NEWCASTLE FALCONS are awaiting news of whether they are now a top-flight club after the Rugby Football Union brought the 2019-20 season for all leagues beneath the Gallagher Premiership to a premature end.

The decision, which reflects the RFU’s desire to “assist with long-term planning and provide clarity to the game at a time of continuous change” amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, means Falcons will not play another Greene King Championship game this season.

It also means Darlington Mowden Park have completed their campaign in National One and ends competitive matches in all regional leagues in the North-East and North Yorkshire.

The RFU’s decision is of special significance to Falcons, who have won all 15 of their league matches this season and boast an 18-point lead at the top of the Championship table.

There is already guaranteed to be one club relegated from the Premiership this season as reigning champions Saracens have been demoted as part of their punishment for breaching salary-cap regulations, so while Falcons were not mathematically guaranteed to be crowned champions before the season was brought to a halt, it is widely assumed they will be promoted to the top-flight.

However, Newcastle officials are still awaiting confirmation of the RFU’s plans, with the governing body expected to make another statement next month.

A statement issued by Falcons officials said: “Newcastle Falcons have taken note of today’s announcement from the RFU regarding the 2019-20 season coming to a premature close.

“Once we have clarity on the situation, we will communicate further with supporters and stakeholders, with the RFU stating they hope to have an announcement by the middle of April with regards to ‘fair and balanced outcomes for the game’.”

Falcons’ season has ended seven games early, while Darlington Mowden Park’s National One campaign is over with five games still to play.

Mowden have won 13 of their 25 matches, picking up 75 points, and finish 22 points adrift of Richmond, who topped the rankings. Like Falcons, though, Richmond’s promotion to the Championship is still to be confirmed.

“It’s obviously frustrating for our players and supporters to miss out on the remaining games this season, particularly with two home games still to look forward to,” said Mowden director of rugby Danny Brown. “Nonetheless, there are more important things to consider at the moment and we send our best wishes to all of our members and their families at such a difficult time.

“I’d like to thank our supporters for their phenomenal support, both home and away this season, and we look forward to welcoming them back to the Arena next season.”

Mowden’s 27 sides will not be playing any more matches this season, from the first team right through to the minis and juniors, and the premature shutdown also affects the club’s women’s team, Darlington Mowden Park Sharks.

The Premier 15s season has been cut short by six matches, with DMP Sharks sitting in sixth position, their highest placing since the league was formed in 2017.

“It’s hugely disappointing for the Sharks players who have worked so hard this season, but the health and safety of our players and supporters has to come first at such a difficult time,” said Sharks head of programmes Justin Loveridge. “The Sharks squad have made a lot of progress this season, and we’re all looking forward to continuing that progress into the 2020-21 season.”

The RFU had previously suspended all rugby activity until at least April 14, while the Premiership is due to resume on the weekend of April 24-25-26. The Champions Cup quarter-finals next month have been called off.

RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney admits his organisation are still working through the technicalities of what happens next, and has warned that Twickenham is facing an uncertain outlook because of the disruption caused by coronavirus.

“We are working through the implications of ending the season early and have instigated a thorough process to ensure fair and balanced outcomes for the game,” said Sweeney. “We will communicate these outcomes by the middle of April. While we would like to provide all the answers now, we need some time to get it right for the best interests of the game.

“We benefit from strong Twickenham stadium revenues but we are also exposed if there is widespread cancellation of games and events. This was already budgeted to be a loss-making year within a four-year cycle due to the costs of the 2019 RWC (Rugby World Cup) campaign and only hosting two home Six Nations games.

“The loss will now be considerably more as we face challenges similar to businesses across the country.”