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Yorkshire hit back at criticism of Colin Graves' return

Colin Graves portrait
Colin Graves is only a couple of days away from completing an agreement to return as Yorkshire chairman despite criticism from Azeem Rafiq and Sporting Equals - Tom Shaw for the ECB

Yorkshire have hit back at criticism of their hunt for a new backer as talks with Colin Graves over a return as chairman near completion.

Telegraph Sport understands Yorkshire on Monday extended their period of exclusivity with Graves until Tuesday evening with a board meeting expected to rubber stamp the takeover on Wednesday. An EGM of club members will then be held at the end of the month.

However, the deal with Graves attracted criticism over the weekend with the charity Sporting Equals, which works to promote ethnic diversity in sport, saying it “made a mockery” of cricket’s battle against racism.

Graves was in charge at Yorkshire between 2012-15, a period when the club was fined for the use of racist and derogatory language following the witness testimony of Azeem Rafiq. Graves later described some of the language used at Yorkshire as banter.

“I don’t think it was done on a racist, savage basis. I think there was a lot of – I know people don’t like the word banter – but I think there could have been a lot of banter in there about it, and I know people don’t like that,” he said last year.

Rafiq, writing for the Observer, hit out at Graves’ potential return, describing it as a “complete moral failure” by those running the game and called on the club’s sponsors to find their “moral compass” and put pressure on the club to block his return.

However, despite searching for new backers for more than 12 months and speaking to potential investors from all over the world, Yorkshire are close to completing a deal with their former chairman to pay off the money owed to his family trust. The ECB has helped the club to cover winter expenses by advancing money from this year’s annual central payout but Yorkshire are in desperate need of new funds. Graves will immediately inject £5m to pay off creditors and begin the process of rebuilding the club.

“Yorkshire County Cricket Club and agents acting on our behalf have met with over 350 interested parties to work through the validity of each and every genuine offer to refinance the club,” Yorkshire said in a statement. “No stone has been left unturned and a thorough and rigorous process has been conducted by the board to ensure the club stays operational for the benefit of its members, creditors and employees. We refute any assertion to the contrary.”

In a letter to Stuart Andrew, the sports minister, Sporting Equals said Graves’ return would set back the clock on tackling racism in cricket.

“Since Azeem Rafiq publicly exposed the deep systemic problems the ECB, among others, has taken action to address these issues.

“However, the potential reinstatement of Colin Graves as chairman of Yorkshire County Cricket Club would undermine the progress made.

“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.

“It would make a mockery of the suffering of ethnically diverse players across the country. It would be a rejection of the ICEC report’s thorough investigation and well-considered conclusions. This progress must not be stunted.”

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