Headingley secure university partnership
Yorkshire County Cricket Club have finally secured an international future for Headingley, after agreeing a 10-year deal with the nearby Leeds Metropolitan University. The stadium will henceforth be known as the Headingley Carnegie Stadium, and the university has an option of a further five years of sponsorship.
Under the new arrangement, the ground will be redeveloped and the capacity increased to 20,000, with 3000 new seats being added in a redevelopment of the stand next to the rugby ground. The existing structure was built after fire destroyed the original stand in March 1932. A new Pavilion and Media Centre will also be developed.
"The financial benefits will be those extra tickets at big matches," the chairman, Robin Smith, explained on BBC Radio Four. "The success of the England side is at the core of cricket and the Ashes victory has generated a huge amount of interest which we're benefitting from."
Despite being the venue of one of the most famous Ashes matches in history - England's epic comeback in 1981 - Headingley missed out on a match against the Aussies last summer, and has attracted criticism for its outdated facilities in recent years.
The club faced a race against time last month when they were set a deadline of December 31, 2005 to buy the ground outright and maintain its international status until 2019. But a £9m loan from Leeds City Council helped complete the £12m purchase in time, and the partnership with the university - who will house their Carnegie faculty at the ground - will help preserve the reputation of the venue.
Michael Vaughan, England's Yorkshire-based captain, was delighted at the news. "As a Yorkshire player and England captain it was a bit of a blow to return from Pakistan with a knee injury to find out that Headingley would not necessarily retain international status," he said at Wednesday's announcement. "So to hear on New Year's Eve that it had been secured for 15 years was just the tonic to end 2005 after such a great year for cricket."
The former athlete, Brendan Foster, chancellor of Leeds Metropolitan University, said: "This is one of the most exciting partnerships I have heard of in the UK, or even outside the UK for that matter."