First things first, why are the RFL moving at all?
Ralph Rimmer: Red Hall has served the Rugby Football League well but it has been clear to me for a while that to move this sport forward, we need to move to a modern facility that is able to service the whole of the game both on and off the field. The facilities and opportunities that the Etihad campus offer the entire sport are unparalleled and, following an extensive process, the Board unanimously decided that it was in the best interests of the game to move to Manchester. This announcement is incredibly exciting for the game and I hope it will be a catalyst for great things in the future.
Why are they moving to Manchester?
Ralph Rimmer: When we decided to make the move we wrote to most councils in the North of England to inform them and asked each if they would like to be considered as the new home for the Rugby Football League. We had a fantastic response and the process to get to this decision started more than 18 months ago, until we were down to the final three proposals earlier this year. What was evident was that the proposal put forward by Manchester City Council and the City Football Group was by far and away the most exciting and provided the best opportunity for the sport going forward. It was clear that we were to become a key partner in their vision of a world class sporting facility and that following the move, we will be one of the best serviced national governing bodies both on and off the field.
What is the Etihad Campus, and what are the benefits of being located there?
Ralph Rimmer: The Etihad Campus is a world class site based in East Manchester. The Rugby Football League will become key partners at the Campus and, while final plans are still being developed, we will become major tenants of the regional arena which will be rebranded as the National Rugby League Centre. On the field, the offer to the England Performance Unit being led by Kevin Sinfield, will be incredible. The access to state of the art world class facilities for every level of our England system, from youth right through to the men’s senior team was not available at any other site we considered. We will also be situated on campus with Manchester City and Manchester Metropolitan University and there will clearly be benefits to working closely with both of those organisations.
How will this affect the running of the RFL?
Ralph Rimmer: The entire move will not be completed until before the start of the 2021 World Cup, but moving to the Etihad Campus will give us an opportunity to house the entire organisation, on-field and off-field on just one site, which will provide clear benefits to the running of the business. The opportunities for the sport are endless and we will work closely with the council and the City Football Group to ensure we take full advantage of these and provide benefits to every level of the sport.
When will the RFL move there?
Ralph Rimmer: The England Performance Unit will work from the Campus from later this year but the headquarters will not be fully open until the autumn before the World Cup in 2021.
What does this mean for Red Hall?
Ralph Rimmer: The Executive are working through options for Red Hall and the Board will make a decision on the future plans for it at a later date.
Does this mean Magic Weekend and the Grand Final will be moving to the stadium?
Ralph Rimmer: Not at all. We decide on the venue for the Dacia Magic Weekend each year and we always have a lot of interest in hosting the event, I am sure that will continue. Old Trafford has been the home of the Grand Final since the beginning of the concept in the mid-nineties and we have a long-term deal with them for it to continue at the ground.