Colin Graves exclusive: My trusts have no influence over Yorkshire CCC decision-making and are no roadblock to international cricket at Headingley

COLIN GRAVES has defended the influence of his family trusts on Yorkshire cricket, insisted that they are no roadblock to the return of international matches to Headingley or the club moving forward, and that former chairman Roger Hutton could have “sacked who he liked” at the height of the racism crisis that brought the club to its knees.

Wrong: Former Yorkshire executive chairman Colin Graves has had his say on the crisis which has engulfed the club, criticising former chairman Roger Hutton and saying no-one interviewed him for the inquiry (Picture: PA)

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Graves has hit back at suggestions made by Julian Knight MP, chair of the Digital Culture Media and Sport select committee, that the trusts are a “pernicious element” in Yorkshire cricket which must be “resolved” for the club to win back international fixtures so vital to its survival, and also at Hutton’s contention that the trusts vetoed his attempt to remove key personnel he felt “partially to blame” for the crisis.

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Hutton told Knight’s committee in November that he wanted to oust chief executive Mark Arthur and director of cricket Martyn Moxon, both of whom enjoyed significant support from within the club, along with HR chief Liz Neto, but was prevented from doing so by trust officials.

Screen grab from Parliament TV of former cricketer Azeem Rafiq. (PIcture: PA)

Graves said that was “completely incorrect” and blamed Hutton for “mucking up the handling of the crisis from start to finish”, adding that he “didn’t know what he was doing, didn’t understand the club and didn’t understand cricket”.

The former England and Wales Cricket Board supremo said that “only one side of the story has been told” in relation to the overall saga and revealed that he was not even interviewed by the inquiry Hutton set-up through one of his previous law firms into former player Azeem Rafiq’s allegations, seven out of 43 of which were upheld, despite having been Yorkshire chairman for most of Rafiq’s time at Headingley.

The Yorkshire Post understands that other key officials such as former chief executive Stewart Regan and former chairmen Steve Denison and Robin Smith were among those also not interviewed by an inquiry which Graves dismissed as “a waste of space, a waste of paper”, adding that “you can’t have a thorough inquiry into something as serious as that and not talk to the people in charge”.

Yorkshire settled an employment tribunal claim to the tune of £200,000 with Rafiq and then bowed to his demand for “a total clear-out” by sacking the 14 members of the coaching/backroom staff who had signed a private and confidential letter to the board expressing their “extreme hurt” at the club’s – effectively Hutton’s – refusal to publicly counter Rafiq’s version of events and “one-man mission to bring down the club”.

Former Chairman of Yorkshire CCC Roger Hutton arrives for the DCMS Select Committee Hearing at Portcullis House, London. (Picture: Hollie Adams/PA Wire)

Speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post, Graves said that the whole thing was “just so wrong” and set the record straight with regard to the power of his trusts, which are owed more than £15m by Yorkshire and from which he himself sits independent, with their affairs overseen by professional trustees.

“What Roger Hutton said at the DCMS was incorrect,” said Graves. “He said that the trusts would not let him fire the chief exec and the director of cricket, but that is totally wrong.

“The trusts have no actual power over who the chairman or the board hires or fires. They don’t get involved in the running of the club. Never have done. Never will. Don’t want to. The person who created all this mess, Roger Hutton, has walked away and nobody’s said anything about him. If what he told the DCMS was true, then how come (new chairman, Lord) Kamlesh Patel walked in and within two weeks had removed both the chief exec and the director of cricket?”

According to the Yorkshire CCC rules, “The Trusts’ approval shall be required before any person is appointed as a member of the Board or any member of the Board is removed from the Board”, effectively providing the power of veto. However, Graves said that was a safeguarding measure which has never been enforced and had been used in this case to shift blame.

Executive Chairman Colin Graves with the Division One trophy in 2014. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

“The trusts have had that power but they’ve never used it, and I think they’re looking at relinquishing that power anyway because it doesn’t mean anything,” he added. “The trusts have never used or done anything to stop the club running the business as a business. They’ve never got involved in it, and they don’t want to. Basically, Roger Hutton could have hired and fired who he wanted at any time. I don’t know what conversations he had with trustees, but he certainly wouldn’t have had to ask such questions of them because the board and chairman have the power to hire and fire whoever they want.”

Graves continued: “Without the trusts, the club wouldn’t be here. That is sheer fact. Because the banks, everybody else, wouldn’t give all the funding Yorkshire needed to get out of the mess it was in and develop the ground, the trusts act as a commercial lender – simple as that, on commercial terms. They don’t put any constraints on the board whatsoever.

“To be honest, I don’t understand where this Julian Knight is coming from because the trusts have been in place as lenders to Yorkshire since 2004, and Yorkshire has never had a problem running the club, operating the club, because of that. It’s a lender of finance – end of conversation.

“The DCMS are not there to run English cricket, and if Julian Knight wants to run English cricket, then he should apply for the job of ECB chairman.”

Colin Graves, the former chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board (Picture: PA)

Knight and his committee will hear again from Yorkshire next Tuesday when Lord Patel, along with the chairs of Middlesex, Hampshire and Glamorgan, plus the ECB, will update MPs on the progress made to tackle racism.

The role of the Graves’ trusts is sure to crop up as Yorkshire work towards the lifting of the ECB international ban posed following Rafiq’s claims.