Leeds on their travels to drum up some county support

Leeds Carnegie are to take the radical step of playing fixtures away from their traditional Headingley home in a bid to strengthen their fanbase.

The West Yorkshire club – who celebrate their 20th anniversary this summer – will play three ‘home’ games next season at either Wharfedale, Otley, Hull Ionians, York or Huddersfield.

The move carries echoes of Yorshire County Cricket Club’s outground policy and is a decision Leeds believe represents their best chance of future sustainability following their failure to win promotion back to the Premiership.

Leeds remain in debt after over-leveraging themselves in their ill-fated Premiership campaign of 2010-11.

The £2m debt with which they began last season is being gradually paid off and is not thought to jeopardise their future. But they can ill-afford to lose more money.

They will operate a 30-man playing squad on a budget of £1.8m next season, a figure made up of funding from the RFU Championship and Premier Rugby, plus sponsorship from Leeds Metropolitan University among others.

They have also re-organised their backroom staff. Diccon Edwards will remain head coach but he will now be answerable to Chris Gibson, who will manage all rugby staff. Edwards will retain power over team selections.

Leeds will continue to lean heavily on their academy. Mark Luffman takes charge of that, meaning there is a vacancy for a forwards coach.

The club remain confident that they can one day operate a sustainable business in the Premiership. But with an average attendance of 1,932 last season, they see the growth of their fanbase as imperative to any future success.

Chief executive Gary Hetherington, who conducted a full-scale review of the club, said: “Our plan is to deepen our partnership with selected clubs around the county, notably Hull Ionians, York, Otley, Wharfedale and Huddersfield.

“We will take three of our home games to these clubs next season and work hard with them to create a real rugby occasion.

“For their part, each club will select two of our games at Headingley Carnegie to bring their club, their players, fans, sponsors, juniors etc, to us. Hopefully, this policy will see our core fanbase increase and at the same time, boost attendances at our games at Headingley.

“Our aim remains to be back in the Premiership with a sustainable business.

“It will be difficult because we don’t have private financial backing, which almost all professional clubs depend on. So we have to be focused on maximising our advantages, which are our partnership and sponsorship support from Leeds Metropolitan University, our RFU Academy Licence, our outstanding facilities and county-wide interest and support.”