Leeds Rhinos' Headingley could be 'neutral' venue for Super League return

Emerald Headingley, home of Leeds Rhinos. is on stand-by to act as a neutral venue when Betfred Super League resumes.

By Peter Smith
Sunday, 31st May 2020, 1:30 pm
Updated Sunday, 31st May 2020, 1:32 pm

Clubs are hopeful of being back in action, following the Covid-19 shutdown, in August.

But it is likely matches will initially be played behind closed doors, meaning clubs having to pay out in wages and other costs without receiving game day income.

One option, to cut and share running costs, is for multiple games to be played at the same venue, in a similar way to Super League’s Magic Weekend, but without a crowd.

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Emerald Headingley staged a double-he4ader in Betfred Super League round one. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

Headingley is understood to be one of the grounds being considered, along with St Helens and Warrington Wolves west of the Pennines.

Leeds’ home stadium recently underwent a £50m redevelopment and facilities include two dedicated pairs of rugby changing rooms, plus other areas which can be used if necessary.

It also has enough rooms to ensure players would be able to socially distance before and after matches and is primarily a rugby league venue, rather than one shared with football.

Headingley staged a double-header in Super League round one, four months ago, when Toronto Wolfpack’s ‘home’ meeting with Castleford Tigers was played as a curtain-raiser to a game between Leeds and Hull.

Headingley's new North Stand. Picture by Richard Sellers PA Wire

Two Championship matches were also due to be staged there this year, ahead of Rhinos games.

Asked if Headingley would be a suitable venue, Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington confirmed: “For sure.

“It is all new facilities so from a security and safety point of view it would tick a few boxes in that regard as well.”

Such an arrangement would mean some clubs giving up home advantage, but the Leeds chief does not see that as an issue.

The new South Stand at Emerald Headingley. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

“If you take away fans from games I don’t think there’s any advantage, whatever ground you play on,” he insisted.

“I think [clubs] are open to anything and everything really.”

Australia’s NRL resumed last week behind closed doors, with six stadiums being used to host matches - an initiative which is being monitored closely by Super League.

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