Leicester lead way in new era with record turnover

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The Independent Online

Leicester may not have possessed sufficient financial clout to tempt Stephen Jones from Llanelli - the outstanding Welsh outside-half surfaced at Montferrand instead, on a king's ransom of £200,000 after stoppages - but the Midlanders are still rolling in the folding stuff.

Leicester may not have possessed sufficient financial clout to tempt Stephen Jones from Llanelli - the outstanding Welsh outside-half surfaced at Montferrand instead, on a king's ransom of £200,000 after stoppages - but the Midlanders are still rolling in the folding stuff.

Yesterday, they announced pre-tax profits of £783,000, up by 115 per cent on the 2002-03 season, and a record turnover of £11.3m. This is more than enough to keep Martin Johnson in cow sandwiches and Austin Healey in lozenges.

A number of Premiership rivals, Northampton and Harlequins included, have delivered on the financial front of late, but Leicester remain the most commercially successful English club of the professional era. "We are in profit for the fifth successive year," said Peter Tom, their chairman. "We have now reached a stage where future growth could be constrained by the capacity of our current stadium."

Happily for Tom and his colleagues on the board, Leicester City Council have agreed to sell the freehold of the Welford Road site, plus land formerly attached to the neighbouring Granby Halls. The club are now seeking planning permission for a major redevelopment of the stadium, which already boasts a 16,000 capacity and, on last season's figures, a 98 per cent occupancy rate.

Tim Stimpson, the international full-back who played for Leicester before disappearing into the dark depths of French club rugby last season, may make his Premiership debut for Leeds against Wasps this weekend after playing 40 minutes in a second-string game against Northampton. Stimpson, incapacitated by knee problems at Perpignan, was on the end of a severe hammering from the Saints, but reported nothing more serious than a bruised ego.

Northampton will have to do without the services of their scrum-half from New Zealand, Mark Robinson, when they welcome Gloucester to Franklin's Gardens on Saturday. Robinson injured his knee ligaments during his side's win over Harlequins four days ago. Meanwhile, Saracens will put three players - Kyran Bracken, Thomas Castaignède and Paul Bailey - through fitness tests before travelling to Sale on Friday.

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