Colin Graves, the former ECB chairman, has been told to "put up or shut up", and accept an invitation to testify before the parliamentary select committee investigating racism in English cricket, after being accused by the committee chair of "substantial and ongoing interference" in the running of Yorkshire County Cricket Club.
The Graves family trust is owed approximately £15 million by Yorkshire following a bail-out in the early 2000s which saved the club from bankruptcy, and according to Roger Hutton - the former chairman who resigned in the wake of Azeem Rafiq's damning allegations of institutional racism at the club - Graves' continued role behind the scenes has been a significant "roadblock" in Yorkshire's delayed response to the crisis.
Yorkshire launched an investigation into Rafiq's claims in September 2020, but it wasn't until Rafiq's appearance before the department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee, more than a year later in November 2021, that the findings of that investigation were finally put into the public domain. By that stage, the club's failure to take action had led to the mass withdrawal of the club's sponsors, including Nike and Emerald, amid a swathe of damaging revelations about the dressing-room culture.
Opening the proceedings at the latest DCMS hearing in Westminster, chairman Julian Knight MP noted that Graves had declined an invitation to testify at the hearing - he is currently in Barbados, where England's cricketers are taking on West Indies in five T20Is - but criticised him for "putting his head above the parapet" in an interview last week with the Yorkshire Post, in which he had insisted that the club's inaction had been down to weak leadership from Hutton rather than interference from the trustees, before telling Knight that, if he wanted to run English cricket, "he should apply for the job of ECB chairman".
In response to Graves' remarks, Knight read out extracts from a letter from Hutton to the committee: "What was happening on a weekly basis is it sometimes appeared to me as if Mr Graves was influencing the trust and sometimes spoke as if he was," Hutton was quoted as saying.
"Mr Graves expressed concern at how the investigation [into Rafiq's allegations] had taken place some of which I empathised with. But his views on Azeem Rafiq, the finding of the report and how the club should respond to those findings are were different from mine.
"Shortly after that meeting, I was contacted by the trust's independent observer. He explained very clearly that I should not consider the trust an ordinary secure creditor. He also told me, though it proved to be incorrect, that the trust could remove me if they didn't like what I was doing and that I should listen to what they say.
"The trust summoned me to a meeting where they asked me to listen to Mr Graves and others in the club whose views differed to non-executive members of the board but were more closely aligned to those of Mr Graves. I formed the view that some of his opinions were very similar to those of the executive board and others in the club."
Responding to the DCMS committee on Yorkshire's behalf, Lord Kamlesh Patel insisted that he had not encountered any interference from the Graves Trust since succeeding Hutton as chairman in November, but added that the club was taking steps to ensure that there could be no such issues going forward.
"When you have a financial agreement with those added extras, that has an observer on the board, you could veto in theory the appointment of a person," Patel said. "That wasn't used while I was there and I don't believe was used before. We are currently drafting up legal documents to make sure all those powers are removed, and those will be presented at the AGM.
"I've seen some correspondence where I believe the trusts were raising questions, in a proper manner linked, to the finances of the club," Patel added. "To have that potential, or perception that someone does have power in a place, is not helpful for anyone going forward."
Yorkshire currently remains suspended from hosting international fixtures, pending the outcome of an ECB inquiry, and though Patel reiterated his concerns that the club cannot be "financially viable" unless its Major Match status is restored, he stated that the county's governance review was due to be completed on Wednesday, and that they expected to get clarity on this summer's scheduled Test against New Zealand and ODI against South Africa by the end of next month.
"We've made immediate priorities and we're making immediate actions now," Patel said. "We will submit all our evidence by the end of this month that we will present to the ECB on February 1, and then we will await the decision by them to see if we've met the criteria."