The club was founded as Headingley RFC, but renamed in 1991 when it joined with Roundhay RUFC to form Leeds RUFC. In 1998, the club merged with Leeds Rhinos to form Leeds Rugby Limited, also known as Leeds Tykes. In 2007, Leeds Metropolitan University bought a 51% stake in the club and changed the name to fit with the university’s sport department, Carnegie College. At the end of the 2008–09 season, ownership of the club passed back into the hands of Leeds Rugby. They are now called Leeds Tykes.
Leeds have bounced between the Premiership and the second-level National Division One, now known as the RFU Championship; they were either promoted or relegated in four consecutive seasons starting in 2006. Leeds were relegated from the Premiership as bottom finishers in 2006, promoted as National Division One champions in 2007, relegated again from the Premiership in 2008, and promoted a second time as National Division One champions in 2009. They managed to stay in the Premiership in the 2009–10 season, which helped to secure their financial future; from the 2010–11 season, they became a full shareholder in Premier Rugby, the company behind the Premiership. In 2009–10, they only received 60% of a full share of Premiership revenues. Their shares in Premiership Rugby were sold to Exeter Chiefs in 2012.