Leeds Rhinos coronavirus lockdown update

Leeds Rhinos are confident that they will be best placed for the restart of the Betfred Super League once the competition is given the go ahead by the game’s authorities to return but still face the most challenging period in the club’s history in the eighteen months ahead.

This week marked 100 days since the Rhinos last scheduled game at Catalans Dragons was postponed and Director of Rugby Kevin Sinfield has hailed the club’s players, staff and fans for their incredible backing for the club over that period.

Sinfield, who led the club as captain for thirteen glorious seasons, commented, “I was fortunate and privileged during my career to lead this club during some incredible times but I can honestly say the last 100 days have made me as proud of everyone involved with the club as any of those wonderful occasions. Whether that is everyones commitment to find a way through for the club or the Leeds Rhinos Foundations support of charities across our city or the incredible sacrifices of key workers to keep us all safe, many of whom we count amongst our fans and who we will look to celebrate when we are back together.

“The coronavirus pandemic has presented every family with unprecedented challenges and that is true for Leeds Rhinos family too. Last year, we were rightly proud when we re-opened our new look home at Emerald Headingley and the club’s directors not only backed that incredible redevelopment but also supported myself and Richard Agar’s plans for the squad for 2020 and beyond.

“Clearly the lockdown is a huge hit to the club’s financial plans. As you would expect, there have been long and detailed conversations between myself, Gary Hetherington and our Financial Director Nigel Chambers as we discuss various options to altering our budgets and salary cap plans for the ‘new normal’ world that lies ahead for us. Our Operations Director, Sue Ward, and Head of Medical Services, Dr Marwan Al-Dawoud, have been working tirelessly to prepare the stadium and our training ground to protect all our staff and make sure we are ready to go once we get the all clear to return. As part of that process, I know they have spent countless hours making sure our stadium is ready for our fans to return safely once we receive the go ahead from the authorities as well.

“We are predicted to make a £4 million loss over the next 18 months because of the impact of the lockdown and obviously there are additional costs to deal with the challenges of Covid 19. Our players have been exemplary over this period and, along with all our staff, they have played their part by agreeing wage reductions to lessen the impact whilst we have been without income.

“On behalf of the players, I would like to thank our supporters and especially our members who have continued to support the club through their memberships. Across the game, it has been heartening to hear fans from every club understanding the key role they have in helping the sport to survive and hopefully thrive in the years ahead. We are proud that Rugby League clubs are still at the heart of their communities. We may not at present have the money of other sports but that does mean that our fans know they still have a key role at their clubs and we will never take that for granted or underestimate it,” added Sinfield.

Leeds Rhinos Chief Executive Gary Hetherington has been part of the working groups set up by the RFL to work towards the restart of the game. He says good progress is being made and has committed to updating Rhinos fans as soon as more details are finalised. He added, “It is inevitable that we will have to restart the season behind closed doors however the sport is united in trying to get crowds back as soon as possible this season. As I am sure everyone can appreciate, the protocols to return to training and playing are a constantly moving situation, led by government guidelines. I know all our supporters want to know when they can see the team play again and eventually get back home to Emerald Headingley. On behalf of the club, I would like to thank you for your patience, as soon as we have confirmed details we will let you know.

“The challenges we face financially are not just for the remainder of this season but will continue in 2021. Hopefully, we will have a full season with capacity crowds but every club will have to deal with reduced fees from our broadcast partners because of the disrupted 2020 season and inevitably some supporters will want reimbursing for games missed this season. On behalf of everyone at the Rhinos, I would like to thank all our members, sponsors and partners for their ongoing support of the club. The work by the RFL to secure government support for the sport will help but this is a loan. However, our current forecast predicts we will lose £4m over the next two seasons but that we are actively engaging with various partners to mitigate those losses. There remains a large gap that we have to secure through a team effort by all connected to the club to enable us to not just survive but thrive as we look to kick start a new period of success.

“Our supporters should be assured of our determination to do whatever it takes to take the club back to the top of the game and I hope the pride, spirit and support we have built over many years will come to the fore in these challenging, but exciting times ahead. We will be contacting our members with plans over the coming weeks for how they can help their club including options involving exciting membership choices over the seasons ahead and a brand new lottery scheme that will be bigger and better than anything we have had before. Importantly, we will give our supporters time to review their choice and make the decision that best suits their needs. Until then, on behalf of everyone at the club, I would like to thank our fans for their understanding and patience and I look forward to the day when we are back together again,” added Hetherington.