RELAXED chief executive Gary Hetherington says he has no “great concern” with the financial effects that might occur if, as expected, Leeds Rhinos fail to reach the top-eight.
After a disastrous campaign, the defending Super League champions are almost certainly set to play in the lesser lights of the Qualifiers and face a potential relegation fight instead of challenging once more for a place at Old Trafford.
Admittedly, they have won their last two games to keep alive faint hopes of making the cut but still remain rooted to bottom, six points behind eighth-placed Widnes Vikings with just four games to go.
So, instead of Wigan, St Helens and Warrington, Leeds could be hosting the likes of Batley Bulldogs or Featherstone Rovers in the added seven fixtures that come after the 23 regular rounds are completed.
That, of course, could impact the money-making ability of the Rhinos in the months ahead and hit them in the pocket. Leeds have consistently performed off the pitch as well as on it for most of Hetherington’s two decades in charge at Headingley. And he maintains there will be no change there despite their playing woes in 2016.
“The games are all included in the season-ticket prices so there is no issue there as such,” Hetherington told the YEP.
“We will have done a forecast but everyone is really cautious when it comes to the play-off games in terms of their financial predictions. It’s always a very conservative effort.
“From a business point of view when you know you’ll only get three or four games anyway you err on the side of caution and budget for three.
“All other Super League clubs will have budgeted very cautiously, too, for the play-offs and the season ticket aspect minimises the potential impact.
“It’s not really a cause of great concern.”
If Leeds stay in the bottom two they will receive only three home fixtures when it comes to the Middle-8s and their crowds could be hit as well,
“There is that but having said that Bradford, Featherstone Rovers and Leigh Centurions will all probably have more fans travel to their away games than Salford, Huddersfield or Catalans,” contested Hetherington, referencing three Championship clubs that could be involved.
The other side-effect of such a poor season is it may deter players joining the club although movement on that side is likely to be minimal unless transfer-listed Zak Hardaker’s switch to the NRL does go through.
“All bar Mitch Achurch and Beau Falloon are contracted for next year so we have got very little in terms of flexibility for recruitment,” explained Hetherington.
“That’s why a contracted player of Zak’s ability leaving does free up some potential.”