YORKSHIRE County Cricket Club chairman Colin Graves is confident that he can swiftly get the club “back on an even keel”.

The 76-year-old, speaking exclusively to YCCC yearbook editor Graham Hardcastle at Headingley, says that he will put his “heart and soul” into rescuing Yorkshire from their current difficulties, as he did in 2002 when he last took over the post.

With 88 per cent of the members voting in favour of him coming back - a tally that Graves called phenomenal - he is also confident that Yorkshire will gain promotion from Division Two of the Vitality County Championship.

Graves, whose re-appointment was not without its controversy due to the Azeem Rafiq scandal happening on his watch, said: “I think we all just want to see Yorkshire Cricket back to where we need it to be.

“We’ve had a turbulent three years, but it’s a bit like drawing a line in the sand and saying, ‘Let’s look forward’.

“I’ve always been passionate about cricket since I was five. I was brought up with two brothers and my dad - we all played. I’ve always been a cricket nut.

“Yorkshire, to me, is special and different. Just walking into this ground, it’s different.

“I put my heart and soul into it in 2002 when I first came here, and I will again. I just couldn’t sit and watch the club go bust, basically.

“I think a lot of people outside of cricket don’t realise how strong and big Yorkshire Cricket is. The amount played around the county on a Saturday is staggering. It’s in our heritage and blood.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Steve Bullen hits out for New Farnley in the opening day win over Townville in the Bradford Premier League Premier Division at the weekend.Steve Bullen hits out for New Farnley in the opening day win over Townville in the Bradford Premier League Premier Division at the weekend. (Image: Ray Spencer.)

“That’s why I’m so passionate about this club and county. We simply cannot let that stop happening.

“It’s an institution, but as an institution, you still have to pay your way. You have to have a profitable business to do that.”

Graves, who left the White Rose to become deputy chairman of the ECB in 2013, becoming chairman from 2015 to 2020, admitted that he didn’t see himself being back working at Yorkshire.

He confessed: “Not one bit. I had no intention of returning to Headingley in any capacity apart from to watch a bit of cricket.

“It never crossed my mind. But things change.”

Graves knows the size of the task he and his team face at Headingley, saying: “It’s a challenge, but it’s not one that worries or over-fazes me.

“I know I can sort it by working with and getting other people involved to re-finance and re-structure the club.

“Yes, the figures are bad at the moment because the creditors have built up and we owe money.

“From that perspective, it’s about stopping the haemorrhaging of money going out. In simple terms, we’re spending more than we’re earning, but I think in a year’s time we’ll have it on an even keel. 

“We have an India Test match next year, which will be good.

“We have to make sure next year is profitable and we get back to making profits every year.

“This year is going to be tough because we haven’t got a Test match. We had two one-dayers and that’s it. From there, we should be okay.

“It’s very similar in some ways to how it was when I first came in. The biggest difference is that we didn’t own the ground in 2002.

“Back then, we had an overdraft of £5m and didn’t own a blade of grass.

“Now we owe, in total, roughly £20m, but we have an asset in the ground worth roughly £20m.

“The figures are different and look bigger, but we have an asset behind us.

“When I left in 2015, we had bought the ground, we had turned it around and had started with other developments. It was a profitable business paying its way and paying its debts.

“Everything was going great. We had done a load of hard work and got it established.

“It’s just disappointing for the last two or three years that we’ve had all the issues and the costs incurred with that.”

As for the men’s team, Graves said: “Talking to people in and around cricket, it’s clear we have a lot of young and exciting players.

“It’s just a matter of keeping them fit.

“We got clobbered a lot by the weather last year. Hopefully that won’t happen again.

“We definitely have the capabilities of doing well. The main thing is that we need to get out of the Second Division.

“Yorkshire should not be in that division. I am definitely confident we can do that (promotion).”

Graves has also been a significant figure in the development of The Hundred competition. 

“The Hundred, I have always said, would be the jewel in the crown of English Cricket from an asset point of view,” he said. 

“If you look at it, international cricket isn’t owned by the ECB. We have what we’re allocated by the ICC, and we live off the back of that. It brings in a lot of money, but it’s not under our control.

“Don’t get me wrong, we make the best of that, and we want that to continue for as long as it can.

“If you look at the Championship, it doesn’t bring in any money. The Blast brings in some money, but it’s not an unbelievable amount. 

“But the Hundred was something new, and Sky got behind it and invested heavily into it.

“To me, that’s owned by the ECB and should be used to bring extra money into the game and to develop it. It’s one of English Cricket’s biggest assets.”

Other articles in the Yearbook are about the impressive success of the men’s D40 (disability) team and an interview with YCCC president Jane Powell.

* Yorkshire County Cricket Club Yearbook 2024 is available for county members at £14.99 (unsigned) or £19.99 (signed by Yorkshire’s men’s players and the Northern Diamonds women’s team). Prices for non-members are £19.99 (standard edition) or £29.99 (signed edition).