In June fans from Yorkshire Carnegie and Leeds Rhinos gathered for a Fans Forum meeting held at Headingley Carnegie Stadium and were joined by special guest, Kevin Sinfield MBE.

Fans Forum Meeting Wednesday 24th June

Fans Forum Members:-

Attendees: Rachel Barker, Jon Williams, Alistair Senior, Barbara Senior, Sue Millard, Gerry Alleyn, Sam Brightbart, Simon Whitehead, Ian Waterhouse, Gary Marks, Malcolm Robinson, Susie Woffinden.

Apologies: Danny Frank, Scott Johnson, Mark Nelson, Andrea Green

Leeds Rugby Attendees: Sian Jones (Head of Customer Experience & Meeting Chair), Jessica Ives (Customer Experience Telesales /Minute Taker)

Guests for the Evening: Special Guest! – Kevin Sinfield

  • Next meeting dates

Wednesday 22nd July              CARNEGIE
Wednesday 19th August          RHINOS
Wednesday 23rd September   GROUP
Wednesday 28th October        CARNEGIE
Wednesday 18th November    RHINOS
Wednesday 16th December    GROUP
         
Sian: Welcome everyone to our 3rd Anniversary Fans Forum.
We have a group forum tonight so a mix of both Leeds Rhinos Forum and Yorkshire Carnegie Forum.  I am sure you have noticed our special guest has arrived and I am sure he needs no introduction, Kevin Sinfield.

Thank you for coming Kevin. Obviously, your announcement was made a few months ago now in regards to your crossing over to Yorkshire Carnegie at the end of this Rhinos season.  It was joy to one side but also sadness to the other side.  There has been a huge amount of respect shown to Kevin regarding his move to Union and it will be a great opportunity for him.
So I will now open the floor to the forum and give you the opportunity to ask the questions you have for Kevin.

Gerry: Have you played Union before?

Kevin: Never

Gerry: How long do you think it will take you to settle in?

Kevin: I know about the game itself so I am not changing over to union not    knowing what to expect.  I think some people have looked at the change in codes for me and thought I haven’t got a chance.  People who are involved in union and have become ingrained have their own opinions. All I can do is play as well as I can. There will be teething issues at first but I will work hard to make it work. It is a challenge.  My contract for Yorkshire Carnegie starts 1st December but the date I have in mind to start is 1st November.  My plan is to hopefully go out at Old Trafford, have a family holiday and then go into Union.  I turn 35 in September and some Union fans think I am too old, but my response to that would be that I am not here for an easy ride I am here for a challenge.  I don’t want to have six weeks off and de train and end up coming and trying to learn a game that I am behind in from the start. I am too old to be benched. I have come to play!

In the last few weeks Carnegie players have been in starting their pre-season and I have been able to observe what they do. I can watch how they work with the ball etc.  I will be able to observe in these next few months but not train.

They are putting together a careers day for the Rhinos players where they will see what options they will have with life after rugby. My careers day will be spent looking at the Yorkshire Carnegie training.  I am a big fan of Union so I am not coming in as a complete novice. I will give it my best shot!

Gerry: Kicking the ball is the same in both codes, there is just a bit more room in Union.

Kev: Some of these things I will find out pretty quickly. It’s sink or swim.  My best mate who I played junior rugby with from 7-16, he played Rugby Union for Oldham about ten years ago. Now he is their coach.  If I have any silly questions I need to ask then I will ask him.

Alistair: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Kevin: Hopefully still playing.  I have just handed in a Master’s Degree in Sports Business at the end of May.  I would love to do something connected to that and I would love to still be a part of Leeds Rugby.  I would like to think if Yorkshire Carnegie do well there could be a joint role that I would be keen to do.

Simon: Who would you say was the best player you have played against in your career?

Kevin: I may surprise you with my answer. A few special ones are Jamie Peacock, Danny Buderus, Paul Wellens, Paul Sculthorpe, Sean Long, Andy Farrell, Barrie McDermott, and Adrian Morley.  But the one player that has had the biggest influence on me, the guy who I would take into battle with me every day is Jamie Jones-Buchanan. We played against each other when we were younger with Yorkshire Vs Lancashire and since then we have become great friends and have got a strong friendship.  What he doesn’t have in skill he makes up for in speed and strength.  He comes up against players who are a lot bigger than him all the time.  There is no one like him.

Simon: Anyone in the opposition who would stand out for you in teams over in Australia or New Zealand for example?

Kevin: As you get older you have a different opinion of players.  Brad Fittler, in early 2000’s I came up against him. I looked at his game and his style of playing. I thought some of his style would be great to follow.

Malcolm: Who would be your favourite Union player?

Kevin: They would all be 10’s.

Malcolm: I would liken you to a Gomersall at an older age.  You’ve got the influence on the team to bring it forward.  An old head in a key position.

Kevin: Mine would probably be Jonny Wilkinson.  I would look back to the England team in 2003. Will Greenwood, I admire him, Jason Robinson. Since then George Ford has been great. It will always be the 10’s really, people like Dan Carter and Steve Larkham.

Ian: You made the announcement a little while ago.  Where were the Yorkshire Carnegie side in terms of who their Head Coach was? Was it Bryan Redpath or was it Tommy McGee?

Kevin: To be honest it has been an ongoing process trying to make my decision.  In December I was approached after a number of times before.  It was made clear that with new investors and a change in format that Yorkshire Carnegie were going to make a real go for it.  Around Christmas and New Year and the Jacksonville Camp with the Rhinos was around the time that I was mulling things over.  The middle of January was when I made the decision.  I wasn’t aware that Bryan Redpath was coming in, but at that moment in time it didn’t bother me about who the Head Coach was going to be, it was the experience that I wanted.  Since then I am delighted he has come to the club and think he is a great guy.  He is the right fit for the club.  To have a hungry coach is good for us.

Ian: Do you feel he has something to prove with his previous experiences with other clubs?

Kevin: Bryan would be better answering that question. He has come here to get the club into the Premiership and that is why I am here too.  If you ask the other recruits they know that they want the next level and want to push themselves.  I think he is the right choice.

Susie: Have you spent much time with the Carnegie players or will you be going in as the new boy?

Kevin: I know all the squad.  I have met all the new boys and I am quite happy as there are a couple from Lancashire now.  There are some that have been here a long time.  I know Ryan Burrows, I have spent some time with him.  I did come to a few home games last season. The last two in particular.  I wanted to see what went on, on a match day and get a taster of what’s to come.  It’s different to a Rhinos match day in the changing room.  Instead of having 25 mates at Rhinos around me I will have 50 odd.  Forging those new relationships and friendships is all part of the excitement.

Gary: You have signed an 18 month contract for Yorkshire Carnegie. Is that it after 18 months or see what happens?

Kevin: I think I will see what happens.  If I am alright I may go round again.  If I feel I can contribute to the team and they would like to keep me then yes I would like to go round again.

Alistair: What has been your best experience whilst playing with the Rhinos?

Kevin: 2012 Grand Final.  We came from fifth and beat the team that had beaten us in Challenge Cup final earlier in the season.  We had a difficult run in the playoffs.  The 2014 Challenge Cup was great but for different reasons.  Relief was a huge factor. We didn’t want to disappoint the fans anymore.   Going to Wembley is tough as it the longest walk when you have lost going up and down those stairs.  I wanted to experience it as a winner and we did!  It was strange afterwards as we had a    celebratory function. To look at some of the boys in that function they looked shattered – mentally and physically.

Sian: I am sure some of you have seen the home coming video from the Challenge Cup and saw the pain and heartache the boys go through.  It almost felt like at the time the wind had been taken out of them afterwards with the sense of relief.

Simon: When do you decide how the team are going to play?  Is there a plan of how you will play against each team e.g. a plan to play Huddersfield, a plan to play Widnes etc.?

Kevin: Whoever is the Head Coach at the beginning of the season has a philosophy of how they want the team to play throughout the season and this is then incorporated into the week by week plans.  Three days out after a game day we have a huge prep day.  We break off into groups and all get   given an individual video.  We then have to watch the video and plan to correct the errors that were made and make plans on our performance.  If we have had a bad loss we tend to push that to one side and look forward.  It’s too much to look at all the errors and try fixing it.  We will never run with the same plan. For example we played Hull FC on Sunday (21st June); we won’t run with the same game plan when we play them in the Challenge Cup Tie on Friday (26th June).  Some of it is prescribed.  Some of the videos we get have a message within them showing there can only be one outcome.  They pick out bits in the videos and say if we play like this then we will win etc.

Alistair: What’s your input as Captain?

Kevin: I have no input in team selection but get involved in anything when asked to.  With Tony Smith I was very involved as he used to ring me nearly every night on his way home.  I was involved with Bluey a lot in his office talking over things, a very relaxed environment.  Brian McDermott communicates a lot through emails. Each coach is different.

Barbara: Who has been your favourite coach?

Kevin: They have all been good. At different times they have been exactly what we have needed as a team.  It’s funny if you ask the players who they like the best and it would be whoever picks them.  Dean Bell would be mine. When Dean came in he had such a huge impact. I was a huge fan of him from when I was 14 in the academy. He gave me books all the time and even gave me my debut at 16.  I still keep in touch with him now. He is a lovely man and was fantastic.   Graham Murray was successful here but that team in 1998 didn’t really change much.  I love playing under Daryl Powell; he made me captain at the age of 22.  He got us into a place where success was very very close.   Tony Smith was also a great coach.  The most coaching the group had ever had was from Tony.  He put the most into the group.  Bluey was a complete opposite to Tony.  Very happy, very chilled but was also exactly what we needed.  He was a big motivator and cared about the players and was   passionate about the players.  Now we have Brian McDermott who is a blend of all those skills.  I have been very lucky with the coaches I have had.

Malcolm: The academy structure we have had has been fantastic in both Rhinos and Carnegie.  It has to be a good thing that we can bring young ones into the format?

Kevin: Yes I agree. Up until about 1997 when I made my debut there might have been three or four that had come through that season.  They had all left, moved on.  We created all these top quality young players but for whatever reason we didn’t keep them and play them in the first team.  The beauty of the club after that was Gary Hetherington coming in and the quality of the players.  We had 8-9 all of a sudden come through.  I see a team now of home grown players.  When I say home grown I don’t mean just from Leeds the area, I mean from our academy.  That is what the club is about.  Then we can enhance the team with a sprinkling of World Class players to play alongside them.

Malcolm: You see other clubs who make a crop of signings and you see them for a season and then they are gone.  I think Leeds has the right ideas.

Kevin: Up until the last batch of players from the academy: Liam Sutcliffe, Josh Walters, Brad Singleton and Stevie Ward, before that core four, there were minimal players brought through. The players you talk about are scattered in the Super League and the Championship. Maybe players like myself, Rob Burrow, Ryan Bailey etc. were in there way. We don’t know.

Gerry: Is it that the next bunch of youngsters can’t get into the first team and that’s why we don’t see any progression through the teams?

Kevin: The role of the academy is to bring at least one player every season from the academy into the first team.  If you look at our academy, all the time and effort that is invested to the boys in those teams, you aren’t guaranteed a place at Leeds but there will be a place for them in Super League.  You will see our academy players scattered around clubs across Super League and the Championship.

Ian: Tell us about your approach to goal kicking. You talk about Jonny Wilkinson being a favourite, but what is your approach?

Kevin:  I kicked from being about 9 years old.   Back then we kicked off sand. Me and my dad used to spend hours in a local field, dad with his bucket of sand stood watching me practice my kicking.  When I was 11 I was a ball boy at Oldham.  I would play a match on the Sunday morning then head over to the club to pick up my £3.50 for being a ball boy for them. For me it was a chance to watch the professionals play and see their techniques.  I kicked all the way through my amateur clubs and also for England School boys.  When I came to Rhinos I kicked again.  My kicks were always ok but could’ve been a lot more accurate.  I have never had kicking coaching and then in 2003 on the back of Iestyn Harris leaving we had a few kickers and that gave me the chance to step up.  I had had a bit of coaching with the Leeds Tykes (at the time) Backs Coach Jon Callard.  It was when Tony Smith came in in 2004 he gave me a couple of tips and to always practice.  I love kicking and loved watching Jonny Wilkinson.

Simon: Do you ever feel the pressure of kicking when it is a big game?

Kevin: I never think that I am going to miss the kick.  You have to think about all the hard work you have put in for it and the practice you have done, this tends to make you switch off and rely on what you have done in the run up to the game.  The one thing Tony Smith did tell me was about keeping your head down after your kick.  That is something that comes with a lot practice and repetition.

Gerry: Do you help Liam Sutcliffe?

Kevin: Yes I do.  I feel for him a little bit as he is 19 and to be given the job of Half Back, lead the team and then do the kicking job is a lot to handle.  I think he will be a brilliant kicker. Zak Hardaker is capable of kicking the ball a long way.  They just need to turn the volume down – when I say the volume I mean the impact and just don’t kick it as hard.  Rob Burrow is a great kicker but he doesn’t enjoy doing it so he doesn’t get the job.

Malcolm: Obviously in Union the kicks are worth more making it a vital part at crucial stages of the game. We have suffered with lack of kickers at Yorkshire Carnegie and we have lost games because of it.  It is a vital part!!

Kevin: One thing I would say with the change is the conditions.  I will be going from playing a summer sport to a winter sport.  That affects kickers because of the weather.  I know we don’t lways have sunshine in summer rugby and it’s windy.  But with winter rugby your plant foot is   moving because of the conditions of the pitch etc.  Some of the pitches in the Championship can be different I have been told. It is a tough job and I understand your point about the points you can get from the kicks.

Sian: It will be quite different going to a bigger squad, Carnegie are all in pre-season now.  You will be able to see them all being based down at the same site. It is great that you will be staying within the Leeds Rugby family.

Alistair: What are your thoughts on dual reg?

Kevin: If we look at the minimum wage for example.  I have recently just done a dissertation where I sent out questionnaires to a lot of Super League players asking how we could improve our wages.  Our cap has increased by £225k.  The Rugby Union cap has now increased to £5.5 million.  If you get a 15 year old kid that can play both codes and has the opportunity to join either Leicester Tigers or Wigan Warriors, I’m not saying it’s about money, but at Leicester Tigers his ceiling on his earnings could be £550k whereas at Wigan it could be £125k.  My worry is that we will lose some of our youngsters to Union and a minimum wage will stop this, but I am not completely against dual reg.

Rolling back the years to 1997 playing in an alliance system helped me.  I had never played against grown men until I was 16 years of age.  I played five or six academy games and then at 16 was thrown into the first team playing against five or six internationals.  It was a huge ask at the time but it is something that needed to be done.  We need to give our juniors the opportunity to play against men and not people their own age.

Ian: In regards to that question, Ian McGeechan talks about the satellite academies etc. he said about kids coming into rugby have the ability but cannot decide until they are 19-20 years old whether they are league or union players.

Gerry: Josh Walters was one of those players.

Kevin: I would disagree with that. Body type does depict which sport you play.  We don’t see many 6’8 lean players in rugby league likewise we see very little 135kg 5’6 blokes either.  Also, I think there is only Leeds that has the set up where they can provide both codes under one roof.  It’s up to the lads to decide.  I would have hated to be 18 and to be told where and what code I was going to be playing.   I wanted to make my own choices.  That will have its pluses and minuses being dual reg.

Rachel: When you finally hang up your boots and walk away from the game what will you miss about rugby in either code?

Kevin: A bit of everything. The banter, game day etc.  Professionally I have played around 560 games now and when you think that is 560 days of my life I have prepared for a game that is close to two years when I finish.  I will miss that competitive edge every week.  The satisfaction after playing a game and knowing you have played well and won. Replacing all that will be tough.

Simon: Are you any good at any other sports?

Kevin: Not really. I played golf this year for the Leeds Rhinos Golf Day. Did a few trick shots.  To be fair when I dislocated my thumb I stopped playing. I will probably start to play golf again when I have finished.  All my time has been focussed on rugby so that’s it really.  I am not a bad squash player.

Gerry: How often do the team practice defence? Some seasons it’s really tight and sometimes it slacks off.  What happens?

Kevin: Some of it is understanding. Within any structure you have a set of rules and things that they have to focus on and look for like moving behind the ruck, how people are running into tackles etc.  We practice everyday whether it is a team unit or good old put down technique.  We practice it all.  As you are aware a lot of things affect your defence so the amount of times we cough the ball up builds pressure and takes petrol out of tanks.  To ask people to defend under fatigue is a lot different than when they are fresh.  To answer your question we practice a lot and trying to get better.  It is very difficult to be the best offensive team and defensive team at the same time in this competition.

Sian: It will be different getting a fresh set of six in league and passing the ball back compared to gunning for the tryline in Union. How do you feel about that?

Kevin: I see it as a challenge.  I knew at some stage I would go onto something else.  There is so much to learn but actual games I am not quite sure how to judge if I will have played well yet or not.  Until I get that I won’t feel like I have fully grasped it.  I like the idea of keeping hold of the ball if I am honest. It’s different. Don’t get up and play it is something I will need to remember.  There are some rules that are different that I will learn pretty quickly.

Malcolm: You mentioned 6’8 players. Those players build the game for you in order for you to do your work.

Kevin: I have been very lucky throughout my league playing career; we have enforcers, as do every side. Whether I have done it strategically or not I have always become friends with the bigger guys like Adrian Morley, Jamie Peacock, Barrie McDermott, Kylie Leuluai etc.  The day it was announced about me joining Yorkshire Carnegie I bumped into Charlie Beech at the training ground and he is a big guy and I got the same impression we would be friends.  The bigger boys look after the smaller boys.

Sam:  Kieran Cunningham came back as a Head Coach of St Helens.  Could you see yourself coming back as a Head Coach for the Rhinos?

Kevin: Honestly, no. I will explain why. Having started in the first team when I was 16 and leaving after 19 years of playing for the club and then going to Yorkshire Carnegie for 18 months, I have loved every minute of it but the sacrifices I have had to make in order to enjoy my career have been made because I wanted to do it.  The small things people don’t see is things like not having a   Christmas Dinner as you are playing on Boxing Day, not having a family summer holiday etc.  My family have suffered.  My children don’t know any different but they are at a stage now where kids at their schools are going on summer holidays and doing things we don’t do and I want to be able to do the things they haven’t had chance to.  I want to spend time with them and enjoy my family life. It’s not because I don’t want to but it’s because I want to put my family first.

Alistair: Those sacrifices have made you the man you are today.

Kevin: The support from my family has been brilliant. I don’t think you will ever be short of a Head Coach at the Rhinos.  I think someone who is in the squad now will be Head Coach in ten years’ time.  I hope to be in some role at the club and I won’t be far away but it might be a small part that I play. Just not Head Coach. I have 2 kids of my own I don’t need another 25.

Barbara: What was the player’s reaction like when you told them about your move?

Kevin:  Surprised but genuinely pleased at the same time.  It was difficult telling them.  Some don’t know any different in the team as I have always been their Captain.  They see how excited I am and the opportunity to play two professional sports is great.  They see my sacrifices and work I have put in so they know it’s a good thing for me.  They will support me at my matches and I will support them at theirs.

Sian: How many people knew about your decision?

Kevin: About five people knew at the club. Obviously my family knew so my wife, kids and my parents.  It was quite tough telling my children.  My ten year old has been to over 300 of my matches and has travelled everywhere.  My youngest is showing some interest in it now.  Jack, my eldest   always wanted to come, whereas Sam my youngest hasn’t been bothered until the last few years. He didn’t understand playing at the same ground but in a different kit, playing a different sport etc.  My parents have been everywhere with me and I owe them a lot.  Going back to when I was younger, when I was 10 my mum always encouraged me to eat well. My dad used to bring me here to train when I was younger all the time.  It is also a big part of their life that is changing too.  There are a few places we are all looking forward to seeing with me playing for Yorkshire Carnegie.

Sian: If you didn’t play rugby, what would you have done?

Kevin: I wanted to be either a PE Teacher or a Fireman. A part of me wishes that when I started my first degree in 2003 I had trained to be a GP.

Sian: Right guys, I think you will agree Kevin has been a great guest for us tonight and we want to thank you for your time with us this evening.

*The forum are then presented with their 3rd Anniversary personalised keyrings by Kevin & have
individual & team photos. Kevin leaves the meeting.

Sian: Before we start the forum feedback just one little favour I would like to ask is about a survey that is on our website and social media. It is a survey about Sky Thursday night matches kick-off times being 7:30pm as opposed to 8pm.  I would like you all to fill it in as they have asked for
everyone’s opinions.

Gerry: The one plus side to earlier kick off is I could bring my grandson.

Sam: I finish at 6:30pm so it would make it difficult for me to get to the ground for that time.

Gary: Has there been any more progress with my idea for Yorkshire Carnegie car stickers?

Sian: We are still deciding whether we are going to do a big roll out like what South Sydney Rabbitohs do where all staff have them and hand them out when they meet people etc. or whether we are going to keep them for members only.

Alistair: Has the Tiger Bus service stopped now?

Sian: Yes it has.

Alistair: Didn’t anybody use it?

Sian: Sue and the Calverley crew used it but no one else did. We couldn’t have the services that did direct routes from one place straight to Headingley.

Sue: We did suggest a Park and Ride scheme when we went to the Q&A with Gary Hetherington, from a large off site car park (such as Elland Road) with a shuttle service to the ground, similar to the Hull FC scheme.

Sian: Yes I understand that idea but what we need to check is the ownership of that service. I am totally behind it.  The subject came up at the Q&A and he did answer the question stating the routes were the issue as there were so many ways the buses had to go to stop at the right places.

Sue: If you got on at Calverley it would take an hour to get to the ground.

Feedback via Barbara Senior (Fans Forum Member)
For the recent Gold members event we arrived at 6.30pm there was  a group of fans waiting already, who had been told by members of staff that they weren’t ready in the Premier Suite for us.

At 6.40pm along with others we made our way up to the Premier Suite, again to be told we couldn’t enter until 7pm, even though all the bar staff were in there ready and waiting. They were telling us to go back downstairs and wait in the cafe bar which no one was prepared to do. They could clearly see there were people other than Al with disabilities in the queue, how ridiculous and simply not good enough.

At 6.58pm we were allowed in by which time the fans were queuing down the staircase. Then Grace Dunlop had to check all tickets and names off a list (which took even more time!). The evening was very good, although not the best we’ve been to but that is obviously only our opinion. What we thought was very good was that players moved around the tables to talk to fans, we had a chat with Sooty, Paul Aiton, & Singo what great guys and credit to the club.

Whilst we were queuing there were a few fans who wanted to give some feedback, obviously we were recognised in the queue has been on the fans forum. They are not happy about being moved out of the Carnegie Cafe, into the Long Bar pre and post-match. One gentlemen mentioned that silver members were being allowed into the Long Bar by security pre and post-match and have been all season, he wasn’t very  happy about that and neither are we.  

Again another lady wanted to make someone aware that the meal deal offers on match days she wasn’t happy that it doesn’t include Gold Members or season ticket holders. She appreciates that the club need to get new fans, but commented this isn’t fair for existing fans that having been coming for years.

Lastly on the tables there was a feedback form with questions for fans, asking if we are enjoying the Long Bar and in particular the “member’s area”, what area is this then? As far as we’re aware it’s all the same?

Sian: The reason for the delay of people coming into the room was that there were some delays in the setup of the room whereby we couldn’t bring the supporters in until it was completed or resolved. We understand it may have helped to communicate this and we will pass this feedback on for future events should we have the same issue again.

Feedback via Gary Marks (Fans Forum Member)
The family games for Rhinos are getting plenty of advertising, it even came up on YouTube. Is there the possibility of doing similar family days with Carnegie maybe even family tickets similar to the buy four tickets eat free promotion?

Sian: We did do a ‘Buy Tickets Eat For Free’ deal for Yorkshire Carnegie last year.  It wasn’t a great return.  But equally we will promote the big four matches for Yorkshire Carnegie. There is no doubt we will try it again as we know it’s a good thing.  We might do it for Kevin’s first game or the London Scottish game.  We have noticed the added value concept entitles more people than what a discount on tickets does. The plan is being developed at the moment.

I play tag rugby at Adel sports club and they were selling off tickets for Rhinos I know they aren’t a rugby club but is there the possibility to promote Carnegie through non rugby clubs to help increase attendance?

Sian: LS16 is a supporter branch for Leeds Rhinos and they are based at Adel Sports Club.  It doesn’t mean that we can’t look at doing something like this for Yorkshire Carnegie. I like the idea because we can maybe work with the Leeds Rhinos Ambassadors to help us sell it.

Feedback via Susie Woffinden (Fans Forum Member)

  • Any news on the pre-season fixtures for this year?
  • Do you know when the league fixtures will be announced?
  • Have there been any further thoughts on bringing Richard Parks to the club to speak?
  • How can we capitalise on the Rugby World Cup to raise the profile locally- are there any plans in place?
  • On a positive note, there has been good feedback on the interviews on the website last week – particularly the Phil Nilsen ” A Rugby life”

Sian: There are plans in place for pre-season fixtures that will be announced in due course. The league fixtures have been released and you now have a copy of them. In relation to Richard Parks Phil Daly and I haven’t brought it up lately but Phil is in communications with Richard so I will definitely pick it up again.
In regards to the World Cup we have the Trophy Tour that will take place at the ground.  There will be a lot of activity at Headingley over this period.  We are making a full morning of it with Corporate Sponsors having a networking breakfast in one of the suites.  There will be activities on and off the pitch for people to take part in.  We are also going to talk with local clubs to bring some of their    junior players down to do some training with the Yorkshire Carnegie boys. We are working with the council to do a grass roots promotional DVD which will promote all the clubs in the area and how to get involved in rugby.  Equally there will be promotional stuff for Yorkshire Carnegie going on. We are also doing some kids tag rugby.  So there are plans in place to capitalise on the World Cup.

Sam: Will the shop be selling any England Merchandise?

Response from Lee Jenkinson (Head of Retail)

Lee: I like the idea and it is something we may look into.

Sian: In regards to the interview with Phil Nilsen we have been having some great stats by having things like this available on our site for fans to watch.  Just like when Kevin Sinfield had his              announcement we had over 5,000 individual hits to the website.  I think the Phil Nilsen interviews were great though Susie I agree. The plan is to keep doing things like this on the site.

Feedback via Mark Nelson (Fans Forum Member)
Please can I add following from my previous feedback, can the club make more announcements regarding positive ticket sales? The next big game coming up is the Saints game plus it’s payday soon for a lot of people, it would be good to know how far off the South Stand is from being sold out and if any other areas have limited tickets? Also by making more regular updates about positive ticket sales it creates its own buzz and more people are likely to attend.

Sian: From the last meeting we touched on this sort of thing.  We have to very careful and will        re-iterate that news of ticket sales will be interpretated how the reader deems to read it.  You have to judge everyone’s reactions to news about approaching a sell out or selling out. You can say when it is getting down to the wire but if you say a thousand tickets are left you can guarantee you will be left with 900 tickets come game day.  It is people’s mentality.

Feedback via Alistair Senior (Fans Forum Member)

To continue to invite the following members of staff to meet us all & to talk about their roles, particularly has we have new members on the forum who missed them the first time around.

  • Rob Oates, Commercial Director
  • Lisa Crooks, Head of Commercial Sales
  • Abigail Furniss, Head of Marketing
  • Lynne Martin, Stadium Facilities Manager – Rugby
  • Sue Ward, Head of Operations
  • Phil Daly, Head of Media & PR
  • Lee Jenkinson, Head of Retail
  • John Hill, Headingley Experience General Manager
  • James Haigh, Conference & Banqueting Manager
  • Bob Bowman, Director of Operations, Leeds Rugby Foundatio

Also what about inviting the following:

  • A representative from Sky Sports??
  • Blake Solly, Mark Foster again & other members of the RFL.
  • Stuart Cummins & or a Referee, to talk about the rules of the game etc.
  • Gary Hetherington & his role as CEO & a Q&A session with him.
  • Brian McDermott & his role has a Head Coach
  • Jason Davidson & his role has Head of Athletic Performance
  • Barrie McDermott, to talk about player welfare/Sky Sports.

Sian: I think for one of the forums we will get Jamie Jones-Buchannan to come and speak to you all. He is a great speaker.
Sian: Bryan Redpath and Andy Rock (Yorkshire Carnegie Academy Director) have both expressed that they want to attend a forum. Bryan is a massive advocate to the fans nights we have. He is very keen to host a pre-season event with some of the new signings and some of the current players. I will keep you informed.

  • Which member of staff is dealing with the Ambassador Scheme?
  • Sian: I lead the Ambassador scheme so anything that you would like to know about it I will be more than happy to tell you about it. I have a new person who will be coming in shortly to deal with Supporter Branches, Kate, and I will bring her and introduce her to you all. I like that I have a comprehensive list of who you would like to see at the Forum though Alistair thank you.
  • Is there any chance of being shown around The Carnegie Pavillion?

Sian: There is a chance of a tour but as Leeds Beckett own the building it becomes a little bit tricky but it is something I will look into for you.

E-Mail Feedback from Philip and Elaine Haller (Rhinos Gold Members)
Just a suggestion that you might like to take up in the future.

Before the Castleford game there was a function at the far end of the Long Bar. There were team sheets giving the match teams for the forthcoming game. Several regular fans commented that was great for the Gold
Members to be able to peruse the team before the game. Just wondered if this might be something to consider for the future.

Thanks for a nice comfortable environment and good food before the game.
Regards and best wishes
Philip & Elaine Haller

Sian: Great to have some positive feedback.  Again this is an idea that has been submitted with the team sheets.

E-Mail Feedback from Mick Best
Why when purchasing items from the club shop and a match ticket at the same time, and paying by debit card, do you have to pay a surcharge for the ticket. Pardon me for saying but this is ridiculous.

Sian: In terms of the booking fee this is something that has been in place since 2009 – we decided to do it and then researched the industry and found it wasn’t uncommon – there is a lot of administration fees associated with our ticketing operations and technically we are not a large business and do not benefit from certain economies of scale that bigger businesses would therefore there are phone costs, bank charges, postal charges, card transaction charges (debit and credit cards) that do affect us as a company. In certain ways such as card transactions we do need to charge as an extra. You can however pay cash and not have to incur the charge – this is made clear on signage within the store.

E-Mail Feedback from Mark Howe
I just wanted to mention the 15% retail discount deal at this game. 
I have heard people complain that season ticket holders don’t get the food deals for games, and I thought it was a great gesture to put something together on this – I understand we already get a good deal, but every little helps !!

However the retail deal was a little more disappointing. As a rhinos for life member I normally get 10% off in the shop, meaning that I only got 5% extra on this night. Again I appreciate a profit has to be made, but I pay for the privilege of being a rhinos for life member and while I do benefit from all year round discounts including my season ticket (and have won on the prize draw!) – This felt somewhat of a let-down and again more of a focus on the ‘casual’ rather than the committed/signed up fans.

Sian: For clarity the Thursday Night ‘Eat Free Promo’ we did this season was offered to season members if they purchased a ticket for a friend/s they both/all got to eat free. This was promoted directly to all members via email and letter plus on the website, social media and also text message. The offering for the families is an additional value added promotion as they do pay full price for their tickets and must be purchased in a breakdown of at least two adults and two children. It is a family offer only and we are encouraging new members. Therefore we have chosen to keep this to match ticket purchasers only as there are many more benefits that our members receive.

In terms of the retail discount, these are not every week and is like any normal retail store. Currently season members receive a £10 retail voucher at the start of the year as part of their benefits package which is the retail offering for members and equally they can take advantage of the discounts whenever they occur also. I think we hold our members in very high regard and they are always considered but similarly to all businesses whereby you have members and casuals, you do need to promote to obtain more members and you do need to offer certain things to casual fans to capture their interest. Not all promotions are offered as a blanket approach (i.e. phone companies, etc.)

If you would like to send me a list of suggestions as to what you think we should be offering members, although we have confirmed the 2016 plans I will certainly put them into consideration for the future seasons.

Note for all Fans – Please forward any ideas you have for membership benefits to fansforum@leedsrugby.com

E-Mail Feedback from Carl Beaumont
Can I ask why Leeds haven’t signed up to Embed The Pathway to run alongside the Foundations work?

Sian: I spoke with the Leeds Rhinos Foundation and they informed me of the following with regards to your email:-

Although we see the benefits of ETP, many of the aspects within it do not fit in Leeds, due to the amount of RL activity taking place and the amount of community clubs in the district.

We run our own player and coach development programmes which have proved successful over a number of years, and we continue to do so. There is lots of information available on all the development work they do on the Leeds Rhinos Foundation website (www.leedsrhinosfoundation.org)

E-Mail Feedback from David Wells
I think £2 for a cardboard cup of tea over the top. Also why can’t we get a pint of Blacksheep in either cafe bar or long bar. If paying high prices would at least like a good pint.

Sian: I will pass on your comments to our Catering Team however this is quite the standard for a cup of tea in a stadium or a takeaway coffee shop so I doubt this will change.
In terms of Black Sheep this is available on a match day in our Sports Bar. Due to the amount we sell we only set up a certain number of barrels – unlike a pub we are not operating every day and due to the short shelf life of it we don’t provide several barrels as we create wastage for ourselves. Occasionally if we have cricket on during the week we sell it in the Long Bar also however for reasons as stated above this is not always the case

E-Mail Feedback from Richard Stockdale
I would like to know why the fans are never kept informed of any injuries by the club or the coach anymore? We currently have Zak, Briscoe, JJB, Delaney, Achurch and Moon out injured yet all we know is Zak and Briscoe are near and Achurch is a 10 week injury. How long is are the rest out for and what exactly are the injuries? Is Moon even injured? He didn’t play against Cas however our coach hasn’t said anything to keep the fans informed. 

Communication between the coach and fans has never been so poor at Leeds and it’s very disappointing.

Response from Phil Daly – Head of PR and Media
Every week Brian conducts interviews with the press and gives a full break down of the injury situation, without fail every week this is included on BBC Radio Leeds and Radio Yorkshire and is also included on our own website.

Likewise after a game, invariably the press ask Brian at the end of the press conference if there are any injuries and he confirms anything that has come to light at that stage, again these appear on Radio Leeds and the website.

After a game, Brian, win or lose, is always available to local radio and newspapers, the trade papers, he does Sky Sports and Sky Sports News after every game also goes live on Five Live Sport when they are covering our matches, always promptly after the game.

Because of Super League regulations, we have to name a 19 man squad by 2pm 48 hours before a game. Invariably, there will be at least one more training session left before the game and at least 30 hours of treatment available to the players to try and get them fit. In the vast majority of cases, if a player is in a doubt, we will confirm that however, as I am sure you can appreciate, especially when it is a key player to how we play, we would not want to disclose that to our opponent. Likewise, prior to announcing the 19 man squad, we would not always rule out a player too early in the week as clearly that would give an advantage to our opponent.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is a lot of grey areas when it comes to injuries. There are times when we cannot report an injury, we have a duty of care between the patient and the health practitioner that we cannot break if the player requests not to, also there are countless incidents of a player being severely injured at the start of the week and our expert treatment and time allowing that injury to settle down during the week, often the outcome of this will depend on the turnaround between games, if it is 4 or 5 days, as we have had recently, the outcome is less likely to be positive than if it was 9 days.

Just looking back over the last month on the website, I have been able to find the following examples:
Injury news ahead of Hull FC Cup game – http://www.therhinos.co.uk/matchdaytv/?play=media&id=21240 – Brian talks about the injuries to Brett Delaney, Liam Sutcliffe, who he confirms has not trained this week, that Danny McGuire is doubtful, that Tom Briscoe is 3-4 weeks away and Mitch Achurch on course to be back in 8-9 weeks

Post-match injury update after Hull FC game – http://www.therhinos.co.uk/matchdaytv/?play=media&id=21221 – Brian talks about Danny’s ankle injury, that Liam Sutcliffe will be very doubtful for Friday’s game and that Adam Cuthbertson may have torn his calf

Build up to Wakefield game – http://www.therhinos.co.uk/matchdaytv/?play=media&id=21112 – Brian speaks about the frustrations with Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Brett Delaney’s injury and why it is taking so long to get them fully fit. Also gives an update on Tom Briscoe and confirms that Mitch Achurch will have a wrist operation on Friday that will keep him out for 10 weeks.

Magic Weekend presser – http://www.therhinos.co.uk/matchdaytv/?play=media&id=21088 – Brian speaks about Zak Hardaker and ankle mentions he suffered an ankle injury in the game.

In addition to the weekly comments from Brian, we usually give an update in the squad list where applicable if there is an update from previous weeks. Plus in the Hull FC programme last week, Brian gave an injury update in his programme notes.

Magic Weekend team news – http://www.therhinos.co.uk/news/26554.php – confirmation of Brett Delaney and Jamie Jones-Buchanan’s hamstring injuries

Wakefield team news – http://www.therhinos.co.uk/rugby/26623.php – full list of injuries for six players plus stating that Jamie Jones-Buchanan will have a fitness test

Hull FC team news – http://www.therhinos.co.uk/rugby/26723.php – confirmation that Zak Hardaker, Joel Moon and Brett Delaney are in contention after suffering injuries in the Magic Weekend loss.

Any other business:

Sian: A point I would like to raise is the profile of the forum itself.  I would like you to go away this evening and think about how we can raise the profile of the forum itself.  I love the group but I feel it needs to get out to the fans more.

Rachel: I like the boards that are around the ground I feel they have really worked. They have seen my face on them and have come and spoken to me about things within the stadium.

Susie: Can we get the minutes from the meeting out quicker? By the time they come out we have lost momentum and I never know what I can and cannot talk about.

Sue: When this group was new I would ask our supporter group for feedback, but the perception is that it is just a place to complain.  We need to make it clear that positive feedback and suggestions for improvement are equally welcome.

Sam: When I say I am going to Fans Forum they automatically just think it is about players and coaches.  People don’t think it is to do with the wider picture.

Sian: Thank you everyone for coming this evening and I hope you have enjoyed it.