Colin Graves has advocated taking Yorkshire into private ownership in a bid to unlock investment amid his concerns the club is “fighting for its survival” this year.

Graves, whose divisive return as Yorkshire chair was rubber-stamped in February, outlined in a letter to members that the county’s losses exceeded £9million, with a bleak financial prognosis for this year.

Because of such a dire position, Graves wants Yorkshire to move away from a traditional structure as one of 15 counties who are member-owned – with Durham, Hampshire and Northamptonshire the exceptions.

Headingley hosted a men's Ashes Test in 2023 (Mike Egerton/PA)
Headingley hosted a men’s Ashes Test in 2023 (Mike Egerton/PA)

“Unfortunately, there is no doubt that without swift and decisive action, YCCC (Yorkshire County Cricket Club) will be fighting for its survival during 2024,” the 76-year-old wrote.

“A demutualisation – thereby converting the club to a private structure, which unlocks potential private investment – appears at this point essential for the club’s future.

“My firm intention is that members’ current rights are protected and that a demutualisation would represent no change to their current interaction with YCCC.

“The club would be better structured to be self-sustaining, still in existence, and to capture maximum value for YCCC from any processes such as The Hundred.

“Other county clubs, including Hampshire and Northamptonshire, have successfully demutualised and are realising the benefits of this structure.”

Colin Graves was reappointed as Yorkshire chair earlier this year (House of Commons/PA)
Colin Graves was reappointed as Yorkshire chair earlier this year (House of Commons/PA)

Graves saved Yorkshire from financial oblivion in 2002 and, as such, his family trust – which is overseen by independent trustees – is still owed almost £15m.

Graves was the frontman of a financial rescue package that was accepted by the club’s members at an extraordinary general meeting earlier this year, paving the way for his reinstatement at Yorkshire.

His first spell as chair between 2012 and 2015 coincided in part with the racism scandal that enveloped Yorkshire and for which Graves in January apologised “personally and unreservedly”.

According to the latest financial accounts for last year, there was a £1.9million loss relating to “exceptional” expenses, most of which are because of the legal costs, fines and settlements during the racism furore. In total, Graves estimates these exceptional cash costs are more than £5m.

Despite Headingley staging an Ashes Test in 2023, Yorkshire reported a £2.7million trading loss for 2023 while a “limited international scheduling” this year is projected to cause more financial strife.

“The club is approaching borrowing limits and owes crucial operating partners considerable sums, all while being consigned to further financial losses in 2024,” Graves added.

“We urgently need to take appropriate action to ensure that YCCC is financially stable, fit for the future, and – as I stated at the EGM in February – never put in this position again.”

Labour MP Alex Sobel, whose Leeds North West constituency includes Yorkshire’s Headingley home, has hit out at the proposals, accusing former England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Graves of misleading members and making no mention of private ownership upon being reappointed at the EGM.

Yorkshire could net a significant financial windfall from the proposed sale of teams in The Hundred and Sobel has urged members to stand their ground, at least for now.

Labour MP Alex Sobel
Labour MP Alex Sobel’s Leeds North West constituency includes Yorkshire’s Headingley home (Handout David Woolfall/UK Parliament/PA)

“I will oppose Mr Graves’ attempt to take the club from members and make it a private entity as it will be done for profit and to weaken accountability and long-term viability,” Sobel said in a statement.

“Yorkshire members have been made many false promises over the last few months. I ask them to hold their nerve and oppose demutualisation until at least after the awarding of The Hundred franchises.”

Any demutualisation process must be voted on by at least 50 per cent of Yorkshire’s 6,000 members and three-quarters of those must be in favour of the change.