Newcastle Eagles’ friendly with Sheffield Sharks on Friday will be played behind closed doors.

The pre-season contest will no longer take place in front of spectators due to the rising number of Covid cases in north-east England.

New social restrictions covering the area were announced by England’s health secretary Matt Hancock this morning, following an appeal from the region’s combined authorities to help curb the spread of coronavirus.

The tighter coronavirus measures, including allowing attendance at sporting events, come into effect from midnight on Friday.

Newcastle will now live stream Friday’s action as the new-look Eagles return to action for the first time since March’s BBL Trophy final in Glasgow.

“It’s hugely disappointing that we’re unable to welcome back fans following all the work that has gone on behind the scenes in the last few weeks,” said MD Paul Blake.

“This time last week we were still confident that the game against Sheffield would go ahead in front of 800 people but the situation has changed significantly in the last few days.

“We’ve been braced for this decision in the last 48 hours and the confirmation from the DCMS this morning means our hands are tied.

“We fully support the move to safeguard public health but we also know that our loyal supporters have been looking forward to a return to the Eagles Community Arena for some time.

“By streaming the game live we hope we can at least introduce our fans to Ian MacLeod’s team and a group of players that is champing at the bit to represent the Eagles.”

Government approval was given to the Eagles Community Arena to host the UK’s only indoor sport pilot event last month in a decision to allow a limited number of fans to watch live sport.

In other news, Newcastle has named Mark Elderkin as its new assistant coach, replacing Dave Forrester.

The former Durham Wildcats currently coaches Team Newcastle in EBL Division One.

Eagles head coach Ian MacLeod added: “Mark will be a great addition to my coaching staff and I’m delighted to have him on board.

“We brought Team Newcastle into our player pathway last year and Themba really developed as a player in that environment.”

Elderkin’s father Dave brought the Comets to the city in 1995 to tip off 25 years of top flight basketball on Tyneside.

MacLeod added: “Mark is a natural fit as my number two and I’m really looking forward to working alongside him this season.”

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