LEEDS RHINOS may consider playing on Headingley’s cricket pitch during rebuilding work next year, but chief executive Gary Hetherington says the switch is probably not practical.
Leeds City Council’s executive board will meet a week tomorrow (April 12) to discuss a funding proposal for the redevelopment of both the rugby and cricket sides of Headingley Stadium.
The agreement would see a private financial services company put up £35m, with Rhinos providing the remaining £5m.
If approval is given, work will start at the end of the rugby league season in September and is due to be completed in 2019.
Both the rugby South Stand and the main stand – shared by Rhinos and Yorkshire County Cricket Club – are to be replaced.
Construction had been due to start last autumn, but delays in obtaining finance and planning permission have put the scheme back a year, meaning work on both stands will take place simultaneously with building going on during the rugby season.
That will lead to major disruption, but Hetherington has already denied rumours Rhinos will move some home games to Bradford’s Odsal Stadium during the redevelopment.
The cricket complex has floodlights and enough seats to stage rugby matches even without the current back-to-back stand and would allow Rhinos to keep the proceeds from bars and hospitality.
Hetherington said: “It has been suggested, by a number of fans, that we play on the cricket field. It is an interesting suggestion that could well be considered, but I am not sure how practical it would be.
“We did play at Adelaide Oval in 1997 in the World Club Championship – they put topsoil on the wicket and then just brushed it off.
“I know they do it at other grounds, but I don’t see how it could be converted to cricket, rugby and then back to cricket in the same week.”
The 13-a-side game has been played on the cricket ground once in the past, on Christmas Eve, 1938, when the rugby pitch was frozen.
Leeds beat Salford 5-0 with Vic Hey scoring the only try.
Hetherington hopes timescales and details of the construction can be confirmed after next week’s council meeting. He said: “The plan has always been that we can play [at Headingley] throughout the disruption, allbeit with a reduced capacity.
“Had work started last September the capacity would have been 13,000. I would imagine that will still be the case. The only change is we will be doing the South Stand and North Stand together, so the disruption is reduced to one year rather than two.”
Meanwhile, Rhinos centre Jimmy Keinhorst has been charged with grade A ‘dangerous contact’ in last Friday’s defeat at Warrington Wolves, but will avoid a ban if he submits an early guilty plea. Warrington’s Ben Westwood faces a grade D charge of striking Rhinos’ Liam Sutcliffe.