Rhinos positive about future despite ‘perfect storm’ of financial challenges

Back in 2017, Leeds Rhinos embarked on the most ambitious re-development programme in the club’s 130 year history in a joint venture with Yorkshire CCC to spend £45 million to return Emerald Headingley Stadium to its status as a world class international sporting venue. 

However, the global pandemic during 2020 and 2021 has had a major impact on the Rhinos annual accounts, which have been announced today.  The accounts show that there was a reduction in turnover from £11.47m (2019) to £8.75m (2020) and a loss before tax of £1.24m compared to £1.12m in 2019. 

Leeds Rhinos Chief Executive Gary Hetherington commented on the results saying, “The Covid pandemic throughout 2020 brought the biggest challenge to the Company in its 130-year history and we did remarkably well to restrict losses to £1.24m

“It was a real team effort by our fans, sponsors, key partners, players and staff who all made significant sacrifices and it will take a long time for us to fully recover. However, together I am sure we will recover and with the unwavering support of our supporters are well placed to do so,” added Hetherington.

Despite the considerable investment on the stadium, the club have continued to invest in talent for the men’s team. In 2021, the Rhinos were the only Super League club to sign a current New Zealand or Australia international with the capture of Zane Tetevano and have agreed long term contracts with an exciting crop of young players including England internationals Mikolaj Oledzki and Ash Handley along with Jack Walker, Cameron Smith, Harry Newman, Jack Broadbent and Liam Sutcliffe all products of the club’s academy.  The club have also looked to attract top quality talent from Super League during the period of the reconstruction, paying fees to sign England squad members Luke Gale and Kruise Leeming. In addition, the club have invested in womens and girls Rugby League.

The Rhinos were grateful to the support from the government during the pandemic. In total, furlough grants of £897,414 were received in the year. A skeleton staff continued to operate throughout the pandemic, working resolutely to ensure the club navigated this period effectively. All staff earning above the living wage took salary cuts to the end of the financial year between 15% and 35% to assist the club with unprecedented cash flow pressures. 

Leeds Rhinos Finance Director Nigel Chambers added, “We would like to thank all our staff for their support. The club sought to minimise its cost base and remained in dialogue with both fans and commercial partners throughout last year. We are grateful to all our supporters for the incredible support they have also given. Only four home Super League fixtures were played with crowds during 2020, yet over 50% of supporters chose to receive no refund on memberships. Additionally, the club successfully applied for and received a DCMS backed Rugby Football League Investments loan of £1.25m to assist with the loss of revenue.

“Looking ahead, we are anticipating another tough year with losses expected to be similar to 2020. However we are forecasting for our cashflows to break even as we begin to rebuild our previously strong financial footing. Our aim is to return to our pre pandemic forecasts as soon as possible so we can grow from a break even budget in 2020 and fully maximise the opportunities that the new redeveloped facilities at Emerald Headingley offer us,” added Chambers.