Yorkshire say that “numerous positive and serious conversations” have taken place following reports that the stricken club could soon be refinanced with money from Saudi Arabia.
Amid a difficult start to their season on the pitch, including being bowled out for 106 against Glamorgan on Friday morning, Darren Gough, Yorkshire’s managing director of cricket, and Stephen Vaughan, the club’s chief executive, have been in Dubai attempting to solve their financial woes.
Vaughan said on Friday: “While we are not able to comment on any of the individual parties involved, we are involved in numerous positive and serious conversations around refinancing of the club and continue to explore all the avenues available to us.”
According to reports in the Daily Mail, Vaughan met with Saudi Arabian prince and government official, Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan Al Saud, in a desperate effort to find alternative financing to keep the club afloat. Prince Badr has offered to take on debt owed to Colin Graves, the club’s former chairman, while charging Yorkshire less than the 4% interest that the Graves Trust is charging. There is also the possibility of further investment in the future.
An Indian investment group is also reported to be the latest consortium actively involved in negotiations with Yorkshire who currently owe the Graves Family Trust £14.9m, with a payment of £500,000 due in October and the rest a year later. They also face a £3.5m shortfall this year and are in danger of running out of money to pay staff before the season finishes.
Graves, who was also chair of the ECB for five years, was the Yorkshire chair between 2012 and 2015, and rescued the club from imminent financial peril in 2002, when Headingley was said to be 48 hours from ruin. He is keen to come back to the club on his terms, which – though it might solve the immediate financial emergency – would be deeply divisive.
The Saudi government has increasingly been using sport as a form of soft power, investing in the LIV Golf tour, Formula One and Newcastle United, while national petrol company Saudi Aramco announced a global partnership deal with the International Cricket Council, including sponsorship of multiple World Cups, as well as a deal with the Indian Premier League. Saudi Arabia also intends to launch a lucrative T20 tournament, and is in negotiation to attract Indian players otherwise banned from playing in overseas T20 leagues.
Any decision on future funding of Yorkshire would go to a vote of the club’s members.