Colin Graves has withdrawn his offer to refinance Yorkshire’s £14.9 million debt, and will not be returning to his former role of chair at the club after criticising the length of time it has taken to appoint a successor to Lord Patel, who stepped down in March.
Graves’ family trust is owed approximately £15 million by Yorkshire following his bail-out in 2002, although the club has been looking at alternative sources of investment, with prospective names in the frame including Mike Ashley, the former owner of Newcastle United, and the Saudi national investment fund.
Yorkshire are due to repay £500,000 to the Graves Trust in October, with the remainder of the balance due in October 2024, although Graves himself was understood to have reached an agreement with its independent trustees to extend the repayment terms by a further three years, in exchange for his return as Yorkshire chair.
However, in a letter to the interim chair, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, and seen by the Telegraph, Graves has now withdrawn from that agreement in principle, with a broadside at the club for effectively using him as a backstop if they failed to secure the funding elsewhere.
“After five months of constant discussions, interviews, exchange of emails, it would appear that your board only require my services as chairman as a last resort. Other excellent candidates have been rejected, in a process that has proven to be arduous and disappointing to all who participated,” he wrote.
Yorkshire’s financial position remains parlous in the wake of Azeem Rafiq’s revelations about institutional racism at Headingley, and the subsequent withdrawal of a host of key sponsors at the height of the crisis. In a statement, the club responded that they were “disappointed” with Graves’ pronouncements, adding that his proposal had never been a definitive offer for formal board-level discussion.
“We remain at a critical point in the future of Yorkshire County Cricket Club,” the statement read. “The board is squarely focused on securing the financial security of the club and we are continuing the positive conversations around investment from various sources.
“We have been notified that Colin Graves has decided to withdraw his application for chair. We are disappointed that he has decided to do so publicly and are obliged to make it absolutely clear that at no point did Colin make a clearly defined, tangible offer that the board was able to consider formally, unlike other interested parties involved in the refinance process.
“We have consistently outlined that the new chair would be appointed using a fair, thorough and robust process, which is ongoing. Colin indicated that the terms of his return as chair would require total control of the board and executive. This would run counter to that process, as well as the best practice governance requirements set out in the County Governance Code that were agreed by all counties in 2019.
“Colin also makes a number of allegations about the board’s actions in regard to finances which are unfounded and indicate a distinct lack of understanding of the current position of YCCC. The short- and long-term financial wellbeing of the club remains the board’s priority, and we will not be distracted by speculation which is unhelpful to our primary objective of securing the future of Yorkshire County Cricket Club and making it a welcoming club for everyone.”