Leeds' new owners want Yorkshire to stay

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Leeds have been taken over by a consortium that made clear they hope one of their tenants at Headingley, Yorkshire County Cricket Club, will stay.

Paul Caddick, who played at lock forward for Headingley and Castleford rugby union clubs, heads the group that fought off a rival bid from Caspian, the owners of Leeds United.

The new regime at Leeds Cricket, Football and Athletic Company is ready to pump cash into an ailing side. Runners-up in both League and Cup to Wigan just two years ago, they finished third from bottom of the table in last summer's inaugural Super League.

Gary Hetherington, the founder and chairman of the Sheffield Eagles, is the club's new chief executive and he is believed to have bought a substantial stake in the club.

Hetherington, who will dispose of his shareholding at Sheffield to take up his new full-time role, stressed the positions of Dean Bell as coach and Hugh McGahan as team manager are not affected by the changes.

Hetherington, who flew back from New Zealand where he is assistant coach on Great Britain's South Seas tour, made it clear that money will be made available for team strengthening. "We will be assessing the strengths and weaknesses of all the departments and team management is one, but Dean and Hugh will be staying," said Hetherington, a former Leeds player.

Hetherington or Caddick would not reveal the cost of the purchase but the Leeds club are believed to have debts of up to pounds 5m.

Alf Davies, Hetherington's predecessor as chief executive, said it was Caddick's decision to keep rugby league at Headingley that swayed the board of directors. "We had a wonderful offer from Caspian, but that would have meant moving to Elland Road," he said.

Caddick emphasised that cricket was vital to the future of Headingley and that he hoped to set up a meeting quickly with the Yorkshire president, Sir Lawrence Byford. Yorkshire recently announce plans to leave Headingley and move into a new pounds 50m, custom-built stadium near Wakefield.

"Over the next three weeks we will be putting together a plan to secure the future of rugby league, rugby union and cricket at Headingley," Caddick said.

"In the past Yorkshire have been tenants getting very little financial benefit from the site. Perhaps a new arrangement can be made whereby they will gain more benefits. Conditions can be adjusted to suit them."

Caddick will also engineer closer links with the ground's other tenants, Leeds rugby union club, of which he is a prominent member.

n Sheffield Eagles confirmed yesterday they have approached Phil Larder, the Great Britain coach, to become their coach. "We are looking to bring in a world-class coach and appoint a chief executive to take over the roles previously filled by Gary Hetherington," Terry Sharman, the Eagles president, said. "The directors have invited Phil Larder to become the club's coach and he is considering his position."

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