Rugby league’s authorities are facing a “dilemma” over when and where to stage next year’s World Club Challenge, Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington admits.
Hetherington is hoping a venue and date for Rhinos’ showdown with Australian champions Manly Sea Eagles will be confirmed in around 10 days’ time.
Rhinos want to stage the game at Headingley Carnegie on Friday, February 17 – but Manly would prefer a bigger ground to maximise income through the gate.
Leeds United’s Elland Road and Huddersfield’s Galpharm Stadium are the two other possible stages and the RFL and NRL will make a final decision.
Broadcaster Sky TV will have the final say on which day the game will be played – with Saturday, February 18 and the following evening also being considered.
“I know the RFL are working hard behind the scenes to bring everything together, but it’s likely to be another 10 days before a decision is made,” Hetherington said.
“There are three possible venues and three possible dates. Sky TV have the ultimate decision over when the game will be played and that will trigger a decision over where the game can be played. “Leeds United have a home game on the Saturday, so that rules out Elland Road on Saturday and probably Friday as well.
“The Galpharm is a possibility and so is Headingley Carnegie.
“Our preference is Headingley and I believe that would be our fans’ choice as well, but at the end of the day it is the RFL and NRL who will make the decision.
“They will be mindful that the four World Club Challenges we’ve been involved in have all been played at Elland Road and attendances have ranged from 28,000 to 37,000.
“The capacity at Headingley is 20,000, so that’s a major consideration – as is undersoil heating. The game will have to go ahead that weekend, because Manly will be travelling home the day after it.
“Both the Galpharm and Elland Road have undersoil heating and Headingley, alas, does not.
“I recognise the dilemma the RFL has in bringing all these factors together and ultimately making a decision.”
Rhinos had originally hoped the game could be played in Australia, but that has now been ruled out.
“We’re extremely excited about bringing Manly to West Yorkshire and we’re keen for the game to be staged in Leeds,” Hetherington added.
“It’s not our decision, but both Leeds Rhinos and Manly Sea Eagles will have a say.
“I think it’s fair to say both our players and our fans would prefer to take on Manly at our home ground.
“That would give us the best chance of winning the game – and we’re desperate to regain the world title, not only for ourselves but also for Super League.
“It’s the ultimate accolade for any team and for any Super League club, the importance of beating the very best from the NRL is very significant.”