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'I'd love to make star signings, at times you get frustrated'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images)

New Newcastle boss Dave Walder has shared his thoughts on the financial state of rugby in England following a week in which the futures of both Wasps and Worcester were thrown into chaos due to unpaid tax bills. Wasps have moved to appoint an administrator while Worcester fear they will be suspended by the RFU from 5pm next Monday due to the ongoing failure of their proposed takeover.

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Walder, the experienced Falcons head coach who succeeded Dean Richards as director of rugby in the off-season, has seen both troubled clubs up close this week as Newcastle visited Wasps’ Coventry Building Society Arena on Tuesday for a Premiership Rugby Cup game and they are also at Sixways this Saturday for a match that Worcester feel will be their last in the 2022/23 Gallagher Premiership.

It’s a bleak situation that leaves Walder fully aware of the financial limitations at play in the sport in England but thankful that Newcastle are diligent when it comes to balancing their books under Semore Kurdi. “We have always cut out cloth accordingly at Newcastle,” he reported at his media briefing before jumping on the bus south to Worcester for a match that was only given RFU permission to go ahead on Thursday after safety assurances were received.

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“I’d love to go and make star signings and do X, Y, Z and have the ability to do that. At times you get frustrated up here with the way things are run but we have got the right idea and the right ethos around the club about doing things the right way.

“Semore, our owner, is on a lot of the boards and part of the decision making and things do filter down to me via our rugby board. All I can comment on from a financial point of view is that Newcastle are very lucky in having an owner like Semore, who has made his intentions pretty clear and has stuck to his guns. It’s sad what is going on at other clubs and the rumours.

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“We were down at Wasps on Tuesday and they have got this brilliant stadium and there were probably 200, 300 people watching. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that if you haven’t got people coming through the door you are going to find yourself in a tough situation. It’s been like that for years and years and years but the pandemic has accelerated or highlighted areas where people weren’t quite ready for things.

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“Three away games in a week give you plenty of time to think about things on the bus,” he continued, giving a glimpse of how the Newcastle preparations were affected in the lead-up to this weekend. “Our team manager was trying to liaise with their team manager (at Worcester) about hotel costs before we shelled out whatever it is on the hotel as he wanted to know the game was going ahead.

“We’d be lying if we said people aren’t thinking about it and aren’t talking about it but there is nothing we can do about it as a club. We have got to make sure we turn up on Saturday at Worcester and give a good account of ourselves.

“What happens at Monday five o’clock, there is nothing we can do about it. We have just got to make sure we play well on Saturday, focus on ourselves as best we can and then let everyone above us decide what the future of the game is.”

Can Walder give an example regarding the financial restrictions that Newcastle operate under to ensure they do things on a budget and how that approach might hurt them when competing against other Premiership clubs? “From recruitment, there are players we have gone in for and offered certain sums of money to and then other teams have come and blown us out of the water.

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“It was Dean’s decision (in the past), you put a price on someone’s head and you pay to a certain point and then some of the numbers thrown around are mind-blowing. I always laugh as I am cynical, as my colleagues will tell you.

“When rugby first went professional, football money was talked about when Rob Andrew took over up here with John Hall and then everyone realised where it was going. Then a couple of years later I came on the scene and wages were what they were [reduced] and then after I retired it seems to be going back up, so I guess I missed the boat. It’s now more the day-to-day squad sizes, how much you rely on your academy and we rely heavily on it.”

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