NEWCASTLE Falcons hope to keep Kingston Park as their home stadium, but insist they will not be held to ransom when the lease expires in four years’ time.
The Falcons, in their amateur guise as Newcastle Gosforth, first moved into Kingston Park back in 1991 after purchasing the site for just £60,000, selling their North Road ground for £1.76m to house-builders Cussins.
Under Dave Thompson’s chairmanship Kingston Park was sold to then-club sponsors Northern Rock back in 2007, before being bought by current landlords Northumbria University.
Annual lease of the 10,000-capacity venue is presently somewhere in the region of £400,000 but that deal will come to an end in 2017, leaving the Falcons with some big decisions.
Executive director Paul Varley is in no doubt about the preferred option, revealing: “Absolutely and unequivocally, Kingston Park is where we want to be.
“Obviously within that it has got to be the right terms for all parties, and we do understand that.
“We want to be fair and equitable in everything we do, and we have started that journey.”
Varley has taken over day-to-day running of the Falcons over the past four months, during which time previous chief executive David Bell has left the club.
A former managing director of Carillion Energy Services, Varley is astute enough to acknowledge that while staying put remains the desired outcome, the possibility of finding a new stadium has to be investigated.
“If a deal can’t be done to extend the lease at Kingston Park then we will have to move – simple as that,” he said.
“That is not something we want to do, but it is something we have to consider.
“It is almost the same equation as what happens if we don’t get promoted this season, and while we are obviously focused on achieving one particular outcome, you do have to be a responsible business and consider the alternative.
“Moving from Kingston Park is certainly not our preferred option, and it is not something we are putting a huge amount of energy into at this moment in time.
“At some stage we may need to accelerate that process in terms of looking at alternatives, but for the moment it is not an avenue we want to go down.”
During their title-winning 1997-8 campaign the Falcons, under the ownership of Sir John Hall, did move a handful of games to Gateshead International Stadium, while rumours of selected big matches at Darlington’s Arena and Sunderland’s Stadium of Light have circulated at varying points in the past decade without materialising.
Relocating to Darlington was even an option when the town’s football club departed the venue, although The Journal understands Newcastle were never interested in pursuing the offer.
The Arena will still host rugby this year, however, with National Three North outfit Darlington Mowden Park having taken possession of the site.
Mowden could be playing league games there within the next month following the sale of their Yiewsley Drive home for housing, and have even boldly stated their intent to bid for hosting rights for England’s second-string side, the Saxons.
In doing so they could find themselves in direct competition with Kingston Park which will stage the Saxons’ game with Scotland A on February 1, but Varley has no wish to enter into a public spat with the ambitious outfit.
“Good luck to them is what I say, and I really do mean that,” he said.
“We as a club have a responsibility to rugby in the North East, and if we do what we expect to do then the rugby community up here will thrive.”