The Yorkshire chief executive, Stephen Vaughan, says anyone who could help assist the club with their financial difficulties would be “listened to seriously” for the chair vacancy, with Colin Graves having stated his interest in returning.
Vaughan spelt out the issues facing the club to members at the county’s annual general meeting on Friday night, highlighting a £3.5m cash shortfall this year, and the need to repay £14.9m to the Graves Trust.
A return for Graves would be controversial, with his first stint as chairman from 2012 and 2015 overlapping with Azeem Rafiq’s time at the club, a period in which the club have now admitted they failed to address the systemic use of racist and or discriminatory language. Nevertheless, he stated earlier this year he was ready to return “on his terms”.
Robin Smith, also a former county chairman and a long-standing associate of Graves, asked the board at the AGM why it was “prevaricating” on Graves’s return, urging it to “come to terms with Colin in short order and get rid of all this confusion and delay”.
Vaughan and the co-chair Baroness Grey-Thompson spoke during the meeting about the “robust process” being followed to recruit a replacement for outgoing chair Lord Kamlesh Patel.
After the AGM, Vaughan said: “Clearly, it wouldn’t be fair to talk about any people that may or may not be interested in that role. However, we’re very open to people that can do well for the club. When Lord Patel came in there was a remit for the chair at that time and it was obviously fairly transformational change, that remit has changed.
“Someone who can help with the refinancing of the club and can help us commercially going forward will be weighted very much as a key performance indicator. Anybody that can do that will be listened to seriously.”
Vaughan told members there were “multiple conversations” going on around the refinancing of club debt. He also said things “would get worse before they get better” with the impending Cricket Discipline Commission sanctions but insisted the issues facing Yorkshire were not “insurmountable”.
Vaughan hopes the county’s efforts to transform themselves are accounted for when sanctions are imposed over the racism scandal that engulfed the club.
The county have admitted four charges in relation to the CDC case related to allegations made by former Yorkshire bowler Rafiq. Decisions on liability concerning six individuals formerly connected to Yorkshire, including the former England captain Michael Vaughan, could come as early as next week from the CDC, but the Yorkshire chief executive is eager to learn what sanctions the club will face at the earliest opportunity.
“We want to rip the band aid off,” Vaughan said. “We’re talking about a matter of years now that these things have been going on, and I can tell you (there is a) kind of fog that hangs over the organisation at the moment because we don’t know (what will happen).
“I liken it to jumping off the high board at the swimming baths. The jumping off part isn’t too bad, it’s just going up the stairs that scares you. So for everybody here, we want to know what it is, deal with it and move on. I really hope first and foremost that all of the work that’s gone on in this period of time will be held into account when we come to this conversation (around sanctions). English cricket is stronger for Yorkshire cricket being strong.”
Vaughan said the whistleblowing helpline initiated by outgoing chairman Lord Patel in November 2021 would be kept in place “for the foreseeable future” but said it would eventually be wound up due to its “significant” cost when the time was right.
“The optics aren’t good if we were to pull that now,” he said. “In future though, the cost of the whistleblowing hotline is significant. What we’d like to do at some point, when we feel it’s the correct point, is to move to something which we can manage in a more sustainable fashion, but make sure it’s fit for purpose and allows any staff or people involved with the club to have an outlet for any issues that they feel they have got.”
The cost of the helpline, governance and listening reviews and the county’s equality, diversity and inclusion plan is listed at more than £700,000 in the club’s 2022 year-end accounts.
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