- Yorkshire have agreed to sell Headingley to Mike Ashley for £23m
- Ashley is also close to finalizing a 10-year naming rights deal for the stadium
- Yorkshire will use the £23m to pay off debts of £15.9m to the Colin Graves Trust
Yorkshire have agreed to sell Headingley to Mike Ashley for £23million as the former Newcastle United owner closes in on a 10-year naming rights deal for the stadium.
Mail Sport revealed in September that Yorkshire was considering selling the iconic ground to pay off debts that threatened to send the company into administration.
Now Ashley wants to beat interest from Rajasthan Royals and former chairman Colin Graves and complete a sale-and-leaseback deal that will secure the club’s future.
As part of the sale, Yorkshire is believed to have negotiated an option to buy back the property, which had been her home since 1891, at a fixed price.
The club will continue to play at Headingley as a tenant of Ashley’s Frasers Group, who will charge Yorkshire around £1 million in rent per season.
Yorkshire have agreed to sell Headingley to former Newcastle owner Mike Ashley for £23million
Yorkshire will continue to play as tenants at Headingley, earning a rental fee of £1 million per season
The historic deal is said to include naming rights for Headingley, which Ashley will use to promote one of Frasers’ brands, which include Sports Direct, Slazenger and Jack Wills. Headingley will remain part of the stadium name, similar to Surrey for the Kia Oval and Lancashire for Emirates Old Trafford.
Yorkshire will use the £23m to pay off its £15.9m debt to the Colin Graves Trust, which has agreed to defer a £500,000 installment due last month and hopes to finish second-to-last to rebuild in the second division of the championship this year.
The 160-year-old club has been in turmoil since Azeem Rafiq accused them of institutional racism two years ago, costing them around £3.5m in legal costs and compensation, with last year’s balance sheet showing losses of £2.2m.
Yorkshire rejected several offers to buy the club outright in order to pursue the deal with Ashley because they were determined to retain control of their members.
However, the deal could still prove controversial with Yorkshire icon Geoffrey Boycott outlining his strong opposition last month.
“Everyone in Newcastle hates (Ashley),” said the former England batsman, 83. “That doesn’t sound good for Yorkshire cricket. “I don’t want to rent Headingley back, why the hell would I do that? “If you try to sell it and rent it back, I can tell you there will be trouble.”
The legendary stadium hosted the third Ashes test between England and Australia this summer
Yorkshire retains control of the Headingley store and other retail and commercial elements, while Frasers is limited to the stadium naming rights.
The proposed deal still needs to be signed by the ECB, but it is unlikely to object.
Ashley already owns the Coventry Building Society Arena, home of Coventry City, and is considering buying League One club Reading, which could delay completion of the Yorkshire deal. But both parties are confident it can be completed this month.
Yorkshire declined to comment.