The MP cautions that if Graves were to be reinstated as chair, Yorkshire CCC could potentially lose all the progress they have made.
The potential return of Colin Graves to Yorkshire CCC could undo the strides made in addressing racism within the club, according to a warning from local MP Alex Sobel. The Labour MP, who represents Leeds North West where Yorkshire’s Headingley ground is located, expressed several concerns regarding Graves’ possible return in a statement released on Tuesday.
Graves has proposed an initial sum of £1 million to assist the financially struggling club. He has also pledged an additional £4 million over the course of five months, on the condition that he is approved as chair at a special general meeting this Friday. He has also requested for his associates Phillip Hodson, Sanjay Patel, and Sanjeev Gandhi to be voted onto the board, which will see significant changes. The current board endorsed this offer to members earlier this month, but it may cause division due to the ongoing racism controversy that has affected the club since 2020, which occurred during Graves’ previous tenure as chair.
Graves, who served as chair of Yorkshire from 2012 to 2015, has tried to backtrack from his previous aggressive behavior, apologizing sincerely to those who were subjected to racism at Yorkshire. He also expressed deep regret for his comments last summer where he seemed to dismiss the issue as mere “banter”. However, the club’s local MP Sobel – who is now also a member of the culture, media, and sport committee – remains unconvinced.
The statement expressed concern about the racism at Yorkshire and acknowledged Azeem Rafiq’s courageous testimony. The club has established a whistleblowing helpline and is investigating the cases brought to their attention. However, there are worries that any progress made could be undone if Mr Graves returns. It is not enough for him to simply retract his previous statements, but he must show a sincere dedication to creating a club that is inclusive for all members of the community.
Sobel acknowledged that there has been speculation about Graves’ return since the end of last year, and as a result some sponsors have ended their partnership with the club while others have threatened to do the same. He warned that relying on additional debt funding as a temporary solution could negatively impact future sponsorship income.
Sobel raised worries regarding the financial consequences of Graves’ comeback. He stated, “The Graves Family Trust is Yorkshire’s primary creditor and it seems that the amount Mr Graves has actually loaned to the club over the years is significantly less than their current debt.” Sobel added that the arrangement appears to be purely business-related and the current proposal of providing more funds in exchange for control raises important concerns about conflicts of interest and potential profits from future profitable cricket deals for Yorkshire.
“If the members vote to approve Mr. Graves’ return and the proposed financial package, he will be obligated to loan the club £1 million. However, I am troubled by the fact that the club has not been informed of Mr. Graves’ commitment to raise an additional £4 million within five months.”
Sobel expressed satisfaction that the resolution presented at the EGM did not aim to terminate Yorkshire’s status as a members’ club. He also stated his opposition towards any efforts to turn Yorkshire into a private entity, as this would prioritize profit over accountability and potentially harm the club’s sustainability in the long run.
The representatives of Graves have been reached out to for a comment.