Newcastle Falcons: Coronavirus forces club to place all staff on unpaid leave

Newcastle Falcons are top of the Championship
Newcastle Falcons are waiting to see what will happen about promotion from the Championship

Championship club Newcastle Falcons have placed all their players and staff on furlough - a period of unpaid leave - because of coronavirus.

The club have written to all staff about the decision and asked for their formal consent to the move.

And the Falcons admit they do not know when they may be able to return.

Newcastle were 18 points clear at the top of the second tier before the Rugby Football Union ended the division's 2019-20 campaign earlier this month.

The decision has left the club facing a wait for clarification as to whether or not they will be promoted back to the Premiership for next season.

Premiership officials are aiming to bring the top-flight campaign to a conclusion on the pitch, but are yet to decide what to do about the promotion spot from tier two.

Newcastle's letter to staff said: "We hope that we will be able to facilitate a return to work once government advice and the business need supports this.

"However, we must acknowledge the current uncertainty and the constantly developing landscape and we cannot offer any assurances or timescale at this stage.

"The company acknowledges that this is a difficult time for all employees across the country, but the support provided by the government is welcomed and I am sure it will provide some reassurance to you during this difficult time."

'We hope common sense prevails over promotion'

Speaking before the club's decision to furlough staff, Newcastle's former England fly-half Toby Flood was asked about their financial situation on the BBC's Rugby Union Weekly podcast.

"We're aware of how ominous it is," Flood said. "Dean [director of rugby Dean Richards] was great, really open about it.

"At the beginning of the day you think 'this is unbelievable' but then the more you understand, you realise the situation the club is in."

Newcastle fly-half Toby Flood
Toby Flood won the last of his 60 international caps in 2013

On the unresolved promotion situation, Flood added: 'How we are going to solve that? I don't know.

"The issue we've got is, maths is not on our side. Form is, and the league standings.

"You'd like to think common sense plays a role here. It's all a bit hectic but hopefully we get it solved.

"The seriousness of it is, from what we understand, Saracens are relegated no matter what. I think that's still the case."

Flood, 34, signed a two-year contract extension with Newcastle in February.

On trying to keep fit while unable to train as a squad, he added: "It's hard because we don't know when we're going to be back in to rugby again."

In a statement on Thursday, Newcastle Rugby Ltd, which includes the Falcons, Newcastle Thunder rugby league club and the Newcastle Rugby Foundation charity, said they were working on a plan aimed at "ensuring long-term job retention and the ongoing stability of the business".

They will seek help from the government's furloughed worker scheme, but the plan will also include salary reductions.

"The is to ensure that we are in a strong position to move forwards when rugby resumes," the statement added.

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