All views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the site.
Closing down the club shop earlier this year left Leeds Rhinos without much of a presence in the city centre. It probably just isnít financially viable to have a club-owned shop away from the ground in this current economic climate; especially when fans can now order things online, go to a sportswear shop to buy shirts and pop into Waterstone's to buy any Leeds Rhinos related book they want. But just because having a physical space to sell your retail product independently isnít realistic, at the moment it shouldnít mean something else canít be put in place.
The best idea I have in mind for a replacement is a cafť combined with something that would make it unique. Now my favourite 'cafť and something else' combination in the city centre at the moment has to be Cafť 164 with its art gallery attached. Itís tucked away in Munro House which is situated over the road from the bus station, and I highly recommend that my readers take a visit sometime to realise the delights for themselves. We have a thriving independent cafť scene in Leeds that Iíve yet to even discover for myself. But thanks to the tweeting by Cafť 164 I have many to visit!
Now I donít think a Leeds Rhinos art gallery would cut it for me personally. Maybe a part of the cafť could have some Leeds Rhinos paintings on the wall for people to buy. If these paintings sell then that should cover some of the cost of running a cafť. Realistically I could never really see a Leeds Rhinos museum in the city centre being financially viable. However I would like to see something that complements the club's recent success during the Hetherington and Caddick era. The big thing at the moment is alternative social events and itís about time sports tapped into that.
For me those £50 a head sports dinners are too expensive and too exclusive to be a part of. Iím working class (unemployed but from a working class background) and the only time I should be seen wearing a suit is for weddings and funerals. Iím assuming that a lot of other Leeds Rhinos fans are like me in not wishing to attend these dinners too. Now wouldnít it be great if we had regular free/reasonably charged events in the city centre which feature speakers and cake? Iíve been a speaker at an event similar to the one Iím hinting at, and I think a Leeds Rhinos one would be great.
Iím a bit gutted that I never got to attend the first Quarry Hill social. Iíve had a fascination with that area since I discovered the old ITV programme Queenie's Castle. Whilst the Quarry Hill Flats were demolished years ago, the spirit and creativity of the place where it once stood is thriving. Hopefully Iíll get to attend the next one, and some others reading this weekís column will come along too: but more importantly itíd be great if someone from the club could come along and see if the concept could work for them.
The worse idea I have to re-establish presence in the city centre for the club is to rip up everything in Leeds Square and pave it with a gigantic mosaic of the club's logo. Itíd be more hated than the crossed gates sculpture in Crossgates area of Leeds. Not everyone in this city is into rugby league and the last thing we want to be doing is alienating potential new fans of the club. Besides this, the fountains, uncomfortable benches, statues and bland floor design of Leeds Square are fine as they are.
What Iíd love to see is Leeds Rhinos partnering up with the independent cafťs of Leeds for mutually beneficial reasons. Collectively they could chase chain coffee shops out of Leeds with pitchforks and torches: or more relevantly with locally made product.
Thanks for reading and Iím glad to be back!
P.S. - The Damo Bit is now on twitter