The NRL has reached agreement with the Wests Leagues Club to take ownership and operation of the Newcastle Knights.

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said today the agreement was a great outcome for the Newcastle Knights, the Newcastle community and the game.

“We always said future ownership needed to be good for the club, the community and the game and we’ve secured that outcome through this agreement with Wests,” Mr Greenberg said.

“When the NRL took over the Knights in 2014 we needed to secure the financial future of the club and then deliver the best possible future ownership to run the club into the future.

“Those goals have been achieved and there is now every opportunity for the Knights to become a powerhouse of the game in the years ahead.

“Wests are ideal owners of the Knights given their strong Rugby League heritage and their strength in the local community.

“Through negotiations, Wests President, Owen Kirkpatrick, the Wests board and CEO, Philip Gardner demonstrated their commitment to the future of the Knights and the development of rugby league in the Hunter region.  We look forward to Wests contributing to the game at the elite level.

Under the agreement, Wests have pledged to invest up to $10 million in a Centre of Excellence for the Knights and spend a further $2.5 million on grassroots Rugby League in the Hunter region over the next five years.

“In other words, the focus is on building a strong Hunter region  junior league pathway as well as providing world class facilities for the players so they can compete with the best in the NRL,” Mr Greenberg said.

Newcastle Knights Chairman Brian McGuigan AM said the Board and management had met its commitment to the NRL to stabilise the club and prepare the Knights for transition to new ownership.

“Our task was to implement stronger financial, operational and governance structures at the club which we have done,” he said.

“While our performances on the field have not met our ambitions, we are handing over a club in better shape than we inherited, positioned to compete strongly in the coming seasons.”

Knights CEO Matt Gidley said he was confident of a smooth transition to Wests ownership.

“Our focus is to ensure there is minimal disruption to the players, the Club and the fans over the coming months,” he said.

“Our fans have been unbelievably loyal and supportive during a tough period but I think this agreement will signal the start of a new era for the Knights.”

A plebiscite of Wests members will begin today and once they support the agreement, the transition of ownership will begin next month with completion and full Wests ownership on 31 October.

This was first published on the Newcastle Knights website