Leeds Rhinos ready for £4m hit but Kevin Sinfield never been more proud

Leeds Rhinos' Kevin Sinfield (JPIMEDIA)Leeds Rhinos' Kevin Sinfield (JPIMEDIA)
Leeds Rhinos' Kevin Sinfield (JPIMEDIA)
DIRECTOR of rugby Kevin Sinfield has hailed Leeds Rhinos’ players, staff and fans for their reaction to coronavrius but warned of challenging times ahead with the club predicted to lose £4m over the next 18 months.

The eight-times Super League champions are confident they will be in a good position to resume when the competition - shutdown since mid-March - hopefully restarts in August.

This week marked 100 days since the Rhinos last scheduled game at Catalans Dragons was postponed and, like at all clubs, the financial effects have been crippling.

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But Sinfield - who captained Leeds for 13 seasons during their most successful era - says he has never been more proud to be associated with the blue and amber.

“I was fortunate and privileged during my career to lead this club during some incredible times,” said the ex-England captain, as preparations are stepped up to hopefully resume training in the coming weeks.

“But I can honestly say the last 100 days have made me as proud of everyone involved with the club as any of those wonderful occasions.

“Whether that is everyones commitment to find a way through for the club or the Leeds Rhinos Foundations support of charities across our city or the incredible sacrifices of key workers to keep us all safe, many of whom we count amongst our fans and who we will look to celebrate when we are back together.

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“The coronavirus pandemic has presented every family with unprecedented challenges and that is true for Leeds Rhinos family too. “Last year, we were rightly proud when we re-opened our new look home at Emerald Headingley and the club’s directors not only backed that incredible redevelopment but also supported myself and Richard Agar’s plans for the squad for 2020 and beyond.

Action from Leeds Rhinos v Toronto Wolfpack at Emerald Headingley earlier this year (SWPIX)Action from Leeds Rhinos v Toronto Wolfpack at Emerald Headingley earlier this year (SWPIX)
Action from Leeds Rhinos v Toronto Wolfpack at Emerald Headingley earlier this year (SWPIX)

“Clearly the lockdown is a huge hit to the club’s financial plans.

“As you would expect, there have been long and detailed conversations between myself, Gary Hetherington and our Financial Director Nigel Chambers as we discuss various options to altering our budgets and salary cap plans for the ‘new normal’ world that lies ahead for us.

“Our Operations Director, Sue Ward, and Head of Medical Services, Dr Marwan Al-Dawoud, have been working tirelessly to prepare the stadium and our training ground to protect all our staff and make sure we are ready to go once we get the all clear to return.

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“As part of that process, I know they have spent countless hours making sure our stadium is ready for our fans to return safely once we receive the go ahead from the authorities as well.”

Sinfield, 39, is well aware of the likely financial cost of the pandemic on the West Yorkshire club.

“We are predicted to make a £4 million loss over the next 18 months because of the impact of the lockdown and obviously there are additional costs to deal with the challenges of Covid 19,” he continued.

"Our players have been exemplary over this period and, along with all our staff, they have played their part by agreeing wage reductions to lessen the impact whilst we have been without income.

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“On behalf of the players, I would like to thank our supporters and especially our members who have continued to support the club through their memberships.

“Across the game, it has been heartening to hear fans from every club understanding the key role they have in helping the sport to survive and hopefully thrive in the years ahead.

“We are proud that Rugby League clubs are still at the heart of their communities.

“We may not at present have the money of other sports but that does mean that our fans know they still have a key role at their clubs and we will never take that for granted or underestimate it.”

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Although the season is set to resume behind closed doors, all in rugby league are endeavouring to get crowds back in stadiums as soon as safely possible.

In an open letter to fans, Rhinos chief executive Hetherington added: “As I am sure everyone can appreciate, the protocols to return to training and playing are a constantly moving situation, led by government guidelines.

“I know all our supporters want to know when they can see the team play again and eventually get back home to Emerald Headingley.

“On behalf of the club, I would like to thank you for your patience, as soon as we have confirmed details we will let you know.

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“The challenges we face financially are not just for the remainder of this season but will continue in 2021.

“Hopefully, we will have a full season with capacity crowds but every club will have to deal with reduced fees from our broadcast partners because of the disrupted 2020 season and inevitably some supporters will want reimbursing for games missed this season.

“On behalf of everyone at the Rhinos, I would like to thank all our members, sponsors and partners for their ongoing support of the club. “The work by the RFL to secure government support for the sport will help but this is a loan.

“However, our current forecast predicts we will lose £4m over the next two seasons but that we are actively engaging with various partners to mitigate those losses.

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“There remains a large gap that we have to secure through a team effort by all connected to the club to enable us to not just survive but thrive as we look to kick start a new period of success.”

He added: “Our supporters should be assured of our determination to do whatever it takes to take the club back to the top of the game and I hope the pride, spirit and support we have built over many years will come to the fore in these challenging, but exciting times ahead.

“We will be contacting our members with plans over the coming weeks for how they can help their club including options involving exciting membership choices over the seasons ahead and a brand new lottery scheme that will be bigger and better than anything we have had before. “Importantly, we will give our supporters time to review their choice and make the decision that best suits their needs.

“Until then, on behalf of everyone at the club, I would like to thank our fans for their understanding and patience and I look forward to the day when we are back together again.”

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