Yorkshire urged to stay by landlords

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The veteran umpire Dickie Bird yesterday welcomed Yorkshire's decision to leave Headingley, although the owners of the Test ground are still hoping to persuade the county not to make their proposed move to a pounds 50m complex at Wakefield.

Bird, who was born in Barnsley and retired this summer as a Test umpire, said: "You have to live with the times and I think it's a good thing. I have seen the plans and they are magnificent."

However, he could not resist recalling fond memories as a spectator, young player and umpire. "It's a sad day. Headingley is the venue of legends. It is steeped in history and tradition."

Yorkshire, currently tenants at their Leeds base, are looking to be installed in the 25,000- capacity stadium which will also include five practice pitches, a cricket academy, museum, railway station, marina and hotel by the year 2000.

Yorkshire's general committee voted unanimously for the move after rejecting options of buying and redeveloping Headingley or moving to a green-field site near Garforth, north-east of Leeds.

Yorkshire's landlords, Leeds , Football and Athletic Company, said yesterday: "We were disappointed with the Yorkshire statement at their press conference of their intention to leave Headingley.

"We believe there is a long way to go before their move becomes a reality and we will continue in our attempts to convince them to remain at Headingley.

"We were disappointed not to be informed of their press statement and we believe that we had an agreement that they would keep us informed of their intentions via our joint committee."

The future of Headingley cricket and rugby grounds is now in limbo, with a proposed takeover of the rugby league club also due to be finalised this month. One of the bidders is the Caspian Group, which owns the Premiership football club Leeds United and is planning to move rugby league to the football club's ground, Elland Road, but the company has so far declined to make any comment on Yorkshire's decision.