The RFL’s independent Board have approved a change of ownership at Newcastle Thunder – confirming the club’s participation in Betfred League One, the Betfred Challenge Cup and the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup in the 2024 season.

The club’s previous owners advised that they would not be competing in 2024 following their relegation from the Betfred Championship in September.

Following the submission of necessary details and documentation by the new ownership group – a budget, playing and operational details, and confirmation that Thunder will continue to use Kingston Park for their home fixtures – the RFL’s independent Board were pleased to approve the change of ownership this week.

Thunder have been drawn in Group 3 of the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup, with home fixtures against York Knights on the weekend of January 27-28, and Wakefield Trinity on the weekend of February 10-11.

They will kick off the Betfred League One campaign at home to Hunslet on the weekend of March 16-17, and will enter the Betfred Challenge Cup at the Third Round stage – with the draw to be held after the Second Round in late January.

Newcastle Thunder have issued the following statement in response:

Newcastle Thunder can today confirm that their application to re-join the Betfred League One competition has been accepted by the Rugby Football League. The club’s previous owners, Newcastle Rugby Ltd, had indicated that they would not enter a team for 2024 in a statement made back in September. Since then a group of volunteers, led by Chairman Keith Christie, has worked tirelessly to form a new company and satisfy all the conditions required for re-admittance to the RFL’s third tier.

Thunder had provisionally confirmed that their coach from last season, Chris Thorman, will lead the team again in 2024. The club have also agreed terms to use Kingston Park Stadium as their home venue for the forthcoming campaign. Work has now already commenced on player and backroom staff signings, matchday operational requirements, commercial agreements, recruiting volunteers and a further push on memberships.

Speaking about the club receiving the greenlight to compete in 2024 Thunder Chairman Keith Christie said: “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. Things looked pretty bleak just three months ago but the groundswell of support for the club and the outstanding work of a number of volunteers has resulted in today’s 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 in 2024.

“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 early in 2024 to process the first instalment of their memberships. I’m sure they will be as excited as we all are to see Thunder once again competing in 2024.”

Tony Sutton, the Chief Executive of the Rugby Football League, said:

“In confirming the RFL’s approval of the change of control of Newcastle Thunder RLFC, and therefore welcoming them to Betfred League One for the 2024 season and also the Betfred Challenge Cup and the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup, we also congratulate Keith Christie, Jordan Robinson and the many other passionate Rugby League supporters in the North East who have made this possible.

“I know this view will be shared by other clubs and supporters across the sport who have enjoyed travelling to Newcastle to watch Rugby League over the last three decades, and will look forward to the prospect of returning to Kingston Park in 2024.”