Colin Graves calls for a fresh start at Yorkshire as his return moves closer

Colin Graves has called for a “line in the sand” to be drawn on Yorkshire’s turbulent recent history after members voted in favour of his return as chairman on Friday.

A resolution to accept a loan offer to the debt-ridden club from the 76-year-old, who has previously served as chairman and helped to save Yorkshire from financial ruin in 2002, received overwhelming support from members at a heated extraordinary general meeting.

Graves’ comeback will be controversial given the racism scandal which has engulfed the club since 2020 took place partially on his watch, with Yorkshire member Gurminder Singh speaking out at the EGM to say it was Graves who had “led (Yorkshire) down the path” to their current difficulties.

Graves warned it may be a “bumpy ride” ahead but struck a conciliatory tone after the special resolution was passed by an 88 per cent majority among the 845 who cast votes – just under a quarter of the 3,500 members who were eligible to vote.

“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 County Cricket Club. There will be no exception,” he said.

“What the board has done in this area over the last two years is a great job and will be continued.

“I have already unreservedly apologised for any and all mistakes that were either made by the club or I over the painful and difficult years in the past.

“Let’s draw a line in the sand. What’s happened is history – I can’t change it, you can’t change it. So there’s no point dwelling on it. We’ve all put our hand up and said if things were wrong, we apologise. Let’s forget that. Let’s look forward.

“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.

“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 County Cricket Club.

“I could be sat at home with my slippers on my feet doing nothing. I made the decision to come here, sort this club out and get it back to where it needs to be.”

Last month, when the board recommended to members that Graves’ offer be accepted, Graves apologised to anyone who had experienced racism at Yorkshire. Azeem Rafiq, who spoke out in 2020 about the discrimination he faced, said at the time he did not accept that apology.

The England and Wales Cricket Board warned last month it was “vital” the work done to tackle discrimination at Yorkshire continued, and that it had “significant powers which can be used to hold Yorkshire to account” if that was not found to be the case.

The Culture, Media and Sport select committee confirmed on Friday that Graves would appear before it alongside senior figures from the ECB on February 20 to answer questions about the sport’s progress in tackling discrimination.

CMS committee chair Dame Caroline Dinenage said: “On the Yorkshire takeover, while Colin Graves has now apologised to those who experienced racism, and for his dismissive approach to those who suffered, during his last spell at the club, we want to make sure that lessons have been learnt and attitudes have changed.”

The appointment of Graves to the board and three associates – Phillip Hodson, Sanjay Patel and Sanjeev Gandhi – as non-executive directors is still subject to approval from the Financial Conduct Authority over the next two weeks, which Graves said limited his ability to spell out his plans for the club.

Members were asked to recommend the loan offer from Graves in a notice issued on January 11. It consists of a two-part unsecured personal loan of GBP 1million from Graves, while the new non-executive directors will work with the board to arrange a further GBP 4million of funding over the next five months.

Current chair Harry Chathli told media after the meeting that the board’s initial focus in its search for refinancing had been on retaining Yorkshire’s members’ club status, and that deals to sell the club which would have ended that status could have been accepted “three times over” at least.

However, Chathli and chief executive Stephen Vaughan both made clear to members that as things stood now, the club would be facing administration without Graves’ offer.

“We as directors would not be discharging our duty of care if we deliberately put this club into administration just because we didn’t like a personality. That cannot happen,” Chathli said during the meeting.

Vaughan added: “We have kissed a lot of frogs and been to lots of beauty parades, and we are at a place now where the deal that Colin and his team are bringing to the table is the only one that will keep the business solvent going forward.”