Leeds chief vows not to disrupt home games

Brian McDermott and Gary Hetherington.
Brian McDermott and Gary Hetherington.
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LEEDS RHINOS will not cause disruption to other clubs by asking them to change the date of their home games once the season has started.

That is the pledge from chief executive Gary Hetherington, ahead of Sunday’s trip to Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.

Rhinos play host to Castleford Tigers a week today and could have insisted on this weekend’s game being brought forward, to give them a longer gap between matches.

Castleford were due to visit Hull KR on Sunday, but that game was rearranged – at less than a month’s notice – to tomorrow, at Tigers’ request. Rovers refused to move the game when a request was made in February, but the RFL insisted on the switch.

Hetherington said: “We could have moved this Sunday’s game at Wakefield, even at very, very late notice. There’s nothing in the rules and regulations, but we could have gone to the league and said we are playing Castleford on Thursday and – even though we knew that right at the start of the season – we would like Wakefield to bring it forward to either Saturday or Friday.

“We have chosen not to invoke that request. I am aware Hull KR had huge problems in terms of bringing (this week’s) game forward to Friday and I have a lot of sympathy for that.

“I think it is ridiculous that home clubs can be forced to change fixtures in mid-season and to rearrange games at the visiting club’s insistence.

“It shows a lack of respect to the fans of both clubs and to clubs who traditionally play their home games on a Sunday.

“Because of Thursday night fixtures, they become vulnerable to having to change.

“If the home club decides to change, that’s fair enough, the away team has to accept that, but what’s becoming quite concerning is that the decision to change fixtures is being made not by the clubs or the RFL administrators, but by coaches.

“They are seeing it as an opportunity to create an advantage, or a disadvantage for the other team – and some are using it as an excuse for under-performance at times.”

Hetherington insisted there is no reason why teams can’t play twice in five days.

He added: “That’s an inevitable consequence of the fact Super League has got a television broadcast partnership and the fact different clubs have different days for home games.

“It should be respected that some clubs prefer Sundays and they should not be put at a disadvantage.

“The fact is, we are a spectator sport and we should be getting on with it.

“The only mitigating circumstance would be if it could be shown that a four-day turnaround increases the risk of injury to players. I am not aware that there’s any evidence to suggest that’s the case.

“Over the course of the season all clubs would be affected and it is likely to be an even spread, so we have just got to get on with it. The positive of playing on Thursday is we get 10 days until our next game. If you have a short turnaround one week, it’s a longer one the next.”