently arrange further funding of up to £4m over a five-month period.

Graves was Yorkshire’s chief executive between 2002 and 2007, before becoming chair from 2012 to 2015. He previously denied any knowledge of any racist behaviour during his tenure, while suggesting that some of the incidents were “banter”. Graves apologised for these comments last month.

Graves told members today, according to the BBC: “I give my personal pledge to you and the entire Yorkshire public that regardless of background, community, ethnicity, everybody – and I mean everybody – will be welcomed in a solid, inclusive culture and environment at Yorkshire. There will be no exception.

“Lessons have been learned and will continue to be acted upon. Make no mistake, this is not going to be easy. It will be a bumpy ride. But we can do this together with hard work, with transparency, with trust and with enthusiasm.

“Today I hope is a line being drawn in the sand – where we are, what’s happened in the past, let’s move on. Let’s look forward instead of looking back. I’m not doing this for fun, I’m not doing this for the good of Colin Graves. I can assure you I am doing this for the good of Yorkshire. I could be sat at home with my slippers on my feet doing nothing.”

Yorkshire has previously been linked to a number of potential investors, including British businessman Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group. The club’s CEO, Steven Vaughan, today rejected suggestions that alternative bidders had been ignored.

“(The club has) done a global search using brokers based on every continent, we’ve kissed a lot of frogs and we’re at a place now where Colin’s deal is the only one that will keep the business solvent going forward,” Vaughan said, according to The Guardian.

“Irrespective of the nonsense you might read from other people in the press, this is the most executable, sensible offer, taking all expert advice, and hopefully if the resolution gets passed it will be a new chapter and we can move on solvently and start talking about Yorkshire cricket for the right reasons again.”

Outgoing chair, Harry Chathli, said the board’s only concern had been to guarantee that “cricket continues to be played in this stadium – that’s what I promised and that’s what this board is delivering, the financial security that allows the club to play cricket”.

Yorkshire’s most recent accounts detailed that the club required an immediate injection of £500,000 to finance an existing longstanding loan from the Graves Family Trust.