Leeds Rhinos v Salford Red Devils: Headingley will be 'safe environment' for first game without Covid restrictions

Leeds Rhinos will provide a “very safe environment” for fans at tomorrow’s home clash with Salford Red Devils, chief executive Gary Hetherington has pledged.

Thursday, 22nd July 2021, 10:30 am

The Betfred Super League game will be Emerald Headingley’s first without any restrictions on the crowd since a 66-12 demolition of Toronto Wolfpack on March 5 last year.

Hetherington said Rhinos are determined to make the occasion a “celebration”, but insisted nobody’s health will be put at risk.

He confirmed supporters who want to keep socially distanced will be able to, if they tell the club in advance.

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Packed terraces are back from this week. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.

“We can promise everyone a very safe environment at Headingley on Friday,” Hetherington insisted.

Outlining the measures being taken by the club to keep coronavirus at bay, he said: “The venue is going to undergo a complete deep clean of all the seats and all the facilities on Thursday.

“Even though the restrictions have been lifted, we will have hand sanitising stations around the ground.

“Any fans with possible Covid symptoms have been urged not to attend and if anyone wants to watch the match from a quieter area in the stadium, that can be arranged.

Fans in Headngley's South Stand last year, before restrictrions came into force. Picture by Steve Riding.

“We are going to be writing to all our members in the lead up to Friday with that information, but obviously the response will determine how big a space we need.”

Face coverings will be optional, but Rhinos are not asking for proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test.

Those checks were in place at Wembley for last Saturday’s 1895 and Betfred Challenge Cup finals and the following day’s T-20 between England and Pakistan on Headingley’s cricket ground.

Hetherington said: “A lot of people have been in touch asking if that’s going to be the case on Friday and the answer is no, it won’t be.”

Headingley was one of the venues used by Super League and the RFL to stage matches before fans were allowed back and has had a 4,000 crowd limit for the past three games.

“We’ve developed a real expertise in it all,” Hetherington said of hosting fixtures during the pandemic.

“Headingley will be as safe as anywhere else on Friday and we want it to be a real celebration for all our fans, a coming home to Headingley theme after so long away.

“We are all looking forward to seeing full stands and I think to be part of the crowd will be good.

“It will be a great filip for the players, they are all looking forward to having the fans back.

“It has been so long since we’ve had a sizable crowd, so we want it to be as much of a celebration as possible and for fans to come and enjoy the occasion.”

Bars will be fully open.

Members can return to their own allocated seat for the first time since last year and there will be a per-match and half-time performance on the pitch by ‘Opera Man’ John Innes.

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