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Falcons announce Thunder link-up

Aviva Premiership outfit Newcastle Falcons have announced a deal to take over Championship One rugby league club Gateshead Thunder.

The arrangement will see Thunder become part of Newcastle Rugby Limited, although the club will retain their Gateshead indentity, colours and logo.

Thunder will also continue to play at the Gateshead International Stadium for the remainder of the 2014 season, but then alternatives will be considered.

That could mean a relocation to the Falcons' Kingston Park stadium.

Newcastle Rugby chairman Semore Kurdi said: "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 re-introducing 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."

The Falcons have pledged to make resources available immediately for Thunder head coach Stanley Gene to strengthen his squad. Thunder are currently seventh in Championship One.

The Gateshead club was formed as a Super League franchise for the 1999 season but survived just one year in the elite division before merging with Hull. Thunder were reformed the following year at a lower level.

Thunder chairman Bill Midgeley said: "This is undoubtedly the most significant date in Gateshead Thunder's history since the formation of the original club back in 1998.

"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."

Partnerships between rugby union and rugby league clubs have had mixed success in the past.

Leeds Carnegie have risen to prominence since amalgamating with Super League giants Leeds Rhinos, although they are currently outside the Premiership.

London Broncos' rebranding as Harlequins, after entering into a partnership with the illustrious rugby union club of the same name, proved less successful and lasted just five years.


From Belfast Telegraph