Bedford Tigers explore Goldington Road ground share in hunt for Super League spot

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Goldington Road Bedford Blues
A floodlit Goldington Road Image: Bedford Blues RFC

Bedford’s primary Rugby League side, Bedford Tigers have announced an official ‘expression of interest’ in joining Betfred League One as the RFL looks to expand the professional game to 36 teams.

In order to facilitate the move to the professional game, the Bedford Independent has learnt that Bedford Tigers are exploring the possibility of a ground share with Bedford Blues at Goldington Road.

The Rugby Football League (RFL) recently announced a restructure to the professional game, with the world-renowned Super League supplemented by the Championship and League One, with one extra spot available to fill to complete the roster of teams.

Bedford Tigers may well fill that one extra spot and become the 12th team in Betfred League One in 2025.

There are currently 12 teams in the Super League, narrowly led by St Helens on points difference, with 14 teams in the Betfred Championship and 9 in League One.

The RFL carried out a six-month review of the league structure and determined a more even spread of teams across three divisions would be fairer and more competitive and have laid out how promotion and relegation will occur in order to gain three divisions of 12 by 2025.

Bedford Tigers currently play their home games at Bedford Athletic Rugby Club on Wentworth Drive, and while the ground does not have 300 seats for fans, the facility does not currently meet the criteria needed.

With that in mind, the Tigers have scheduled a meeting with Bedford Blues on Wednesday afternoon (29th May) in order to discuss a potential ground share.

We contacted Bedford Blues but no one was available for comment.

An uncontested reach for a new fan base

Simple geography may become a huge advantage for the Tigers.

Rugby League has a reputation for being a “northern” sport. Indeed, ten of the twelve Super League teams are in the northern half of England with just London Broncos in the south, while Catalans Dragons are based in France.

Bedford Tigers are right in saying that there are no professional rugby league clubs between the areas of Birmingham and South London, so the potential for unlocking a new fan base is substantial.

“We have always been an ambitious club”, says Rob Ashton of Bedford Tigers speaking to Bedford Independent.

“We’ve been told that geography won’t play a part, only that the best club with the best IMG score, [the ground grading mechanism], will win the space.”

London Tigers in action against London Skolars in the Rugby League Southern Conference
Jake Tilford in action for the Tigers against London Skolars Image Credit: Paul Cowan / Mediapac Sports Photography

The Tigers are the second side to publicly announce their intentions after Yorkshire club, Goole Vikings were first out of the blocks in confirming their interest to become the new Betfred League One side.

Rugby League clubs have until 31 May to lodge their formal expressions of interest to the RFL, with a final decision made in September after every club has put their business case forward to the RFL in Manchester.

“Putnoe Woods doesn’t fit the bill for the competition as it doesn’t have 300 seats”, continued Ashton.

“We have to find a new temporary home and we are meeting with Bedford Blues to try and see if they can accommodate at least some of the eleven league home games we need to play.

“There’s lots of challenges, but we have built a strong enough club and a strong enough brand to enter a professional team and we can bring some value to the sport at that level.

“The challenges are sustainability and its got to be for the good of the club and the good of the town, as there are examples of expansion clubs failing.

The Bedford Tigers rugby league squad under the posts after reaching the East West Men's Cup final
Bedford Tigers have reached the final of the East West Men’s Cup Image: Bedford Tigers RLFC

“Recruitment and investment will also be key so the club are keen to speak to any investors who are willing to help take the club forward.”

With Women’s, Youth and Wheelchair rugby also on the Tigers’ agenda, they are well set to become a modern all-round club who can provide opportunities across the board.

The Women play in the Championship, while the relatively newly-formed Wheelchair side now play in the Championship South themselves, and should they win the division, play off against the North champions for a place in the Betfred Wheelchair Super League.

Cup finalists

This comes after the Men’s side reached the final of the East West Men’s Cup on Saturday after surviving a North Herts Crusaders comeback to win 40-30.

A brace of tries from James Litchfield alongside six other individual try scorers, including 20-year old Nick Tarr who impressed on his senior debut, helped the Tigers to what looked like an unassailable 40-10 lead by the hour mark.

The Crusaders fought back to within ten points but couldn’t find the extra two scores that would have completed an incredible comeback, with Bedford Tigers now going on to contest the final against Eastern Rhinos on 6th July at Hitchin Rugby Club.

The Tigers currently sit in seventh in the Rugby League Southern Conference after one win in their opening four league games.