Newcastle Falcons have denied suggestions that the club’s recent cost-cutting is paving the way to voluntarily drop out of the Premiership next year.
City A.M. has learned of a growing belief in English rugby that the Tyneside team could be looking to ease their financial situation by joining the Championship as part of a wider shake-up of the domestic game.
Newcastle have initiated a major offloading of talent during the current season, with England international duo George McGuigan and Trevor Davison shipped out, to Gloucester and Northampton Saints respectively, as well as a number of talented youngsters.
Newcastle player in and outs
The club will also lose Scotland international and club stalwart Gary Graham at the end of the season to French second division side Carcassonne.
To replace them the Falcons have agreed to sign less established players, including some freed up by the administration of former Premiership sides Worcester Warriors and Wasps, as well as others who are lesser known.
Furthermore, it is understood that a number of Newcastle players are out of contract at the end of the season with the club grappling, as many others are, with the need to cut costs and remain within Premiership Rugby’s current £5m salary cap.
The club has made a dramatic cut in season ticket prices for the 2023-24 season from £294 to £180, which puts them in line with many Championship clubs and cheaper than some second-tier sides, such as Ealing Trailfinders and Doncaster Knights, this season.
Newcastle chiefs told City A.M. that they had not had any discussions with Premiership Rugby about voluntarily dropping into the Championship in 2024 or otherwise. Premiership Rugby declined to comment.
The Kingston Park outfit are bottom of the table with three games remaining but can not go down this year as the Premiership has frozen relegation until 2024.
The English game is set to be reshuffled at the end of next season, however, when it has been mooted that the current 11-team top flight and 12-team second tier could be streamlined to two leagues of 10.
Newcastle, as former English champions and one of the sport’s most celebrated breeding grounds for young players, would have stronger claims than some current Championship sides to being retained in the professional structure.
Newcastle, like many clubs, were heavily reliant on government Covid-19 loans during the pandemic and life in the second tier could be seen as a more affordable future for a club that has nurtured talent including Jonny Wilkinson, Toby Flood and Doddie Weir.
The financial security of the Premiership was thrown into doubt earlier this year when both Worcester Warriors and Wasps entered administration and subsequently were kicked out of the Premiership.