COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR Rob Oates has defended Leeds Rhinos’ decision to issue a special Wembley playing shirt.
Rhinos will wear a predominantly white jersey when they take on Hull KR in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final at the national stadium on August 29.
The kit will be Rhinos’ fourth of the season, after their home strip, alternative kit and one for Magic Weekend in Newcastle.
Oates said the reaction from supporters has been positive, with more than 1,000 ordered so far.
He insisted the reason for the change was to enable Rhinos to wear a Cup final kit based on their traditional colours, without causing a clash with any of their potential opponents.
There was a colour clash at Wembley in 2010 when Rhinos lost to Warrington, who also reached the semi-finals this year before being beaten by Hull KR.
For commercial reasons, the choice of kit had to be made before the result of that game was known. “We have a silver/grey kit – which was our Magic Weekend kit – and we had to play in that against Warrington earlier in the year, because of a colour clash,” said Oates.
“That’s not our traditional colours, it was a titanium colour for Mr Titanium’s last year, which is Jamie Peacock.
“That was the thinking behind that, but we’ve never won in that kit and going to a big final, you’ll look back at pictures in 10 or 50 years’ time and clubs want to play in their traditional kit, or certainly our traditional colours.
“We have got a colour clash with Warrington, so we had to avoid that – though that’s not saying we expected Warrington to win their semi-final.
“At the time of pressing the button, we weren’t sure who was going to win between Warrington and Hull KR, that was a 50-50 game.
“We said to the league, if we come up with a kit that doesn’t clash with Warrington and doesn’t clash with Hull KR and is our traditional white, is that all right?
“They said definitely, that was fine – so that is why we have come up with a white kit.”
Leeds played in white when they beat Hull FC to win the Challenge Cup for the first time, in 1910. Oates added: “We don’t want to exploit the fans. The fans spend an enormous amount of money following us all over the country and in big finals, particularly of late.
“We understand how expensive that is, of course we do. We don’t take that for granted. In terms of subsidised coach travel and interest-free stuff, we try to make it easier where we can.
“This is not about money, this is about us wearing our traditional colours in the big game.”
Rhinos have confirmed veteran forward Jamie Jones-Buchanan will be sidelined for between six and nine months after rupturing a quad tendon in last Friday’s Cup semi-final. He will undergo surgery today.