COLIN GRAVES believes he would bow out of Yorkshire cricket at just the right time if he became chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, saying he had achieved what he wanted to do when he came to the club in 2002.
Graves is set to replace Giles Clarke in the ECB hot seat in a move that would mean he could no longer be Yorkshire chairman due to the possible conflict of interest.
On the one hand, it would be a great opportunity for a man whose millions have bankrolled Yorkshire during one of the most challenging periods in their history; on the other, it would be a personal wrench given the emotional – as well as financial – investment Graves has made since pulling the club back from the financial precipice in 2002.
Graves, who stated after Yorkshire’s County Championship title win last summer that the club would have gone bust had he not come on board, has invested millions into the business – money he insisted is “going nowhere” – and overseen the purchase and redevelopment of the Headingley ground.
“In many ways, I think I’ve done what I needed to do at Yorkshire,” said Graves. “The ground development is nearly finished and it’s totally different from what it was when I went there in 2002, and we’ve got the thing on an even keel.
“I sometimes think you can hang around for too long; I’ve been chairman for a long time, and, to be honest, in some ways it might do Yorkshire good to have another chairman with different views.
“It would certainly be a sad day from my point of view, but it would also be a proud one having done what we’ve done and achieved what we’ve achieved, and I’ve enjoyed working with people like Martyn Moxon, Jason Gillespie and Andrew Gale. All the staff at the club are superb, and I’ve got every confidence in Mark Arthur, the chief exec, who’s doing a fantastic job.”
Graves is owed roughly half of Yorkshire’s circa £20m debt, emphasising his extraordinary commitment to the club.
No Yorkshire supporter would surely begrudge him the chance to move on. “At the end of the day, what I’ve done for Yorkshire is what I wanted to do for Yorkshire,” said Graves.
“I’m a Yorkshireman through and through, and I couldn’t see Yorkshire County Cricket Club disappear.
“I will leave my investment in Yorkshire and, over the next two years, there will hopefully be ways and means of restructuring the club’s debt to ensure it makes the club more profitable.
“I don’t really want to discuss that at the present time, but we’ve got a plan in place where, if we could take some of the debt out of Yorkshire so we’re not paying interest on it over a period, then Yorkshire would be in a stronger position going forward.”
Graves said Yorkshire would appoint any new chairman from within the current board and that a replacement would only need steer the ship rather than repair it.
“The job is pretty much well down the line of being finished,” he said.
“The only thing a new chairman would have to do is make sure we’re going forward in the right way because generally he’d be inheriting a bloody good ship.”