Newcastle Thunder issue statement on the back of promising IMG grading with next steps detailed

Ben Olawumi
Newcastle Thunder, Kingston Park

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

Having received a promising grading from IMG yesterday, Newcastle Thunder have now done a u-turn on their decision to withdraw from League 1 in 2024, and want to compete in the third tier, though need to generate a six-figure sum to do so.

Back on October 13, Thunder announced that it wasn’t ‘feasible to continue’ following their relegation from the Championship, becoming the second club to withdraw from League 1 ahead of 2024 after London Skolars.

The North East outfit last week however announced that their intentions were to keep the club alive, saying that options were being explored to do just that.

And yesterday morning, the Kingston Park natives received a shot in the arm with the release of the first IMG gradings, which saw them sit 18th out of 35 clubs. In the eyes of rugby league’s strategic partners, Thunder are a more than valuable proposition, and as things stand a top-end Championship outfit.

Though those gradings don’t change anything for 2024, they very well could do come 2025, because if things stay as they are then Newcastle would find themselves promoted back up to the second tier with the opportunity then to push on into Super League territory.

There’s plenty of ifs, buts and maybes to dig through, but it would appear that IMG’s interest in Thunder may well have prompted a u-turn.

Newcastle Thunder make u-turn on back of promising IMG grading with next steps confirmed

In a statement published on their website this afternoon, which follows a meeting with supporters earlier this week, the club set out their intention to compete in League 1 for 2024, listing exactly what is needed for them to be able to do so.

It reads: “Newcastle Thunder would today like to update its fans and the wider rugby league family on it’s plans to compete in the BetFred League One competition in 2024.

“- The club need to raise a six figure sum to be able to compete in 2024. Around half of that amount has been secured via sponsorship, Value in Kind support and the RFL central funding

“- The other half of the fundraising needs to come from additional sponsorship, match-days, events and a supporters membership scheme that will be unveiled in early November

“- The volunteer group are in discussion with current owner Semore Kurdi on how they can take on the ownership of the club

“- Several ownership models are being looked into with supporters set for an increased involvement in the club moving forward

“- Discussions are ongoing with the RFL over what guarantees will be needed for the club to compete in League One for 2024

“- Whilst Kingston Park can’t be ruled out for larger games in the future the club will likely have a new home for 2024 with several options under consideration

“- The club are actively seeking volunteers with experience in areas such as legal, finance, PR & Comms, digital media and match-day roles including medical and operational management.”

“We have a clear plan and together we can achieve our aim – Newcastle Thunder competing in 2024.”

Thunder’s chairman Keith Christie also provided comment in the same statement, re-iterating their desire to get a team together in League 1 come 2024, though admitted this is only the beginning of what will be a testing journey.

He added: “We have an incredible amount of work to do before early December before we can definitively say Thunder will be around in 2024. We remain confident that this can be achieved, but need to be sure that the correct governance checks are approved by the RFL, that the finances are in place and that we can recruit a competitive team.

“There are several other additional factors that need agreeing and approving and we are also very mindful that whether we compete or not in 2024 has a huge impact on the other clubs in League One.

“That said, we have been reassured by the support of our fans, sponsors and offers of help for the year ahead. We still need further commitment of existing and potential new supporters if we are to make it to the start line in 2024.

We also view the publishing of the IMG grading scores yesterday as a real positive. It shows that we have some solid foundations for the sport in our region, although granted there is still lots more to do.

“We plan to have another fans meeting in late November and will soon be announcing a range of membership, sponsorship and fundraising options for our fans and the wider rugby league and north east sporting community.

“Once again can I thank everyone for the messages of support. The hard work is underway, we have a clear plan and together we can achieve our aim – Newcastle Thunder competing in 2024.”

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