Colin Graves has apologized “personally and unreservedly” to the victims of racism in Yorkshire and said he “deeply regrets” calling dressing room abuse a joke, language he now accepts that some called ” “rejecting or callous.” Graves’ much-anticipated return to Headingley was confirmed by the board on Wednesday evening.
Its takeover is subject to approval by members at an extraordinary general meeting called for February 2. Members will also be asked to ratify a change to the association’s rules to allow Graves to return to the board. Six of the club’s 10 board members have committed to resign by that date, and the two member representatives have also been asked to resign.
But there is confusion over Yorkshire’s future as a members’ club after it emerged that while the board had broken off negotiations with “many, many” potential investors, including “many IPL teams”, as chief executive Stephen Vaughan described, the Those unwilling to work in such a structure neither sought nor received assurances from Graves that he had no intention of enforcing demutualization. “You can never say never in these circumstances and what Colin and his management team do going forward is entirely up to them,” Vaughan said, “but there is no idea at all that that will be the case.”
Such a step would have to be approved by members with a majority of 75%.
Outgoing chairman Harry Chathli described Graves’ offer as “the only viable option to secure the club’s financial future at this time”. Graves will provide a £1m unsecured loan – reportedly at an interest rate of 4.8% above the Bank of England’s base rate, which would be 10.05% – and has promised a further £4m of investment .£ to make. However, members were warned that “the procurement of the further investment will depend on the new board and there is no binding obligation to provide or provide information about the sources of these funds” and that “the timing of receipt and the amount of this investment may vary.” sufficient to cover the club’s liabilities.”
Graves, who had been heavily involved in Yorkshire since 2002 and served as chairman between 2007 and 2015, had never before accepted that racism was an issue during his time at the club. In a television interview last year he admitted there may have been “strange occasions” when problematic language was used in the dressing room, but suggested that “there may have been a lot of joking about that”. On Thursday, however, he struck a much more conciliatory tone.
“Yorkshire CCC is one of the country’s most celebrated sporting institutions and one of the most successful clubs in world cricket,” he said. “I believe that the best days are yet to come… The mistakes of the past must be acknowledged and acted upon.
“I personally and unreservedly apologize to anyone who has experienced any form of racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club. Discrimination or abuse based on race, ethnicity or any other protected characteristic is not and will never be acceptable.
“I deeply regret the language I used when asked about the events that took place during my time as chairman, when I was no longer at the club. I understand and sympathize with those who found my comments dismissive or indifferent.”
“I am committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure Yorkshire County Cricket Club continues to reflect the communities it represents. The club cannot and will not succeed unless it agrees to meet the highest professional standards on and off the field. I would like to make it clear that we accept the findings of the report prepared by the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) and its recommendations. If I am confirmed as Chair, the work on equality, diversity and inclusion that has been done over the last two years will continue.”
Many were unconvinced by Graves’ new approach or the rationale that made him the club’s only saving grace. Azeem Rafiq, whose experience at Yorkshire Graves has previously been downplayed, said of the proposed takeover: “It’s very sad. It is a clear message to myself, to people of color and to South Asian people that cricket is not a game for us and that the people who play the sport do not want to take us there.
“I woke up to a barrage of abuse and that is what allows people to be more openly racist. How we got here is an absolute scandal. The game, the governing body, the sponsors – everyone in cricket should hang their heads in shame.”
The England and Wales Cricket Board said: “The ECB notes today’s announcement by Yorkshire CCC… and understands that it has concluded that this proposal is its only viable option to address the club’s situation and to put it on a sustainable basis.”
“Significant work has been done in Yorkshire – and across cricket – to tackle discrimination and make the sport more inclusive in recent years and it is vital that this continues.”
“We welcome Colin Graves’ commitment to continuing this work, his unreserved apology and his acceptance of the findings of the Independent Commission for Justice in Cricket. These words must be put into action if Yorkshire members agree to this deal.”
Sanjay Patel and Sanjeev Gandhi, who both worked with Graves to set up The Hundred when he was chairman of the ECB from 2015 to 2020, will be appointed as non-executive directors, subject to member approval. Philip Hodson, a businessman, former Cambridge University first-class cricketer and former president of the MCC, will serve as deputy chairman.
MP Caroline Dinenage, chair of the parliamentary culture, media and sport committee, which has devoted several meetings to cricket with a focus on Yorkshire, has invited Graves to give evidence next month. She said: “Yorkshire CCC’s disgraceful treatment of Azeem Rafiq was the tip of the iceberg as it revealed that racism, classism, sexism and misogyny are embedded throughout sport.” The publication of the ICEC report last year brought a turning point for English cricket, which the ECB apparently uses.
“Colin Graves’ return to Yorkshire and English cricket risks undermining the progress made so far. If the club is serious about restoring its reputation and finances, Mr. Graves and the club must commit to fully respecting the ICEC’s findings and taking appropriate action. The Culture, Media and Sport Committee will closely monitor the progress of this deal to ensure that Yorkshire CCC’s terrible past is not repeated.”