Colin Graves set for Yorkshire return – what’s happening at Headingley?

By Sports Desk January 11, 2024

Colin Graves is close to completing a controversial return to Yorkshire as chair after the club’s board recommended that members accept the terms of a loan agreement.

Here the PA news agency looks more closely at the details.

What has happened?

Graves, who helped rescue the club from financial oblivion in 2002 and served as chair between 2012 and 2015, has reached an agreement which secures Yorkshire’s immediate financial future. He has personally agreed to loan £1million immediately with a further £4m of funding to come over a five-month period, on the condition that he returns as chair and three other individuals – Phillip Hodson, Sanjay Patel and Sanjeev Gandhi – join the board. Sources close to the club have previously told PA that Yorkshire faced the very real threat of entering administration without an immediate cash injection.

Why is his return controversial?

Graves was a senior figure at Yorkshire across the bulk of a 17-year period between 2004 and 2021 where the club have admitted to an England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) charge of failing to address the systemic use of racist and discriminatory language. In an interview with Sky Sports last June Graves said no allegation of racism was ever raised to him but admitted there was “a lot of banter”, comments which were widely criticised at the time, including by Yorkshire and the ECB.

Why is he coming back then?

Yorkshire chair Harry Chathli wrote to members on Thursday to say the board had “exhausted all other options” before agreeing to recommend the Graves offer. The club requires working capital in the short term and has to address longer-term debt, with a major chunk of that – almost £15m – owed to the Graves family trust.

What has Graves said?

He released a statement on Thursday morning apologising to anyone who had experienced racism at Yorkshire, and “profound regret” about the ‘banter’ comment in last year’s Sky interview. He also accepted the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) findings last year. Its panel found racism was “entrenched” within cricket and that women routinely faced sexism and misogyny.

What has the reaction to Graves’ return been?

Azeem Rafiq – who was found to have been the victim of racism at Yorkshire in a Cricket Discipline Commission case which concluded last year – has refused to accept Graves’ apology.

“We’ve seen a lot of grand apologies and I’ve believed them – not any more,” he told PA.

“This is a clear message to me, to other people that have been abused, to south Asians, to people of colour, that cricket is not a place for you. Actions speak louder than words and at the first point of challenge the game has shown exactly what it is, which is institutionally, systemically, racist.”

The Culture, Media and Sport committee, which heard harrowing testimony from Rafiq in November 2021, has invited Graves to appear before it, warning it will be “watching closely” over the next few months.

The ECB welcomed Graves’ commitment to continuing efforts that have been made since 2021 to make Yorkshire a more inclusive club, but warned of its “significant powers” to hold the club and Graves to account if progress stalls.

What happens next?

Members will be asked to vote on a special resolution allowing Graves, Hodson, Patel and Gandhi to immediately join the board at an extraordinary general meeting at Headingley on February 2.

Six individuals – including current chair Chathli – will leave the board on that date, but Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson is understood to be one of two independent non-executive directors who will stay on.

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