Headingley stadium funding deal secures long-term future of Test cricket in Leeds

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Headingley cricket bosses have signed a new funding package to help pay for their £1.25m floodlight scheme, in a move which will also help secure the long-term future of Test matches in Leeds.

Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s new 56-metre high ‘white rose’ emblem floodlights – which are required in order to meet new international standards – are now fully operational, effectively rubber-stamping the future of Test cricket at the venue and opening the door to evening Twenty20 matches.

However, complex funding arrangements with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and Leeds City Council – with grants staggered in blocks – had meant that alternative means had to be found to pay for the major scheme.

Now, a deal with Test cricket sponsor Investec has helped plug the temporary funding gaps.

The £700,000 deal will see the club lease the equipment rather than borrow the money or use an overdraft.

Paul Hudson, director of finance at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, said: “At Yorkshire we are committed to continually upgrading facilities to ensure that international cricket continues to be played in the region and that we are able to offer players and spectators the best possible experience. As with any business this sometimes requires substantial one-off investments.

“We have leased a number of different types of assets over the years, allowing us to match our outgoing payments with receiving the actual benefit of the equipment.”

The club had borrowed £9m from Leeds City Council in 2005 to help buy the freehold on the stadium, and still owed £7.4m as of January last year, according to papers seen by the Yorkshire Evening Post.

However, the repayment terms mean the club has to get the council’s permission before signing up to any new funding deals.

A council report had raised fears that not granting the consent would “undoubtedly threaten” the future of Test match cricket in Leeds and the club’s ability to trade.

It added: “Whilst it is not ideal that the club have had to take on an additional loan to assist their cash flow, they have done this at a relatively low additional annual cost.”

Katherine Flannery, from Investec Asset Finance, said: “Investec are delighted to have been able to support Yorkshire in their continuing expansion of the club’s facilities and ensuring the continuation of international cricket in the region with the beginning of the Investec Ashes this summer.”