Why Leeds Rhinos are being hit harder than Super League rivals by Covid-19

Chief executive Gary Hetherington has explained why he believes the coronavirus pandemic will hit Leeds Rhinos harder than other Super League clubs.

Friday, 10th July 2020, 12:00 pm

Rhinos are expecting to make a loss of £4m to the end of the 2021 season.

That has left a question mark over whether they will be able to retain out of contract players or recruit for next year.

The club has had virtually no income since the home game against Toronto Wolfpack on March 5.

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While clubs will receive their full Sky television handout this season, next year’s will be reduced by around £280,000.

All clubs in the competition are in a similar situation in terms of lack of income, but Hetherington believes the impact on Rhinos - as the biggest business - is greater because of their higher running costs.

“We have got 150 people on our payroll,” Hetherington said.

“We have continued to pay those 150 people throughout this lockdown.

Rhinos own Emerald Headingley and have to meet all running costs. Picture by Richard Sellers PA Wire

“Salford have got 39, so there is a significant difference there and, of course, we do depend on our income streams.

“We have got much more diverse income streams than anybody else, but they all have costs attached to them.

“While the income has dried up, some of the costs have remained.”

As well as the rugby operation, Rhinos’ business includes hospitality and banqueting - two sectors hit harder than any other by the pandemic.

Harry Newman on the charge during Rhinos' win at Salford in February. Picture by Steve Riding.

“We have got a hotel and there’s been nobody in the hotel for five months now,” Hetherington added.

“Even though that hotel is closed, there’s still costs associated with it.

“The conference and banqueting business is the same.”

Rhinos will have more sources of income once things return to normal, but but asked if that will help them recover quicker than other clubs once things return to normal, Hetherington insisted: “Income is inevitably associated with costs.

Luke Gale in action against Toronto in Rhinos' final game before Super League was suspended. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

“In theory, yes - but conference and banqueting are a big part of our business and there’s no signs whatsoever yet that’s going to be back available - and when it is, with social distancing what sort of business is it going to be?

“We don’t know, but yet we have costs associated with it.

“We have costs associated with the stadium, paying for all the new facilities and everything that goes with it.

“Headingley is our stadium so we pay for everything.

“If you are a tenant in a stadium you pay a fee and that’s that - and that might have been suspended over the course of this year.

“So those clubs who own their own facilities have got a much bigger problem than the clubs that don’t.”

Rhinos’ senior squad will resume organised training, for the first time since March, on Monday as preparations begin for their return to Super League action against Huddersfield Giants on Sunday, August 2.

Continued pay cuts are believed to have caused unrest among players at some clubs, but Rhinos’ acting-captain Luke Gale has insisted there is no such problem at Leeds.

In his Yorkshire Evening Post column yesterday, Gale confirmed: “Our lads are sorted now and there’s no issues.

“In terms of wage reductions, that has all been dealt with.”

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