Leeds Rhinos chief thanks fans for financial help as club faces £4m losses due to Covid-19 pandemic

The majority of Leeds Rhinos season ticket members have waived their right to a full rebate for the current Covid-19 hit season as the club faces total losses of £4m over two years.

By Mark Lavery
Sunday, 9th August 2020, 4:45 pm
Gary Hetherington pictured at the Emerald Heaingley stadium
Picture: Gary Longbottom
Gary Hetherington pictured at the Emerald Heaingley stadium Picture: Gary Longbottom

Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington praised the gesture by 83 per cent of around 9,000 season ticket members as he revealed the extent of the financial impact the pandemic has had on the club's finances.

Five top flight rugby league fixtures are being played behind closed doors at Emerald Headingley Stadium over two days this weekend (August 8 and 9) for the first time in the ground's 130-year history.

But the Covid-19 secure stadium is locked down for the Betfred Super League clashes, with only accredited venue staff, teams and match officials allowed access.

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Photos of Leeds Rhinos fans on cardboard cutouts at Emerald Headingley stadium. Picture; Gary Longbottom

Gary said: "We are grateful that the team is back playing and the fans can watch them, albeit on TV.

"We are facing a £4m loss over this year and next, that's the extent of the impact of Covid-19 on Leeds Rhinos.

"A total of 83 per cent of our season ticket members have waived their entitlement to a full rebate.

"That's a fantastic gesture and is enormously helpful to the club. It is hugely appreciated by all our players, our staff and directors.

Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington pictured at Emerald Headingley Stadiuim with Sian Jones, the club's head of customer experience. Picture: Gary Longbottom

"Our fans and sponsors have been fantastic with their commitment to the club.

"We are effectively living off the money they paid us at the start of the year."

" Clearly they are not going to get 14 Super League games as the season has been shortened and games are being played behind closed doors.

"They are entitled to a rebate for the games they are not able to go to.

"I want to say a big thank you to all concerned. This epitomises the spirit and the community among all concerned with Leeds Rhinos."

All but seven or eight of around 150 Leeds Rhinos' employees - including players and coaching staff - were furloughed from April 7.

The majority of staff remain on furlough as they are not yet needed while games are being played behind closed doors.

Some players are also still on furlough.

Gary said: "The fans are the lifeblood of the club. The fans are able to watch games on TV, but clearly it's not the same.

"We have had a £46m redevelopment, which was only completed last summer.

"This is completely unprecedented. Our business has effectively been closed down since March.

"There is a hotel on site and a conference and banqueting business and we have a retail operation plus ticket sales."

The Rugby Football League and Super League say playing all games at one stadium ensures greater control over the safety and well-being of the players, staff and match officials.

Castleford Tigers faced Catalans Dragons at Emerald Headingley Stadium on Saturday followed by Warrington Wolves V Hull KR.

Today (Sun Aug 9), Salford Red Devils play Hull FC followed by Wakefield Trinity v Wigan Warriors and Leeds Rhinos v St Helens.

The Betfred Super League 2020 season, which got underway on January 31, was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rhinos' first game back after lockdown on Sunday August 2 ended in a 27 points to 26 victory for Rhinos over Huddersfield Giants at Emerald Headingley Stadium.

St Helens Totally Wicked Stadium will be staging Super League fixtures on the weekend of August 15 and 16 with all matches live on Sky Sports.

Huddersfield’s John Smith’s Stadium will host two Coral Challenge Cup Rugby League sixth-round ties in a double-header on Saturday August 22.

Wigan Warriors will take on current holders Warrington Wolves at 2.30pm followed by St Helens versus Salford Red Devils at 5pm.

Both those games will be shown live on the BBC.

The Grand Final usually takes place in the second week of October, but this year's Super League season is now due to finish at the end of November.

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Thank you

Laura Collins