Ground-breaking takeover boosts Leeds

Leeds are hoping to graduate with Guinness Premiership honours after being taken under the wing of Leeds Metropolitan University.

Leeds are hoping to graduate with Guinness Premiership honours after being taken under the wing of Leeds Metropolitan University.

The newly-promoted club gained new owners yesterday when the university's Carnegie sports faculty took a 51% stake from current owner Paul Caddick.

The Yorkshire club will drop the Tykes from their name after 10 years and be known as Leeds Carnegie from July 1 when the ground-breaking arrangement officially comes into force.

Although the day-to-day running of the club will remain in the hands of chief executive Gary Hetherington, director of rugby Stuart Lancaster and commercial director Rob Oates, the university will be responsible for any financial losses, which were previously written off by Caddick.

Professor Simon Lee, the university's vice chancellor, will take over as chairman from Caddick, who formed the club in 1992 from a merger between Headingley and Roundhay and helped create the first dual-code rugby club.

The Tykes share Headingley's resources and facilities with Super League club Leeds Rhinos.

Caddick will remain as chairman of Leeds Rugby Ltd and, through his development company, will plough £2.8m into the new club over the next 10 years in sponsorship. He has also offered to match the club's income from the sale of season tickets and corporate revenue which they hope will provide another £500,000 for Lancaster to spend on new players.

"There is a need obviously to grow the squad and we are trying to recruit players at this moment in time," said Lancaster, a former Carnegie student.

"But the main benefit in the short term is the commercial and the marketing side of things and also the links we will have with the sports science and medical department at the university.

"I am massively excited by this news. We've turned the ship around from getting relegated last year and, with this announcement, we've got real momentum going into the Guinness Premiership." The university will aim to boost the club's attendances and increase income through corporate sales.

The Tykes were the worst supported club when they were last in the Premiership in 2005-06 with attendances of under 5,000 but the new owners are aiming to launch the new season in September with a capacity 22,000 crowd.

"We'd like to see a full house for the first game," Lee said.

"It will make a difference if the students see this is as our team, perhaps as the underdogs in the Premiership taking on some fantastic clubs who will be augmented by All Blacks stars from the World Cup. So it's a real challenge but we think we can bring the crowds in." Hetherington, who will continue as chief executive and represent Leeds Rugby on the new four-man board, said: "This is an historic and unique development whereby a professional sports team and a higher educational establishment come together.

"We believe this will accelerate the growth of the club and make us more competitive on and off the field."

Hetherington added the club were working towards generating a budget of £2m next year.

So far, Leeds have confirmed just two new signings, Rotherham scrum-half Joe Bedford and Cornish Pirates fly-half Alberto di Bernardo, but are expected to announce more new faces soon.

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