Colin Graves has apologised “personally and unreservedly” to those who experienced racism at Yorkshire after the club’s board approved a loan offer that paves the way for his controversial return as chair.

The debt-ridden county’s long search for fresh investment has brought them back to the man who served as chair between 2012 and 2015 before leaving for the same role at the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

With time running out to keep the business viable, almost £15million owed to the Graves family trust and a host of other potential investors no longer at the table, the board has recommended an emergency funding offer fronted by the 75-year-old. The club’s membership will now be asked to vote through the proposal at an extraordinary general meeting on February 2.

Graves’ reinstatement, which is expected to go ahead, represents a divisive move considering the racism scandal which has engulfed Yorkshire in recent years, an episode which partially took place during Graves’ first stint in charge, and has already drawn criticism.

Azeem Rafiq, the spinner-turned-whistleblower who first shed light on the issue, told the PA news agency it would represent “a sad day for all those that have suffered racism”, while MPs have raised concerns.

Graves has been bullish on the issue in the past, causing anger last summer when he told Sky Sports News that while he had never witnessed any racial discrimination during his tenure “there could have been a lot of banter”.

But he has now moved to adopt a more conciliatory tone and distanced himself from those comments.

“I apologise personally and unreservedly to anyone who experienced any form of racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club,” he said in a statement.

“Discrimination or abuse based on race, ethnicity or any other protected characteristic is not and never will be acceptable.

I profoundly regret some of the language I used when asked about the events that took place when I was chairman...I understand and sympathise with those who regarded my comments as dismissive or uncaring.

Colin Graves “I profoundly regret some of the language I used when asked about the events that took place when I was chairman, at a time when I was no longer at the club. I understand and sympathise with those who regarded my comments as dismissive or uncaring.

“I am determined to do whatever is required to ensure Yorkshire County Cricket Club continues to reflect the communities it represents. The club cannot and will not succeed unless it is united in its commitment to meet the highest professional standards, on and off the field.

“I want to make it clear that we accept the findings of the report carried out by the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) and its recommendations. If I am confirmed as chairman, the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion work that has been carried out over the last two years will continue.

“I hope that new and older members, former players, commercial sponsors and broadcasters will work with us to ensure that everyone connected with Yorkshire cricket is proud to be associated with the club.”

That stance is unlikely to appease all of his detractors, chief among them Rafiq. He told PA: “It’s inevitable now but it is going to be a sad day for all those that have suffered racism.

“Unfortunately I think the members’ vote (to ratify Graves’ return) is probably the most inevitable part. It’s not for me to sit here and try to change their mind but I would say be careful what you wish for in terms of his plans for the club.

Azeem Rafiq is dismayed by the idea of Colin Graves returning to his former club.

“Whether it’s members, sponsors or people who work at the club, history will remember which side you were on.”

The EGM notice confirmed plans for an immediate cash injection of £1m, followed by further funding worth £4m over five months. That is all contingent on members ratifying Graves’ return to an altered board alongside deputy Phillip Hodson, former managing director of The Hundred Sanjay Patel and Sanjeev Gandhi as non-executive directors. The initial £1m would repayable instantly, should those changes not meet with approval.

Graves made a direct appeal to the club’s membership ahead of their vote next month.

“I hope that members will vote in favour of this deal when it is put to them,” he said.

“Yorkshire CCC is one of the most illustrious sporting institutions in the country and one of the most successful clubs in world cricket. I believe its best days still lie ahead, but success on the field cannot be achieved without financial stability off the pitch.

“There are huge challenges ahead in order to achieve this. But if the offer is accepted by members, I will lead a management team which will oversee an immediate injection of capital into the club. It is our intention to get Yorkshire back to winning ways; grow the women’s game; and inspire a new generation of children and young adults to watch and play cricket. Yorkshire must be a club that is open and welcoming to everyone who shares a passion for the game, from every part of society.”