Leeds Rhinos: Hetherington’s warning on the future of Headingley

Gary Hetherington
Gary Hetherington
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THE REDEVELOPMENT of Headingley Stadium is “on the cliff edge” Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington has warned.

THE REDEVELOPMENT of Headingley Stadium is “on the cliff edge” Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington has warned.

Rhinos fans in the South Stand

Rhinos fans in the South Stand

Planning permission has been granted for a new rugby South Stand and main stand, which is shared with Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

But funding is still not in place and Hetherington says if contracts are not agreed by next week, work can’t be completed in time for the 2019 cricket World Cup.

Yorkshire have said the future of Test and international cricket in Leeds is hanging in the balance, but Hetherington insisted the situation is even more urgent than that.

Rhinos are aiming to raise £22.5m for the new South Stand and their part of the main stand, with Yorkshire making a contribution of £16.5m.

The proposed new North/South Stand overlooking the Headingley Cricket Ground

The proposed new North/South Stand overlooking the Headingley Cricket Ground

Work had been due to start on the South Stand at the end of last season, but was delayed due to funding issues. Planning permission was granted in January, but Hetherington stressed: “People think because we’ve got planning permission the job is done, but it isn’t.

“It is not just a cricket problem, if this doesn’t happen it will have serious implications for Leeds Rhinos, our foundation, Yorkshire Carnegie [rugby union] and the city as a whole.”

Hetherington could not confirm how much cash still needs to be raised, but he said: “Leeds Rhinos and Yorkshire County Cricket Club have worked tirelessly on this project for the past five years and we’re now on the cliff edge.

“Decisions like these [to redevelop the stadium] are made every 100 years or so and for it to fail now will be very damaging for the Rhinos, Yorkshire County Cricket Club, the city of Leeds and the county, too.

“The plan is to replace the South Stand and the whole of the main stand – both rugby and cricket – to significantly improve the facilities, but also guarantee international cricket at Headingley post-2019.

“It will also allow it to host its 2019 World Cup cricket games and be in contention to be one of the eight new city-based T20 sides set to start in 2020.

“But if work doesn’t start by September 1, it will not be completed in time for the 2019 World Cup and, for that to

to start on September 1, contracts literally have to be in place next week.

“That is how urgent and pressing the matter is and people need to realise that. If the plan does not go ahead, Headingley will lose its international status, which would be a great loss for so many reasons and not just in terms of cricket.

“There will be an impact on the Rhinos, too. I think there is a feeling among rugby league fans that this is going ahead and, even if it doesn’t, it won’t effect the Rhinos-side of things at all.

“But it will create issues for us. We will still have to return to the problem of the South Stand which was actually condemned six years ago.

“If this fails, we will still have that problem to resolve.”

Hetherington added: “Also there are not many grounds privately owned by rugby league people.

“Headingley is one of those and we want it to be able to host international games, cup finals, semi-finals and matches in our own 2021 World Cup.

“This plan will allow us to do that and it will be a big blow to the sport of rugby league if that opportunity was lost.”

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