Newcastle Falcons’ supporters have their chance to quiz the Kingston Park management at their annual tub-thumper tonight, but what are the burning questions?
One must firstly commend the Falcons for again putting owner Semore Kurdi, director of rugby Dean Richards and commercial consultant Mick Hogan up for the event, at which fans have free rein to pose unvetted questions from the floor.
Newcastle United’s legion of followers have long hankered for such transparency from Mike Ashley and his footballing lieutenants, even if the timing of the Falcons’ shindig coincides neatly with the imminent release of season tickets.
The club to their credit have committed to making such gatherings more regular in future but, with Newcastle second-bottom in the Premiership table, already out of all cup competitions and still without any announced signings to their name for next year, it might not be the most comfortable of evenings.
There are pretty big issues which could do with clarification from the top.
Firstly, how far down the line is he with his proposed takeover of Gateshead Thunder rugby league club and how would year-round rugby affect plans for the Kingston Park pitch, be it plastic, grass or a mixture thereof?
Inherent in that is an update on the stadium lease, which expires in the summer of 2017, and are plans in place for alternative options if an extension cannot be agreed with landlords Northumbria University?
On the rugby side there is the issue of rumours linking Richards with a move to Gloucester, some unsubstantiated sources even going as far as to suggest the director of rugby has been given Kurdi’s permission to speak to the Kingsholm outfit as he prepares to enter the final year of his lucrative Newcastle deal.
Tomorrow night would be the ideal forum to knock that kind of tittle-tattle out of the ground for six, moving on to the vexed subject of player recruitment for next season. Newcastle are yet to announce a single signing for next year despite confirming a host of departures, so have deals already been done that we have not been told about? If so, will we get any names?
Rotherham’s Argentine centre Juan Pablo Socino is widely expected to be a Falcons player next term, while Bristol scrum-half Ruki Tipuna and Worcester No 8 Semisi Taulava are among the host of names to have been linked.
Will any meat be put on those particular bones, especially with the season-ticket launch pending?
For all the management may desire a neat and tidy announcement of next year’s squad once this campaign is done and dusted, a fan-base starved of success could do with the odd morsel to get excited about.
“Don’t just sell the steak, sell the sizzle,” or so the saying goes, and much of tonight’s gathering will hopefully deliver substance on the grander stated goals of becoming an established Premiership team with aspirations of being a consistent top-four contender down the line.
Similar events in previous years have been dominated by questions about parking, burgers and beer – all integral to supporters’ experience and not to be sniffed at.
However, with the club’s top brass open to all questions it is a chance for paying punters to receive a few answers, such as why do bright local prospects Scott Wilson, Zach Kibirige, George McGuigan and Joel Hodgson not have a Premiership start between them?
Why has the latter not been offered a new contract and will the club be spending anywhere near the newly-extended salary cap to assemble a competitive squad?
Are we any closer to knowing if the four Welsh regions will be joining the Premiership next season and can we expect to be playing in a European competition under whatever name?
Will the Kingston Park coaching team remain the same despite their charges scoring only 10 tries in 16 league games and will we ever get a roof on the North Stand?
These questions, and others, could produce interesting answers.