Leeds Rhinos face '˜serious implications' if Headingley redevelopment plan collapses '“ Gary Hetherington

Leeds Rhinos' chief executive Gary HetheringtonLeeds Rhinos' chief executive Gary Hetherington
Leeds Rhinos' chief executive Gary Hetherington
CONCERNED Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington says if the jeopardised Headingley Stadium redevelopment does not go ahead, it could spell the end of a once in a century opportunity.

Rhinos and Yorkshire CCC are working together on an overall £38m scheme that, crucially, will help secure international and Test cricket at the famous venue.

But worried Yorkshire have already stated that there is a funding shortfall and if it is not bridged imminently the whole development could collapse.

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Hetherington has warned any such failure will have “serious implications” for Super League club Rhinos, too, who plan to put £22.5m towards redeveloping its South Stand and the joint-Main Stand.

Leeds Rhinos and Yorkshire County Cricket Club have worked tirelessly on this project for the past five years and we’re now on the cliff edge,” he said.

“Decisions like these are made every 100 years or so and for it to fail now will be very damaging for the Rhinos, Yorkshire County Cricket Club, the city of Leeds and the county, too.

“I think there is a feeling among rugby league fans that this is going ahead and, even if it doesn’t, it won’t affect the Rhinos-side of things at all.

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“But it will create issues for us. We will still have to return to the problem of the South Stand, which was actually condemned six years ago.

“If this fails, we will still have that problem to resolve.

“But also there are not many grounds privately owned by rugby league people.

Headingley is one of those and we want it to be able to host international games, cup finals, semi-finals and matches in our own 2021 World Cup.

“This plan will allow us to do that and it will be a big blow to the sport of rugby league if that opportunity was lost.”

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Furthermore, Hetherington has reminded everyone of the need for urgency saying if issues are not solved by next week the main stand will not be ready in time for its four 2019 Cricket World Cup games.

It has reached a critical point in the process and both parties are worried they could run out of time.

“The plan is to replace the South Stand and the whole of the main stand – both rugby and cricket – to significantly improve the facilities, but also guarantee international cricket at Headingley post 2019,” explained Hetherington.

“It will also allow it to host its 2019 World Cup cricket games and be in contention to be one of the eight new city-based T20 sides set to start in 2020.

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“But if work doesn’t start by September 1, it will not be completed in time for the 2019 World Cup and, for that to start on September 1, contracts literally have to be in place next week.

“That is how urgent and pressing the matter is and people need to realise that.

“If the plan does not go ahead, Headingley will lose its international status, which would be a great loss for so many reasons – and not just in terms of cricket.”

Headingley is famous for some classic cricket Tests, but it first staged international rugby league when England beat New Zealand in 1908 while it hosted two World Cup games in 2013.