England's Ben Stokes
One of the most famous scenes from Yorkshire's Headingley ground - England's Ben Stokes celebrates after hitting the winning runs in the 2019 Ashes against Australia.. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Owning or shareholding in T20 cricket teams is a badge of honour for UAE investors – but what about doing so in one of the oldest – and storied – cricket clubs in the world?

The Yorkshire Cricket Club – and owner of the Headingley ground in England – is seeking investors from the Gulf/Middle East to help it emerge from a critical phase in its history. The Club has sizeable financial obligations to clear, and is emerging from a protracted legal issue related to past incidents of racism.

Under a new management and cricketing chiefs – which includes England fast bowling great Darren Gough – the Club wants to start moving onto a new chapter. To finesse its discussions with potential investors in the region, it is working with the consultancy Grant Thornton UAE.

The county owes around 15 million pounds, with an October 2024 payment deadline.

“We see cricket as a powerful force for good in the MENA region. It brings people together, promotes healthy competition, and instils values of teamwork, respect and sportsmanship,” said Stephen Vaughan, CEO, at Yorkshire County Cricket Club in a statement.

“We believe that by investing in Yorkshire County Cricket Club, a strategic investor will not only make a significant impact on the club, but also contribute to the growth and development of the sport both in the UK and across the MENA region.

“The Board and its professional advisers are considering financing options from a number of current potential sources.”

This is why new investors are a priority. Haroon Ahmed, Partner at Grant Thornton – UAE, said: " The Club has such a long history of success in the UK game, and we are assisting them in actively exploring strategic investment options in the MENA region.

"Cricket is a growing sport in the region, and we believe that Yorkshire County Cricket Club is uniquely well-positioned to capitalize on this opportunity. We look forward to continuing our discussions with potential investors who share the Club’s passion and vision for the sport."

Sporting 'trophies'

This is the season for Gulf investors to chase prime UK sporting assets, not least Manchester United, one of the biggest names in global football. The Yorkshire Cricket Club coming into the fray does open up new possibilities beyond T20 franchises.

A Grant Thornton team - led by Salmaan Khawaja and Haroon Ahmed - are leveraging their networks to have 'discussions with potential investors who share the Club’s passion for the game and commitment to making a positive impact in the community'.

“The sports economy is playing an important diversification role in the MENA region which is why we have continued to see investments being made in the sector at a global level,” said Salmaan Khawaja, Partner at Grant Thornton – UAE. “The opportunity to be part of the heritage and continued development of a cricket club like YCCC is certainly an attractive proposition, given the huge audiences that the sport attracts worldwide.”