Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s board has agreed to recommend its members approve a financial deal that could lead to former chairman Colin Graves taking control again.
The move has sparked a backlash because Graves was chairman during a period of players facing racist abuse.
But the club is in need of a financial lifeline after the scandal left it facing reputational and financial ruin.
Sky News has learned that Graves would immediately loan £1m to the financially-troubled club and work with them to secure another £4m.
But it first requires club members to approve a loan agreement that would stipulate who could be nominated on to the board of the club.
In the process, that would lead to Graves returning as chair. His family trust is owed £15m in loan from YCCC.
The club said in a statement: “The board of Yorkshire County Cricket Club has tonight agreed to recommend the loan agreement from Mr Colin Graves.
“The club will be sending a notice to members tomorrow (Thursday 11 January) ahead of an EGM which will outline the details of the offer as well as the resolutions and rule changes that are required to be ratified by members at the EGM.”
There have been moves to block the return of Graves from politicians and Azeem Rafiq, who exposed the institutional racism he and other players suffered across two spells at the club between 2008 and 2018.
Alex Sobel, Labour MP for Leeds North West, said on Wednesday he was “very concerned” over the possible return of Graves.
The politician added he was against “any attempt to take Yorkshire away from members and make it a private entity”.
Graves, who was chairman from 2008 to 2015, in June dismissed any discrimination suffered as a “lot of banter”.
Sky News understands Graves is preparing to release a statement of apology with a more contrite tone that has already been circulating in cricket circles.
It’s understood he will apologise for anyone who experienced racism and express regret for the language he used.
In June, the ECB was critical of Graves – the governing body’s chairman from 2015 to 2020 – saying they “vehemently disagree that this is ‘just banter'”.
Rafiq had heard about the looming apology when he told Sky News: “We’re talking about a person that firstly has shown no contrition to this day and has gone above and beyond to continue the harm.”
Rafiq himself has apologised for racism – issuing swift regret when past antisemitic comments were revealed in 2021.
Yorkshire admitted four England and Wales Cricket Board charges including over a failure to address and take adequate action against racist and discriminatory language.
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Rafiq: Cricket still ‘resistant to change’
On Monday morning, Sporting Equals – a charity which promotes ethnic diversity across the sport and physical activity sector – published an open letter sent to the ECB, sports minister Stuart Andrew, and county cricket clubs and their sponsors, in which they expressed dismay at a prospective return for Graves and called for further reforms in the game.
“The potential reinstatement of Colin Graves as chairman of Yorkshire County Cricket Club would undermine the progress made,” Sporting Equals wrote.
“His reinstatement would send a message that emboldens those who perpetuate the myth that racism is simply banter, that it is enough to pay lip service to policies and procedures.”
Labour MP Alex Sobel said on Wednesday: “I am very concerned that we would lose the progress we have made under a return by Mr Graves and would need not just a statement recanting his views but full commitment to create a club for the whole community.”
“Yorkshire cricket belonging to the members of the club and their ownership of the historic Yorkshire Cricket Club is at the heart of our county.
“I will oppose any attempt to take Yorkshire away from members and make it a private entity as it will be done for profit and weaken accountability and long-term viability.
“I call on anyone who wants to see the club stay with the members and safeguard the progress it has made and who has the means to help safeguard the club to come forward. I will work with anyone who has the same goals as me to save Yorkshire cricket.”
Written by: Newsroom