Sir Ian McGeechan insists that plans to establish a new club called Yorkshire Carnegie represent more than merely a name change.
McGeechan, the former Scotland and British and Irish Lions coach, who is chairman of the Leeds Carnegie club, yesterday unveiled plans for the launch of the new professional outfit at Headingley.
Under McGeechan’s plan the club, who have twice flirted with the Premiership, would have new owners and start a new era free of debt, according to chief executive Gary Hetherington.
If successful, the new club would continue to play at Headingley, in order to meet minimum standards for the top flight, but with a remit to broaden the appeal county-wide. McGeechan, who played his whole career with Headingley – the club that merged with Roundhay 20 years ago to form Leeds – admits the plan needs the support of Championship rivals Rotherham and Doncaster if it is to work.
“It’s the wider perspective,” he said. “If we get the player pool right, then Doncaster and Rotherham should benefit. It has to be a Yorkshire structure and I certainly wouldn’t be putting my name to it if it was just Leeds rebranded.”
Hetherington, who is confident the RFU will approve the name change, told a news conference that McGeechan’s plan represents a last chance to establish a successful Premiership club in Yorkshire. He said: “Leeds Carnegie, Rotherham and Doncaster have all tried to create a winning team on the field to gain and retain a place in the Premiership but without success. This is the last chance. If the county turns its back on it, it has gone forever.”
McGeechan, who returned to the Leeds club 18 months ago after bringing his successful coaching career to an end, says the venture has the blessing of the Yorkshire RFU and England head coach Stuart Lancaster, a former Leeds coach.