Rugby: Newcastle Falcons' Nest Being Pulled Apart?

Jeff A BallContributor IJune 29, 2008

After a turbulent end of the season, the Falcons managed to let another week of upheaval and unrest pass by fairly unnoticed by the sports press.

Despite a well-documented decidedly poor end to the season, disheartening those loyal to the cause with a poor run of events, this week while the players are busy sunning themselves on a far off tropical beach, yet more parts of the off-field structure at Kingston Park seem to be slowly slipping away.

Despite some encouraging signings on the coaching staff in the form of Alan Tait in the badly needed role of defence coach, and Jonny Wilkinson signing a new contract, earlier in the week it was announced in rather sombre tones that the two-year deal with Nike was being finished a year early for legal reasons and no more would be said by the club.

Eyebrows were raised when the club shop announced its usual stock-clearing "half-price sale" in the weeks before the revelation applied to even replica kit, the financial stability of the club itself was questioned in response of what seemed to be a quick money idea.

Further claims by those in the know that Cotton Traders were listing the Falcons strip in next season's catalogue lead to more speculation. So when it was announced that it was coming to an end for these said legal reasons, the response from fans was a mixture of annoyance and a troubled acceptance of yet another problem behind the scenes.

We can only speculate the exact reason—the club's stance on it been a solid and definite silence. There are claims that the loss of Toby Flood and Matthew Tait were a breach of contract, or that the deal was dealt with by a third party that made an offer so cheap the Falcons just had to accept.

Whether the fans are going to flock back to the club shop to buy yet another set of home, away, training, and charity strips for a consecutive season, we shall have to wait and see.

Further to that, the loss of Wigan-born  Mick Hogan—the Falcons Commercial Director—to Rugby League team Wigan Warriors was another blow dealt this week.

Mick Hogan has long been recognised as a driving force of the Falcons becoming a sellable entity, doing some fantastic work in a part of the country so completely dominated by the local Newcastle United, who regularly pull 53,000 into St. James' Park every fortnight.

The movement from a small club with porta-cabins and temporary stands to a professional club with the facilities that are becoming part and parcel of clubs in the Guinness Premiership has been in no small part down to Mick Hogan.

It's a great shame that the one club he would realistically have ever gone to made that call for him. He will be greatly missed both from a business and fan's point of view, after making himself known as someone who was always willing to frankly answer the fans questions, and we wish him all the best.

And to compound the changes at Kingston Park, Richard Metcalf the Academy manager has decided after two years in the post to return to his native Cumbria.

Despite strong roots in Cumbria, he always felt he had to take the opportunity of taking control of the  Falcons strong Academy unit, but has decided that the pull from home was too strong.

The production line from the Academy in Metcalf's time has been impressive, with many of those involved in the clubs Middlesex Sevens win in August 2007 having came through the ranks.

The big question, therefore, is are the Falcons going to suitably fill these gaps?

There are concerns on the pitch in an off-season that has seen the loss of Matt Burke to injury and Ben Woods to Leicester Tigers to go with the loss of Flood and Tait.

One player in sturdy form is Tane Tu'ipulotu, who no doubt brings the kind of grit the  back line has missed since the retirement of Mark "Bubbs" Mayerhofler, but one doesn't go into four.

And now it appears the same question is beginning to creep into the offices of Kingston Park. With just over a month until we start the fun and games all over again, this is one fan in particular has everything crossed that someone is going to prove the doubters wrong.