Members Forum – Friday 5th April 2024 – The Long Room, East Stand. 10am

This is an overview of the members forum that was held prior to the start of play on day 1 of the game vs Leicestershire. This includes the topics of each question asked and the response Mr Colin Graves gave:

Colin Graves was introduced by Graeme Greenfield, Chair of the Yorkshire Cricket Members’ Representative Group. CG gave an overview and said he was looking forward to a successful season both on and off the pitch. The 2024 AGM papers have now been published and sent to members detailing the Club’s financial picture and the need for an injection of capital. CG advised that there was a 2/3-month period where the Club would need to get the cost base correct. Philip Hodgson was now working with the cricket department to ensure they’re heading in the right direction. The overall theme was there is a lot of work to do.

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com – Yorkshire’s Colin Graves meets Yorkshire club members ahead of play against Leicestershire.

Q1. Injection of capital. What has been injected and what may be injected in future?

CG said that there was a £6m blackhole discovered. £3m has been injected with a further £3m pending. The Club has been carefully managing its cash flow for 3 months with a tight grip but there is light at the end of the tunnel. If you look at the accounts and compare, costs have risen. This is primarily due to the exceptional items including compensation costs.

Q2. Sponsorship. Have we lost any and are we attracting new ones?

CG confirmed that sponsorships had never been better. We have attracted 3 new sponsors in the last week alone. Any talk of losing sponsors is not true.

Q3. Cost-cutting Measures.

CGAll staff have done a great job so far. The Club needs to balance the costs of what we need and then structure accordingly. Some redundancies may have to happen with every department in view. The Club has no test match this season so revenue streams will naturally be lower. However, we have India next year and that is as big a game now as an Ashes test match.

Q4. What securities have been attached to the £6m loan input into the Club?

CG – All of the money injected so far is private investment and the loans have not been secured against anything.

Q5. Is the playing department subject to the review of costs across the Club?

CG – We must invest in cricket as we are first and foremost a cricket club. If a player is available, then we will look at them, however having Joe Root and Harry Brook available in these early parts of the season is something that will always help. All the salaries paid to players, however, will be realistic and we will not pay over the odds.

Q6. Dawid Malan coaching. Can we tempt him back to red ball cricket.?

CG – Philip Hodgson has taken control of the cricket department, including the Diamonds team. Malan is contracted to white ball only but PH and Ottis Gibson will work together to deal with this. People need to be in the right place at the right time to do the right job.

Q7. Has the Club requested a copy of the upcoming book by Azeem Rafiq and Are we to remain a member’s club?

CGThe Club has not seen a copy of the book. A soft letter was sent to the publishers, which was put on our website. A response was received saying that no copy would be sent.

Regards to a member’s club – there is no definite answer because the game is changing. Cricket is a tough sport and there are a lot of first-class counties struggling, with five counties reporting losses last year. CG said he has no crystal ball but will say three things:

  1. Cricket is changing. The biggest change is the growing influence of the USA. They have the money, backed by multinational corporations, and will try to attract the biggest and best players.
  2. Hampshire, who are privately owned, are undergoing a process to sell a majority stake of 51% to Delhi Capitals in the IPL. This will take nothing away from the Hampshire members, but ownership of ground and assets will be with Delhi Capitals. This will impact the game in England and once this happens, we need to sit down and work that impact out. We must look at what is good for this Club. CG guaranteed that members rights for watching cricket, for buying international cricket and other aspects of being a member will be protected. Regarding the asset and ownership, this must be looked at. The future of the Club and the ground needs to be protected.
  3. The Hundred will be the biggest asset in the English game worth around £800m. The Club needs to maximize its stake. Members’ rights will be protected but we need to look at other things that come on the radar. CG stated that whilst we are not actively looking, he has had 10 phone calls wanting to talk with Yorkshire.

CG said that the one thing cricket lacks is money when compared to football and even rugby. The board must do the right things for Yorkshire going forward.

Q8. Major Match Allocation Programme. Can we talk to the ECB and ask them to review the future tours program.

CG – The allocation for us is poor. The way this was allocated changed. A balanced scorecard would be produced and Headingley usually scored highly. We do have an Ashes in 2031 but there will be some tough years in between as over the next 5 years, 3 test matches are missed. CG said that we cannot change the ECB’s decision, as we are past the point of no return.

Q9. Members Club. From a legal point of view, does there have to be an EGM to change this?

CG – Yes there does have to be an EGM. Nobody is trying to force anything through. Consultation will be given, and everything will be above board. The rules and regulations are complicated, but we are a members Club and will abide by the rules.

Q10. Improvements to the Ground. What plans are there to increase capacity?

CG – We need to get our house in order first. We’d love to have an increase in the capacity to 25k and put a second tier on the Western terrace. As and when or if the opportunity arises, if there is investment, we can do this very quickly.

Q11. Director of Cricket. Will another be appointed?

CG – We have no immediate plans to re-appoint and we await news on whether our application for a tier 1 women’s team is successful. We won’t be looking to make an appointment until September. We have great coaches so we will let them get on with it. This mirrors the strategy employed by Surrey as they may not appoint a DoC going forward. We won’t rush into it.

Q12. What is the one thing you want from members?

CG – I am only asking for support which has been given already, through the EGM and for the refinancing proposal. Membership is growing, our sponsorship is growing. We need to move forward. It is all about money, the more we get the better the players we have. I want to ensure that the Club is sustainable and want it on a firmer footing.

Q13. Has any consideration been given to life membership?

CG – This is a good idea. Something that we will look at and we will look at adding this on to the agenda for our next board meeting.

Q14. Will the good things that have happened over the last two years be kept in place?

CG – I can assure you this. A lot of the work regarding EDI, Safeguarding, the Pathways has been brilliant. Nothing will be knocked back. We have brilliant people like Mo (YCCC EDI Lead) and that has been recognized by the ECB. We are held as best in class and so nothing will change. We need to get a grip on running the business but nothing like this will change.

Q15. Where do you see county cricket in 10 years’ time?

CG – Andrew Strauss put together a plan for his vision for cricket including county cricket and the Hundred and spent nearly a year on that plan, but it wasn’t accepted for a lot of reasons. What he tried to do was get the best for all facets of the game.

International cricket is at a crossroads especially with test cricket. There are about 6 nations that like playing test cricket. Unfortunately, others are not the same. Test Cricket is a loss-making event for many countries. Who wants to play? Is it meaningful? Broadcasters will not pay good money if the content does not match this.

White ball cricket – IPL dominates. The USA will follow and have Indian money behind it. Salaries will rise.

Instead of having two divisions in the County Championship, we should have three divisions of six, so you play less cricket but of a higher quality nature. And you then play it at the right time. County Cricket loses money, but it is the feeder of our test team, so it is important. Quality is better than quantity.

All these discussions are needed – we should talk to the players. What do we want going forward for the good of cricket? That is the debate. International cricket though is the key to Headingley’s success. Last year we had an Ashes test match. In 2019 we made £5m net profit from the Ashes test. Last year we lost £3m. When we get opportunities like these, we need to do the best we can, so the money flows through the whole club.

In the next 12 months, investment will come into English cricket from all over the world and when this happens, we must make sure whatever decision is taken is made in the best interests of Yorkshire cricket.

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