RFU Championship
Bedford's success gives Aviva bosses a headache
ESPN Staff
May 14, 2013
Bedford Blues captain Darren Fox celebrates victory , Nottingham v Bedford Blues, RFU Championship semi-final, Meadow Lane, Nottingham, May 10, 2013
Bedford Blues captain Darren Fox celebrates victory in the play-off semi-final last week ... but greater challenges on and off the pitch await the club © Getty Images
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Teams: Bedford Blues

Aviva Premiership officials may be forgiven for hoping that Newcastle Falcons beat Bedford in the RFU Championship play-off later this month. If Bedford do defy the odds then it is likely weeks of wrangling and possibly court action will follow.

A Newcastle victory will mean they ease back into the top flight at the expense of London Welsh as they meet all the necessary minimum standards criteria. But Bedford are quite a different proposition.

One of the stipulations for sides entering the Premiership is a ground capacity of at least 10,000, and London Welsh had to ditch Old Deer Park and move to Oxford to tick that particular box. Bedford's Goldington Road base only holds 6,000 but Geoff Irvine, the club's no-nonsense chairman, has made it clear he has no intention of upping sticks for a ground share, nor will he roll over and accept that as a bar to promotion.

At the club's AGM in March, Irvine indicated they would not seek promotion but said Blues reserved the right to challenge the process in the courts. At that stage the betting was that Bedford would not even make the play-off final, but now they are within sight of the Premiership Irvine's position may have hardened.

Even if the Premiership successfully saw off any legal challenge, it would mean another headache as London Welsh have started to come apart at the seams since their own relegation become apparently certain. The club has lost its major benefactor and the player drain is well underway. To try to turn that around would be much harder than the challenge they faced to put together a team capable of competing in the Premiership last summer.

The odds remain firmly with Newcastle, not least because they have maintained their professional set-up while Bedford are part-timers. Newcastle won both meetings during the regular season, albeit narrowly, and finished with only one defeat in 22 games.

But over two matches at the end of a long campaign anything can happen … and it seems clear who those running the Premiership will be supporting.

  • Bedford Blues v Newcastle Falcons, Thursday, May 23, KO 7.45pm
  • Newcastle Falcons v Bedford Blues, Wednesday, May 29, KO 7.45pm

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