LEEDS RHINOS say they will provide an “unrivalled” matchday experience when their home campaign finally kicks off in nine days’ time.
Rhinos have overhauled the pre-match, half-time and post-game entertainment on offer at new-look Emerald Headingley.
The 2019 match-day presentation has been designed in response to a survey of fans carried out last year – plus the opportunities provided by new facilities in the rebuilt stadium – and will not include cheerleaders.
After four away games, Rhinos will return to Headingley on Friday, March 1, for a derby against Wakefield Trinity.
That will be the first Betfred Super League match with the new South Stand fully open. The North Stand is nearing the final stages of completion and expected to be ready for the visit of Castleford Tigers on Thursday, May 16.
“It is all based on a fan survey we ran in September last year,” Rhinos’ head of marketing and data, Matt Adams, said of the new-style match-day experience.
Whichever part of the stadium you are going to be in, the match-day experience will be much enhanced compared to previous seasons.Leeds Rhinos’ Matt Adams
“That has been the foundation for a lot of the changes going forward this season, along with the new opportunities we’ve got with a £45m redevelopment.
“The clear feedback from the survey was for a greater variety of entertainment across our match-day – more live entertainment, more live music, more curtain-raisers, as well as a great selection of food and drink.
“All that will be catered for and fans will be experiencing it from the first home game against Wakefield.”
Adams said the nature of the rebuilt stadium allows the club to offer a variety of entertainment not available in previous seasons.
“It is a very unique stadium we have,” he added.
“Whichever part of the stadium you are going to be in, the match-day experience will be much enhanced compared to previous seasons.
“What the Tetley’s South Stand offers is, in my opinion, unrivalled in sport.
“With the giant screens and podium, we will be offering live music and interviews with players.
“There’ll be two presenters, including a member of the women’s team and entertainment will be running from the gates first opening to well after the final whistle.”
The junior fans’ zone has been moved from the cafe bar under the east Extentia Stand to a dedicated area in the cricket nets adjacent to Headingley Lodge.
Adams said that will give the young fans more space and also make the cafe bar a “more adult environment”.
Of the decision to disband the club’s dance team, Adams insisted that it has nothing to do with political correctness.
He said: “The senior dance team no longer exists, but dance will still play a large part.
“We have got four games when it will be part of the match-day entertainment and dance will continue to exist in the form of the Rhinestones (junior dancers) and the work they do across the schools programme.
“The way we ran the research was very much about identifying areas fans wanted changed and which areas they prefered and wanted more of.
“They wanted greater variety and more curtain-raisers.”
There will be two under-19s games, one women’s fixture and another curtain-raiser later in the season when extra changing room space is available, plus more junior games played during half-time.
Adams confirmed: “We will be consistently having eight teams playing at half-time.
“That is, without doubt, the most popular part of match-day.”
The key to the shake-up is “making it a match-day experience, rather than just 80 minutes”. Adams insisted: “It will be running from the gates opening at 5.30pm until 11pm.
“The match-day experience in the South Stand will be brilliant. We will have the man-of-the-match on the podium straight away after the game and we will also have live stats beamed onto the two screens.
“We can also do proper post-match analysis, with highlights and live music.”