Thunder look to 2021

Newcastle Thunder today confirmed that they will not be participating in the proposed RFL 125th Year Celebration Tournament in October and November this year.

The competition was organised after the 2020 BetFred Championship and League One seasons were cancelled last Monday, by the RFL Board, in response to a clubs’ survey on continuing playing.

The Autumn competition in October and November coincided with the Government’s stated aim to re-introduce crowds on a staged basis to sporting events from 1st October.

Whilst the competition will not offer any promotion and relegation between divisions there is a £250,000 prize fund at stake and the opportunity for clubs to generate some commercial income via home games with spectators present.

The club have also confirmed that it will be withdrawing from the Coral Challenge Cup. Thunder’s sixth round opponents, Toronto Wolfpack, had already withdrawn from the tournament.

This meant a likely bye through to the quarter finals for Thunder however this was to still to be confirmed by the Rugby Football League.

Speaking about the decision to not enter the Autumn competition and the withdrawal from the Coral Challenge Cup Thunder Chairman Mick Hogan said “Following a virtual meeting with the RFL and our fellow Championship & League 1 clubs we have considered the many challenges and opportunities around playing again in 2020. 

“We understand why the RFL Board chose to cancel the BetFred League 1 season in 2020. The costs of returning to play with increased expenditure on player testing, stadium readiness and initially playing behind closed doors made staging games very difficult.

“Even with limited crowds returning in October and potential prize money for the Autumn competition the logistical, operational and financial challenges are too great.

“We did consider as a club should we just play in the Challenge Cup? A likely quarter-final place was a superb achievement for a non-Super League team. With the game being scheduled to be played behind closed doors in September we would not have been able to generate any income.

“More importantly there are player welfare issues to consider.  To bring back part-time players after 6 months away from the sport to play probable Super League opposition who would have been back playing for over a month is a huge challenge.

“The fact we wouldn’t be able to share such a great occasion with our wonderful supporters was also a major factor.

“The ambition of Newcastle Thunder has always been to make it to Super League and win the competition. Our immediate focus now is to prepare for the 2021 season and to gain promotion from League 1.”

2020 Season ticket members and those who had purchased Dacia Magic Weekend ticket will be contacted in the coming weeks over their options. The club will await full details of the 2021 season from the RFL before contacting supporters.