Headingley secures Tests

The future of Test cricket at Headingley has been saved after Leeds City Council agreed to help Yorkshire buy the ground.

The club have secured a £9m loan from the council which will allow them to complete their agreed £12m purchase of the ground from the Leeds Cricket, Football and Athletic Company. Yorkshire had been granted a 15-year international staging agreement by the England and Wales Cricket Board on the condition they owned their ground by the end of 2005.

The council met this morning to give the go-ahead to the loan, which must be repaid over 15 years. The decision means that for the first time in their 142-year history, Yorkshire own their own ground.

They will combine the £9m they receive from the council with £3m they intend to raise through a ground appeal, also over a 15-year period.

Councillor Mark Harris, the deputy leader of the council, revealed the decision to loan the money was taken in the best economic interests of the city.

"We have always been very conscious of the importance of Test match status to Leeds," said Harris. "An independent study has shown that it would cost the city millions if Headingley lost its status. The cricket ground is one of the city's crown jewels and cricket one of its major sporting attractions. It is crucially important to the reputation and standing of the city both nationally and internationally."

Yorkshire have financed considerable redevelopment at Headingley - despite not owning it - in recent years, to keep it up to international standards. They currently have plans to further increase the capacity from its current 17,000 to 20,000 with work on the grandstand and at the Kirkstall Lane end.

The building of Durham's Riverside and Hampshire's Rose Bowl grounds had put pressure on traditional venues such as Headingley to raise standards.

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