Colin Graves edging closer to Yorkshire return as board meets to discuss offer

By Sports Desk January 09, 2024

Colin Graves’ controversial return to Yorkshire is edging closer, with the club’s board meeting on Tuesday to discuss a consortium offer that would see him reinstated as chair.

Yorkshire’s long search for fresh investment has brought them back to the man who served as executive chair between 2012 and 2015 before performing the same role at the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

His money saved the county from financial oblivion once before, when he first became involved in 2002, and he is now eager for a second act at Headingley, where debts to the Graves family trust are close to £15million.

With time running out to keep the business viable, and other investors no longer at the table, it appears the board will recommend the Graves plan to members and pave the way for the 75-year-old’s comeback. It has been reported that an immediate loan of £1million would be forthcoming, followed quickly by new investment worth a further £4m.

Graves’ group had a period of exclusivity with the club which had been due to expire on Friday, but has now been extended to Tuesday as a conclusion nears.

He told talkSPORT: “The ball is in the Yorkshire board’s court to make a decision, but my interest is real, it’s absolute, and that’s for one reason and one reason only, and it’s to save Yorkshire County Cricket Club. None of us wants to see that institution disappear.

“It’s not in a good place so from my point of view that’s the reason I’m doing this. I’m passionate about the place and I want to make sure that Yorkshire County Cricket Club survives and prospers.”

It would still prove a divisive move given the racism scandal which has engulfed Yorkshire in recent years, an episode which partially took place during Graves’ first stint in charge, and has already drawn criticism.

Sporting Equals, a charity which promotes ethnic diversity in UK Sport, issued an open letter to sports minister Stuart Andrew and the England and Wales Cricket Board warning it would “undermine the progress” the game has made against racism and “make a mockery” of those who have suffered in the past.

The most high-profile of those, former Yorkshire spinner turned whistleblower Azeem Rafiq, says he is unsurprised but dismayed by the prospect of Graves’ re-emergence.

He told the PA news agency: “I’m aware that it is pretty much a done deal. It’s inevitable now but it is going to be a sad day for all those that have suffered racism.

“Unfortunately I think the members’ vote (to ratify Graves’ return) is probably the most inevitable part. From my social media interactions it seems clear where the membership will go. It’s not for me to sit here and try to change their mind but I would say be careful what you wish for in terms of his plans for the club.

“Whether it’s members, sponsors or people who work at the club, history will remember which side you were on.”

Rafiq wrote a newspaper article at the weekend calling on sponsors to oppose Graves by withdrawing their backing.

One current sponsor says the words and actions of Graves will have a “strong bearing” on whether it continues to engage with the club, should he return.

A spokesperson for tiling company Al Murad, who came on board as a community partner in 2022 following the appointment of Lord Kamlesh Patel as chair, told PA: “We are reviewing the situation at Yorkshire Cricket very carefully.

“We are in communication – and we expect to be communicated to – as the process of securing long-term funding is brought to a conclusion that will trigger constitutional and governance arrangements to deliver financial stability going forward.

“On the strength of that information and communication, we will review how intrinsic is equity, equality, representation and inclusiveness at Yorkshire Cricket if Mr Graves does take the helm.

“The deep changes required that Lord Kamlesh Patel subsequently brought about, and future commitment to go above and beyond, will have a strong bearing on how we view any future engagement. Of course the ECB and possibly other actors will have a bearing on the final outcome.”

The ECB and representatives of Colin Graves have declined to comment.

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