Leeds Rhinos to put £23m into Headingley rescue package

Green light for the funding of South Stand at Headingley
Green light for the funding of South Stand at Headingley
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HEADINGLEY STADIUM’S world famous rugby and cricket venues are set to be transformed over the next two years after an agreement was reached to fund a £40m redevelopment.

The scheme to rebuild Leeds Rhinos’ South Stand and the back-to-back main stand which is shared with Yorkshire County Cricket Club was granted planning permission two months ago, but has been delayed due to a lack of funding.

Now Leeds City Council has brokered a deal which will see the majority of the cash provided by a financial institution.

Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington confirmed £35m of the estimated cost - which has risen by £1m during the delay - will be met by a private financial services company.

If ratified, the deal could save international cricket at Headingley and provide state of the art facilities for the rugby club.

Rhinos will fund the remaining £5m and Hetherington said that can be achieved without the club having to go into debt.

“We have made a profit for each of the last 14 years,” he said.

“We reinvest whatever surpluses we generate back into the business. The South Stand has always been something that had to be delivered and ultimately the north stand as well.

“We have built up reserves of £5m with the full intention of investing that into new facilities.”

Rhinos will pay £18m in rent over a period of time to the financial institution which is putting up the majority of the cash, with Yorkshire paying back £17m.

But Hetherington believes the new facilities will lead to more income for both Rhinos and Yorkshire.

He said: “The development of the iconic facilities at Headingley, the retention of international cricket, the prospect of T-20 cricket and the potential for Leeds Rhinos - and possibly Yorkshire Carnegie - means the business model going forward is a strong one.”

The arrangement will be considered by the council’s executive board at a meeting on April 12.

If the go-ahead is given, work will begin in September and be completed in time for the cricket World Cup in 2019.

Hetherington said Rhinos will continue to play home games at Headingley during construction, adding: “Our plan is to manage ourselves through the disruption.”

Jack Walker. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

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