Newcastle Thunder chief calls upon ‘all rugby league fans’ to aid survival bid as club details three-stage plan

Ben Olawumi
Newcastle Thunder, Kingston Park

Newcastle Thunder in action at Kingston Park against York. Photo: Chris Lishman | MI News.

Newcastle Thunder chairman Keith Christie has called upon ‘all rugby league fans’ to help them raise the funds needed to compete in League 1 next year, with the club laying out a three-stage plan to be able to do just that.

Relegated from the Championship in the season just gone having returned to a part-time model, Thunder first said they were withdrawing from League 1 back in mid-October, citing huge financial woes.

Since then though, they’ve received a positive grading from IMG, and done a u-turn in wanting to generate enough funding to secure their future, at least for the here and now.

The Rugby Football League have announced plans for the North East outfit to compete in a nine-club third tier next term, with contingency plans if that isn’t a possibility.

It’s looking more and more likely that it will be though, with a statement released last week by the club announcing they were more than halfway to reaching their funding target.

Newcastle Thunder detail three-stage plan for survival

In the latest update, released earlier this week, Thunder continued the same message of being on the right track, but needing a bit of a push from the wider rugby league family.

Addressing what their next steps are, the statement on the club website laid out three ‘phases’ as follows:

Phase One – Gaining acceptance into League 1. New company formed, ownership transferred from Thunder Rugby Ltd (current owners), financial plan confirmed, RFL compliance satisfied.

Phase Two – Pre-season and building the squad. Coach and support staff appointed, players signed, pre-season training commenced, home venue confirmed, volunteer roles identified and fixtures announced.

Phase Three – The League 1 season. All matches completed in League 1, Challenge Cup and 1895 Cup. Partnerships with Super League and Championship clubs developed, commercial programme implemented, 2025 planning commences.”

Thunder chief calls upon ‘all rugby league fans’ to aid survival bid

Chairman Christie reinforced the same, continuing: “An incredible amount of work has been undertaken so far in realising our goal to get a competitive Thunder team back on the field in League 1 for 2024.

“We’ve identified three clear phases to the next season. We are very much focussed on Phase One and gaining acceptance to the RFL League 1 competition. Without this, the next two parts of the jigsaw don’t happen.

“The most important part of this initial stage is ensuring the finances are in place and that’s why our membership programme is so important.

“We have hit 40% of our membership target in the first 5 days of launching, which is a brilliant start, but there’s still more members that we need to attract.

“We would urge all rugby league fans in the region and beyond to step up now and commit for 2024.

“We also have to start looking at Phases Two and Three of our planning as time isn’t a luxury we have ahead of the season start in 2024.

“Thoughts around coaching staff, players, venue, support staff and what match-days will look like are all advancing, but our focus first and foremost is getting the green light to compete.

“Without the finances confirmed, we can’t and won’t start the 2024 season, so Phase One is absolutely critical.”

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