Home Cricket Chair of CMS select committee writes to Graves over Yorkshire demutualisation plans

Chair of CMS select committee writes to Graves over Yorkshire demutualisation plans

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Colin Graves, Yorkshire’s chair, has come under renewed scrutiny from the chair of the parliamentary committee that oversees sporting bodies, following his recent claims that a process of demutualisation could prove to be “essential” to the long-term future of the club.

Caroline Dinenage, chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, queried the timing and content of Graves’ remarks, made in a letter to Yorkshire’s members on Monday, which she felt contradicted his previous assurances that the club would remain a members-owned institution under his leadership.

Graves appeared before the CMS select committee on February 20, after his return as Yorkshire chair had been ratified at an EGM earlier that month. Yorkshire claimed at the time that it had engaged with more than 350 interested parties, including the former Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, but had deemed his offer was the only one capable of retaining the club’s existing status as a mutual society.

“Your return to the club was predicated on your financial support not being contingent on demutualisation of the club, in contrast to alternative bids discussed by the board,” Dinenage wrote in a letter to Graves on Thursday, which was also posted on X (formerly Twitter). “We are therefore concerned that you have now decided that converting the club to a private structure is now ‘essential’?”

“Prior to your bid’s approval, you reassured the members of the club on 16 January that ‘there are no discussions or plans to change the mutual status of YCCC.’ This claim was made despite your September 2023 offer to the YCCC board, which you initially denied any knowledge of to us, which was contingent on such a demutualisation.”

Dinenage also queried the nature of Graves’ relationship with the family trust, overseen by independent trustees, which is a legacy of his original bail-out that saved Yorkshire from bankruptcy in 2002, and still constitutes some £15 million of the £20 million of the club’s “long-term borrowing” that Graves outlined in his letter to members.

Graves’ proposed process of demutualisation would unlock those loans and open the club up to private investment – a prospect that has already be raised among county clubs via the ongoing discussions over the future of the Hundred.

In his update to members, he pledged that any potential windfall “for either myself or my family trust … would be donated in full into a charitable trust supporting Yorkshire recreational cricket, both men’s and women’s”. Dinenage, however, requested more information on that commitment, and set a deadline of May 31 for a response.

“You have previously told the Committee that you have no role in your family trusts,” Dinenage wrote. “We would be grateful for clarity on the following points:

  • Whether the trustees of the Graves family trustees have agreed to the commitment to donations, and your role in securing this agreement?
  • Whether the ‘financial upside’ referred to in your 20 May update includes the interest rates of 4% above base rate, which will be returned to you and your family trusts as part of the repayment of debts?
  • The proposed governance arrangements for any new charitable trust for Yorkshire recreational cricket.”
  • It is the second time in as many months that Yorkshire have come under parliamentary scrutiny. In April, the committee released its “Equity in Cricket” report, in which the ECB was urged to closely monitor the club in the wake of the racism scandal, to “ensure that there is no return to the ‘business as usual’ that allowed a culture of discrimination to take root and thrive at the club”.

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