LEEDS RHINOS and Yorkshire Carnegie are reeling from the “catastrophic” effect of flooding at their Kirkstall base.
Both clubs’ rugby operation and administrative staff are based next to the river Aire, which burst its banks on Boxing Day evening.
The rugby academy at Kirkstall, which was one of the areas worst affected by flooding, includes a gym, medical and meeting rooms, offices and training pitches, all of which were submerged.
Rugby league and union staff went in yesterday to assess the damage and the clubs’ chief executive Gary Hetherington described it as a “catastrophe”.
The cost of damage will be covered by insurance, but Hetherington fears the Kirkstall complex will be out of action until at least February, when the new First Utility Super League season begins.
He said: “We’ve lost Kirkstall to flooding, so both Rhinos and Carnegie are homeless.
“It is catastrophic for all the rugby operation, the medical side, coaching, development and the Foundation.
“We have had flooding before, but never to this extent.”
Five training pitches on nearby Abbey Fields, which is a flood plain, are regularly submerged, but Hetherington described the impact on those at Kirkstall as a huge shock.
He said: “Our 3G all-weather pitch is ruined and two other pitches at the front of Kirkstall (the training base) were completely covered.”
Of damage to the club’s building, Hetherington said: “It was under six feet of water – so that covered the gym, re-hab facilities, wrestle room, meeting room and changing facilities.
“Staff were able to get in for the first time (yesterday) afternoon to assess the damage, after the water level had dropped, but more than 50 people work there and we will have to find somewhere for them to go.
“We’ve had to seal off the building and put security on. Upstairs isn’t affected, but the staff can’t get up there.”
Rhinos’ players have this week off, following their Boxing Day defeat to Wakefield Trinity Wildcats. They will return for a week and then head to Florida for a warm weather training camp.
Carnegie are training this week, but have a break at the start of the new year.
Hetherington said: “We will have to find new training venues, which we will be able to do at different locations around the city.
“But we’ve lost a lot of equipment which was based at Kirkstall and the 3G pitch was run by the Foundation and used by various organisations, including schools and Milford Marlins (community club), so it’s a blow for the community.
“Just at a time when we were celebrating what has been an outstanding year we have been hit by a body blow like this, which nobody could have predicted.”
Writing in his latest blog for our sister paper The Yorkshire Post, Carnegie’s former Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield admitted both teams are facing “logistical challenges”.
He said: The thoughts of everyone at Yorkshire Carnegie go out to all those impacted by the floods across the north of England.”