Yorkshire will be accused of selling their soul as Royals eye takeover

Yorkshire will be accused of selling their soul as Rajasthan Royals close in on stunning takeover… but crisis county may be forced to take cash

  • The Rajasthan Royals are considering a stunning takeover at Yorkshire 
  • The IPL outfit are set to offer £25million to seize full control of stricken county
  • For many years, Yorkshire seemed the least likely to sell to foreign investors 

For most of their 160-year history, Yorkshire would have seemed the least likely of England’s first-class cricket counties to sell themselves to foreign investors.

Until 1992, when Indian starlet Sachin Tendulkar was famously photographed wearing a flat cap and brandishing a pint of Tetley’s after signing for them, Yorkshire did not allow overseas players.

And, for the previous 24 years, they had an even narrower view of what constituted foreignness. If you weren’t born within the county boundaries, forget it: the white rose could not possibly be for you.

That absurdity was relaxed to accommodate those who had been educated within Yorkshire, allowing the Salford-born Michael Vaughan to first represent the county in 1993.

But a defiant parochialism has long been part of the club’s fabric, which is why Mail Sport’s revelation that the Yorkshire board will consider handing full control to IPL franchise Rajasthan Royals in return for a convertible loan of £25million is such an eye-opener.

Despite the club’s history, Yorkshire look as though they will be sold to foreign investors

Rajasthan Royals are looking to take full control of the crisis-stricken county

Back in 1863, when Yorkshire County Cricket Club came into existence, membership cost 10 shillings and sixpence, and the professionals who played for the county earned about £5 a game.

The catch — and some might argue it was a very Yorkshire catch — was that they had to fork out for their own travel and accommodation. Things are not quite that bad in 2023, although the £15m still owed by the club to the family trust owned by former chairman Colin Graves has become a particular concern in light of the Azeem Rafiq racism scandal, which has cost them both reputationally and financially.

A deal with the Royals, who are owned by British-Indian businessman Manoj Badale and already have their fingers in Twenty20 pies outside India, would provide stability of sorts. It might also set a trend from which, for English cricket in general, there would be no going back.

It’s probably a stretch to argue that overseas sugar-daddies would start to eye up other English counties. Other than Yorkshire — who have won more Championship titles, 32, than anyone — only Surrey can match their allure, and they are in no need of urgent financial assistance. Most of the other 16 first-class counties are less attractive.

But Headingley hosts Northern Superchargers, one of the eight teams in the Hundred, a competition where foreign investment is very much part of the ECB’s medium-term plan. Rajasthan Royals’ purchase of Yorkshire could speed up the process, and persuade other IPL franchises to grab a slice of the Hundred pie.

And, for all the ECB’s insistence that the English summer is not for sale at any price, there are many who would regard such a move as the thin end of the wedge.

By dint of their own mismanagement, Yorkshire could yet stumble into setting a trend — and no matter if it upsets the traditionalists who once guarded the county boundaries as if their lives depended upon it.

It’s been 31 years since Sachin Tendulkar (pictured) became Yorkshire’s first overseas star – and now the club are close to being sold to India

The racism scandal surrounding Azeem Rafiq has cost them both reputationally and financially

Yorkshire may decide they have little choice but to acknowledge the fast-changing power dynamics in world cricket, and take the IPL cash. They may also recall that insularity hasn’t always worked out in the past.

In 1968, they won their seventh Championship title in 10 years. But while other counties began hoovering up overseas stars, Yorkshire’s intransigence — bordering on arrogance — contributed to their failure to win the competition again until 2001.

That drought included a traumatic last-place finish in 1983 — and thanks to the 48-point deduction handed down by the ECB as punishment for the Rafiq affair, it is a fate that could befall them once more, 40 years on.

A takeover by Rajasthan Royals would not guarantee against future disappointment. But it may just allow Yorkshire to breathe a little more freely, even as they face inevitable accusations that they have sold their soul.

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