‘Perfect storm’ of financial challenges for Leeds Rhinos

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Leeds Rhinos Rugby League Club, which has released its annual accounts today, say the pandemic has had a major impact on its finances.

The club suffered a fall in turnover from £11.47m (2019) to £8.75m (2020) and a loss before tax of £1.24m compared to £1.12m in 2019.

Club chief executive, Gary Hetherington, said: “The Covid pandemic throughout 2020 brought the biggest challenge to the company in its 130-year history and we did remarkably well to restrict losses to £1.24m.

“It was a real team effort by our fans, sponsors, key partners, players and staff who all made significant sacrifices and it will take a long time for us to fully recover.

“However, together I am sure we will recover and with the unwavering support of our supporters are well placed to do so.”

In 2017, Leeds Rhinos embarked on an ambitious re-development programme in a joint venture with Yorkshire County Cricket Club to spend £45m to return Emerald Headingley Stadium to its status as a world class international sporting venue.

Despite the considerable investment on the stadium, the club has continued to invest in talent for the men’s team.

In 2021, the Rhinos were the only Super League club to sign a current New Zealand or Australia international with the capture of Zane Tetevano and has agreed long-term contracts with young players including England internationals Mikolaj Oledzki and Ash Handley along with Jack Walker, Cameron Smith, Harry Newman, Jack Broadbent and Liam Sutcliffe all products of the club’s academy.

The club notes that it has also looked to attract top quality talent from Super League during the period of the reconstruction, paying fees to sign England squad members Luke Gale and Kruise Leeming.

In addition, the club has invested in womens and girls Rugby League.

Leeds Rhinos says it is grateful to the support from Government during the pandemic.

In total, furlough grants of £897,414 were received in the year.

A skeleton staff continued to operate at the club throughout the pandemic. All staff earning above the living wage took salary cuts to the end of the financial year between 15% and 35% to assist the club with “unprecedented cash flow pressures”.

Leeds Rhinos finance director, Nigel Chambers, said: “We would like to thank all our staff for their support. The club sought to minimise its cost base and remained in dialogue with both fans and commercial partners throughout last year.

“Only four home Super League fixtures were played with crowds during 2020, yet over 50% of supporters chose to receive no refund on memberships.

“Additionally, the club successfully applied for and received a DCMS backed Rugby Football League Investments loan of £1.25m to assist with the loss of revenue.

“Looking ahead, we are anticipating another tough year with losses expected to be similar to 2020.

“However, we are forecasting for our cashflows to break even as we begin to rebuild our previously strong financial footing.

“Our aim is to return to our pre pandemic forecasts as soon as possible so we can grow from a break even budget in 2020 and fully maximise the opportunities that the new redeveloped facilities at Emerald Headingley offer us.”