Headingley’s future as an international venue has been secured after Leeds City Council formally approved an emergency deal to ensure a major £35m refit could go ahead.
Mounting dismay that the ground’s status was under threat has hurried the council into brokering an agreement with a private financial services firm which will provide most of the funding for a new stand with a dual purpose for the cricket and rugby stadiums.
Although no council funding is involved in the new solution, it is effectively underwriting the deal, without which the development would have collapsed as unaffordable.
The council will lease the new facilities from the investor and Yorkshire and Leeds Rhinos will then take sub-leases from the council to cover the cost of the development in full. Both clubs will have to provide adequate security should there be any default in their rent.
The deal follows the council’s sudden withdrawal of a promised £4m loan to Yorkshire to part-finance the construction of a new rugby stand, which encouraged fears that the development would collapse and see Headingley lose Test status as well as hosting rights for the 2019 World Cup.
There was cross-party support at a meeting of the council’s executive board. Final agreements can now be signed between the four key parties, and work can start in early June to prepare for construction from September onwards.
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