The RFL Board have accepted a recommendation to promote Newcastle Thunder to play in the Betfred Championship in 2021.

The North-East club will fill the vacancy that will be left in the Championship when one club is promoted to the Betfred Super League to replace Toronto Wolfpack.

Newcastle came within 80 minutes of earning promotion to the Championship in 2019, when they were beaten at Oldham in the promotion-deciding Play-Off Final.

The RFL appointed a five-strong panel to consider applicants from the five Betfred League 1 clubs who met a number of necessary qualifying criteria – against five further criteria listed below.

Air Commodore Dean Andrew OBE, the former RFL President who chaired the panel, explained:

“Newcastle Thunder was the unanimous choice of the panel, for an outstanding application. The club’s coaching set-up and facilities are superb; its community outreach is well-established and growing.

“Newcastle and the North-East has considerable future growth potential, backed by its owner – as has already been recognised by the decision to play the Super League Magic Weekend at St James’ Park for a fifth time in 2021, and also by Rugby League World Cup 2021 with five fixtures to be played in the region including the tournament opener in Newcastle.

“The club has a clearly-stated aspiration of Super League success this decade. Overall the panel thought its application most closely matched the vision of the RFL’s Strategy Reset.

“On behalf of the panel, I thank and congratulate all five clubs who submitted applications. The applications were comprehensive, thorough, they showed aspiration and ambition, and they were very honest.

“I hope the four clubs who have missed out will see this as an opportunity to press for promotion in 2021.

“Good luck to them, and also to Newcastle Thunder in their preparations to play in what promises to be a vibrant and high-quality Betfred Championship competition.”

The five criteria against which applications were judged:

1.         Enhancing the commercial value of the Championship to broadcast and sponsorship partners;

2.         Delivering value to other members of the Championship;

3.         Being competitive on the field of play;

4.         Being sustainable for the 2021 season and beyond;

5.         Delivering the broader goals of the sport as set out in the RFL’s Strategy Reset document.

By Joshua Chapman