Challenge Cup behind closed doors 'a chance to showcase our game'

Playing Challenge Cup matches behind closed doors could get rugby league back sooner and attract new fans.
Could Wigan's next game be without fans?Could Wigan's next game be without fans?
Could Wigan's next game be without fans?

Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington raised the prospect of all eight sixth-round ties - including Wigan's game with Warrington - being staged for TV.

"It doesn't affect season ticket holders or corporate membership typically and it's less problematic," said Hetherington.

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"We are talking hypothetically, because there is so much uncertainty out there. But we've got eight sixth-round ties to be played and those all could be played behind closed doors and, if needs be, at one venue.

"It could deliver a match on a Thursday night, a match on a Friday, three matches on a Saturday and three matches on a Sunday. They could all be made available for television.

"It could provide an opportunity for the game. We need to be mindful to search for opportunities. If we were to be a sport that provided live sport when no-one else is, well that's an opportunity to showcase our game at its best."

Hetherington hopes rugby league can enjoy a post-coronavirus boom, just as the sport did at the end of the Second World War.

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The Rhinos, one of the most successful clubs since rugby league switched to being a summer sport in 1996, have furloughed nearly all their playing and office staff as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

But Hetherington hopes the community spirit within the sport will help it come back stronger.

"We are coping as best we can, all our players and the vast majority of our staff are cocooned at home," he told his club's website.

"As a business, this is our major challenge, the next three months. We have significant liabilities. We have made a pledge to keep all our players and staff in employment, but our income streams have already started to dry up and we are living off the income we have already received."

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Accepting that the current season will have to run longer than planned, possibly even into 2021, Hetherington was bullish about the sport's prospects, adding: "We can come out of this a stronger game.

"A lot can be learned from history and as we look back to the war years in the late 1940s when society was completely disrupted, rugby league survived the war years and post-war the game enjoyed its boom period.

"We have to display those war-like characteristics and hopefully come out of this intact and look forward to boom time."

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