LEEDS RHINOS’ traditional Boxing Day clash with Wakefield Trinity will go ahead this year, but is to be staged at Beaumont Legal Stadium, Belle Vue.
The clubs have agreed to switch the Wetherby Whaler Festive Challenge to Wakefield because of building work at Headingley. It will be the first time the game has been played away from Headingley since it was revived, as a pre-season match, in 1997.
Despite coming more than a month before the start of the league campaign, the Boxing Day game has become a major event on both clubs’ calendar and an important source of income during the winter.
Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington confirmed: “All the normal arrangements are going to apply - it will be an 11.30am kick-off on Boxing Day and Wetherby Whaler are continuing as sponsor, but the only difference is the venue will be Belle Vue rather than Headingley.”
Hetherington added: “That is because of the construction that’s going on.
“We could have kept it at Headingley with a vastly reduced capacity, but because of the disruption caused by staging any fixture at Headingley - having to alter construction dates and so on - both clubs agreed the sensible option would be to play it at Wakefield for this year only.”
Headingley’s South Stand, which was closed last month, has now been demolished and the site is expected to be cleared this week.
Ground works will begin after that and a standing section of the new two-tier South Stand is due to be open next season.
The all-seater North Stand, shared with Yorkshire County Cricket Club, will be used for the final time at Friday’s Betfred Super League semi-final against Hull and a temporary structure will be in place next year.
Some seats have already been removed - to make way for the Sky television gantry - and Hetherington said: “Effectively, the demolition process begins on Saturday morning.”
Both clubs agreed the sensible option would be to play it at Wakefield for this year only.Leeds Rhinos’ chief executive, Gary Hetherington
Some seats from the North Stand could be sold to fans to raise money for the Leeds Rhinos Foundation. Friday’s capacity has been reduced to 12,500, but tickets are still available for the North Stand. Hetherington said: “Hull have been sent an initial allocation of 2,000 and they are well on their way to selling those.”