Newcastle Thunder turn attention to ‘hard work’ building squad after League One rescue

NEWCASTLE THUNDER are back in business – three months after fears they could fold.

The RFL has given the green light to a change of ownership from Semore Kurdi and Newcastle Rugby to Thunder chairman Keith Christie.

Now the North East club, who will continue to play at Kingston Park with Chris Thorman as coach, will line up in the 1895 Cup – they host York on Sunday, January 28 – the Challenge Cup and League One, with their opening league fixture at home to Hunslet on Sunday, March 17.

And work is continuing to assemble a competitive squad after a string of player departures in the wake of last season’s relegation from the Championship.

Thunder were founded in Gateshead in 1999 and relocated across the River Tyne in 2015 under the ownership of rugby union club Newcastle Falcons.

Jordan-born businessman Kurdi became involved in the Falcons in 2010.

He has invested heavily in both the Falcons and Thunder, who were elevated from League One to the Championship through a bidding process in December 2020 with lofty ambitions of pushing for Super League, with a spell as a full-time operation.

But with Kurdi’s businesses mainly based in the property and hospitality sectors, the pandemic has had a significant effect on both.

Sales and marketing specialist Christie, who became Thunder chairman in March 2022 after a previous spell as managing director, has worked alongside general manager Jordan Robinson and a group of volunteers to produce a rescue plan.

And the governing body has confirmed that they are happy with the key budget, playing and operational details.

“This is fantastic news for the club and I’d like to thank everyone who has enabled Newcastle Thunder to get to the start line in 2024,” said Christie.

“Things looked pretty bleak just three months ago but the groundswell of support and the outstanding work of a number of volunteers has resulted in this announcement.

“We would like to thank the Rugby Football League, who have been very clear in the conditions that would need to be met for our re-admittance to the professional ranks.

“They have assisted us as much as they could and that support, along with the considerable efforts of our volunteers, fans and sponsors, has resulted in us having a season to look forward to.

“There’s plenty more hard work to come now to ensure we are competitive next season.

“We now need all the fans who signed up to be members to confirm their commitment to the club and we will be in touch.

“I’m sure they will be as excited as we all are to see Thunder once again competing in 2024.”