NEWCASTLE FALCONS yesterday confirmed their takeover of rugby league club Gateshead Thunder, with the two clubs now sitting alongside each other as part of Newcastle Rugby Limited.
Gateshead Thunder, who are members of Championship One, will play the remainder of this season’s games at Gateshead International Stadium, although it is expected they will move bases to Falcons’ Kingston Park ahead of next season.
There are no plans to change the Gateshead Thunder name, or to alter the club’s current logo or team colours.
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The club’s coaching set up under former Papua New Guinea star, Stanley Gene, will also remain unchanged, although funds are now available to strengthen the current squad, and it is anticipated that four or five new players could arrive shortly.
Gateshead Thunder are currently seventh in Championship One, with the short-term aim being to rise into a top-five position in order to secure a place in the end-of-season play-offs, which will determine promotion to the Championship.
The longer-term ambition is to return Gateshead to the Super League for the first time since a previous form of the club controversially merged with Hull Sharks in 1999.
Semore Kurdi, who was formerly Newcastle Falcons chairman and who is now the chairman of Newcastle Rugby Ltd, said: “I’m delighted that Gateshead Thunder has become part of Newcastle Rugby Ltd.
“There are a number of benefits to having both league and union clubs within the same organisation. Resources can be shared off the field in terms of administration, marketing, medical, sports science and facilities that will be to the advantage of both clubs.
“We look forward to the second half of the season now with Thunder, with our aim being promotion to the next tier. With rugby league now reintroducing promotion and relegation between the various levels, there is a clear path through to Super League.
“To reach Super League will be our long-term goal. There is now a target date for this goal and, if we do achieve it, we will have earned our place by growth on and off the field and by becoming a sustainable club.
“We look forward to our community foundation working with the Thunder community programme to benefit both codes in the future.”
Bill Midgeley, chairman of Gateshead Thunder, added: “This is undoubtedly the most significant date in Gateshead Thunder’s history since the formation of the original club back in 1998 and its first season in Super League back in 1999.
“The offer from Newcastle Rugby Ltd was unanimously accepted by the shareholders of Thunder Rugby Ltd and I’m both delighted and excited at the short and long-term future for the club.
“There’s a lot of hard work ahead for everyone involved, but today’s news gives us a real opportunity to grow not just Thunder, but the sport of rugby league in the North-East.”
COMMONWEALTH GAMES organisers have announced details of the Queen’s Baton Relay’s visit to Gateshead and Newcastle on Friday, June 13.
The Queen’s Baton, which is the Commonwealth Games’ equivalent of the Olympic flame, will start the day at the Angel of the North, where it will be welcomed by a group of dignitaries including former Commonwealth gold medallist Brendan Forster.
It will travel to Gateshead International Stadium, where it will be the focal point of an event for local businesses. Following speeches, it will make its way to Gateshead’s Millennium Bridge, where Forster will pass baton-bearer duties to another former Commonwealth gold medallist, Jonathan Edwards.
Edwards will help transfer the baton to Newcastle’s Walker Activity Dome, where a range of junior sports events will take place. The baton will then head to Alnwick before crossing the border into Scotland ahead of the start of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on July 23.
STUART HALL and Paul Butler will stage a public workout in the Metro Centre ahead of their IBF World Bantamweight title showdown in Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena.
The pair will train in the Metro Centre Qube on Saturday, May 31 at 11am, with the public invited to attend.
Hall, who is from Darlington, defends his title against Butler on Saturday, June 7, with the undercard featuring a number of North-East fighters including Jon-Lewis Dickinson, Bradley Saunders, Josh Leather and Jordan King.
BLYTH’S Lindsey Robinson has been selected as an assistant referee for the FA Women’s Cup final between Arsenal and Everton.
The final, which will be shown live on BBC Two, takes place at Stadium:MK on Sunday, June 1 (4.30pm).