Leeds Rhinos chief Gary Hetherington promises ‘matchday experience like no other’

Leeds Rhinos chief executive 'Gary Hetherington.
Leeds Rhinos chief executive 'Gary Hetherington.
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LEEDS RHINOS are promising fans an experience “like no other” at Emerald Headingley this season.

The redevelopment of the ground will improve what Rhinos can offer to supporters before, during and after matches, chief executive Gary Hetherington says.

The new two-tier South Stand was officially opened on Boxing Day when Rhinos beat Wakefield Trinity in the Wetherby Whaler Festive Challenge. Trinity will also be the visitors when Rhinos begin their home Betfred Super League campaign on March 1.

Work is continuing on the new all-seater North Stand, due for completion in May and Rhinos requested a spell of away matches at the start of the year.

Changes have been made to Rhinos’ squad since the end of last season with three overseas signings coming in and the backroom staff has been overhauled under new coach David Furner.

And Hetherington said as much work is going on behind the scenes to make sure standards also rise off the field.

“One of the things our marketing department are offering is a matchday experience like no other,” he pledged.

“We have put a lot of focus on improving the team to create a team that will challenge for honours next season and will play really good, entertaining rugby.

“In addition there’s a real focus on heritage – with the South Stand – and on the matchday experience and ambiance.

“We have got high standards, we have always produced a pretty good matchday fan experience, but we are looking to take that to a new level. Some new initiatives are being planned and our marketing team are working very hard on that.”

During the first half of the Christmas fixture music was played over the public address during breaks in play, though that was abandoned after fans voiced their disapproval.

Hetherington stopped short of saying that will not be repeated, but he admitted: “It didn’t get a good reaction from the South Stand.

“That gives us an indication, we need feedback from people.

“At the end of the day we want a fan experience everybody really enjoys.

“You are never going to please everybody, but we need to look at anything and everything that can add value.”

Boxing Day was a test run for the South Stand and Hetherington said improvements will be made for Kallum Watkins’ testimonial game against Castleford Tigers on Sunday, January 20.

“The response we’ve had [from Boxing Day] has been really, really good,” he said.

“We have an internal meeting after every game to identify any issues and we’ve highlighted a few – for example there weren’t enough bars open to meet demand.

“There were a few teething things that didn’t go as we would have hoped, but that is exactly what we want to find out before we are under pressure with the league games starting in March.”