A passionate farewell speech from Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s retiring Chairman, Colin Graves, brought a prolonged standing ovation at the Club’s annual general meeting at Headingley on Saturday.
Colin, who stood down after the meeting, takes up his new post as Chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board in May, and Yorkshire Board director, Steve Denison, was elected to replace him as Chairman at Headingley.
Outgoing Chairman Colin Graves (right) with the Club’s new Chairman Steve Denison in front of the East Stand at Headingley.
Although some members expressed concern at Yorkshire’s current financial situation, Colin was upbeat about the future provided certain essential steps are taken.
First and foremost, Colin said the main priority at Headingley was to get people to come forward and fill the ground. “It is about getting bums on seat,” he added. “Spending £40m on an empty ground is not good sense but if we can fill the ground it will solve our problems overnight.
“Everything evolves around getting people to the stadium. We can continue to run on bare bones but at the end of the day it is income, income, income that matters. That is what it is all about.”
Looking back over his 13 years on the Board as either Chairman or Chief Executive, Colin said that if anybody had told him in 2002 what would happen in his life in cricket he would not have believed them.
“We need to reduce interest and loan payments before 2019 when this club will then be staging an Ashes Test, putting on four World Cup matches and having a new grandstand at the rugby end. In 2019, therefore, this club can make £5m and that is not pie-in-the-sky. If we don’t fill this ground for five days of an Ashes Test there is something wrong.”
Colin said that going forward a lot of positive things were happening, including the ground naming rights. He thanked several people for their help and support, including fellow Board member, Robin Smith, who had been Chairman himself for five years and had been a very wise counsellor, helping the Board to create something very special in that Yorkshire and Headingley were held in high esteem around the world which meant massive opportunities going forward.
He thanked Leeds City Council for their help in the development of the ground and said he had enjoyed working with their nominee on the Board, Martin Farrington, and he also thanked Leeds Beckett University for putting £14m into the pavilion. Without their help the pavilion would not be there.
During their time on the Board, Geoffrey Boycott and Michael Vaughan had been wise counsellors and great supporters and he made special mention of stadium manager, David Ryder, who will have been on the Yorkshire staff for 40 years come October “and knows the ground top to bottom and is passionate about Yorkshire” and Liz Neto, his PA for the past ten years.
Colin Graves paid tribute to Robin Smith (left) and Geoffrey Boycott at the AGM
It had been a privilege and an honour to work with the club Presidents during his time – Bob Appleyard, who died only recently, Brian Close, Raymond Illingworth, Geoffrey Boycott and current president, Dickie Bird.
He thanked the players and coaches and said that the pinnacle of what he had done for Yorkshire came on that day at Trent Bridge in September of last year when Yorkshire clinched the Championship. It was a day he would never forget and one player he should particularly mention was Ryan Sidebottom who was at Headingley when Colin first arrived and was at Headingley again now after “going on holiday for a few years.”
Director of Cricket, Martyn Moxon, coach Jason Gillespie and chief executive Mark Arthur, were also among those singled out for special praise.
AGM top table – Paul Hudson, Finance Director (left), Mark Arthur, Chief Executive, Colin Graves, Martyn Moxon, Director of Cricket
Referring to his new job as Chairman of the ECB, Colin said English cricket had to be changed. If it wasn’t changed but left as it is was then in ten or 15 years the game would have a problem. This was not scare-mongering but a fact and the culture of the ECB had to change over the next five years and they had to talk to everybody and come up with a strategy. Massive challenges lay ahead but there were also massive opportunities and changes had to be embraced when they came.
“If we can go back to a winning England team everybody benefits because that is where the revival comes from. Look to the future and look positively.”
The membership rose to its feet when Colin concluded: “I have made a lot of friends here and met a lot of people. Yorkshire is the greatest cricket club in the world. Make sure it stays that way and keep on winning.”
President, Dickie Bird, who was re-elected for a second year in office, presented Colin with an engraved silver replica first team cap on behalf of the club.
Dickie Brid presents Colin with his county cap and Head Coach Jason Gillespie shares a joke at the AGM.
Earlier in the meeting, Martyn Moxon was elected to the Board in place of Michael Vaughan who retired by rotation and did not seek re-election. Martyn said it was a great honour and he would serve to the best of his ability
Giving his cricket report, Martyn said it was fantastic to have the LV=County Championship Trophy displayed on the table that day and it was a great credit to the players who had performed so well.
“You all saw the desire in the Club to go one better than in 2013 when we so close and yet so far and from the first day back for training in 2014 the coaching staff were able to see the work ethic of the players which was quite unbelievable. To perform cricket skills you need a high level of fitness for the full season and that fitness level showed up right to the end with four wins in the last five games – and it was very nearly five wins.”
He congratulated captain Andrew Gale and coach Jason Gillespie on the brand of cricket they brought to the game and helping the players to drive each other on. A great team ethic had run through the club with everyone working towards the same end.
Martyn Moxon addresses the forum.
Martyn said that for Yorkshire to have six players on England’s tour to the West Indies next month was fantastic for the club and would challenge the depth of the squad for the first few weeks of the season, but on the pre-season tour of Abu Dhabi the young players had done very well against strong opposition and had shown they were capable of performing well against class sides.
He was pleased with the overseas players they had recruited for the new season and said that although there had been an improvement in Yorkshire’s one-day game in 2014 they had still not fulfilled all of their potential and their aim now was to make a big impact in Twenty20 cricket which would help the finances as well as hopefully bringing another trophy to the Club. They wanted to compete well in all three forms of the game and to do this they had to keep the production line of talent flowing.
“I was running Dunnington Cricket Club and I thought that would be it,” he said. “Then I got a call from Geoff Cope who said ‘can you come to Headingley, we have got a bit of a problem?’ and that ended with the Gang of Four trying to resurrect this great club.
“We were in turmoil and in an absolute mess with the Club owing £5m and on the verge of closure by the banks. I could not let this happen and I have enjoyed every minute since 2002 and I do not regret any of it.
“I am not ashamed of the debt. The hard core debt is £20m but we have paid £13-and-a-half million to build the ground. In real terms the asset value of the ground is £15m and the balance sheet is not a true reflection of things.
“Where the Board is today is that the bank of Colin Graves has gone, so that this business has to stand on its own two feet and generate cash. We have to be cash positive and we have to bring interest payments down.
“From a personal point of view my loan of five-and-a-half million pounds is being put back in via my family trust. I have resigned as a trustee of my family trust. The trust is looking at it as a trust and people do not have to worry.