Bedford Blues say they have been “given a lifeline” after Northampton Saints announced a strategic partnership with the Championship club.
The deal will see the clubs cooperate on a number of fronts, including the sharing of players and coaches.
The partnership also allows for joint training sessions.
“Our new relationship with Bedford ensures that we can continue to develop our best young players by securing them regular Championship game time in a highly competitive environment,” said Saints director of rugby Chris Boyd.
A number of Northampton’s first-team squad players will be available to play for Bedford, either on loan or on a dual-registered basis.
“Not only does the relationship give us fantastic access to their players and resources, but it is a lifeline to our club in the present situation,” added Bedford chairman Geoff Irvine.
Bedford are one of a number of Championship clubs financially battered by the Covid-19 pandemic, which came shortly after the Rugby Football Union announced a cut in central funding to the second tier.
Access to Northampton’s playing and coaching resources will ease the strain on the Blues’ wage bill, while Saints say their younger coaches and players will benefit from exposure to the cut and thrust of the Championship.
“This long-term partnership will help safeguard our Championship status and allow us to build for the seasons ahead,” Irvine continued.
“The decision was influenced by the challenging financial situation we face, not least as a result of the cuts announced by the RFU earlier this year and the uncertainty about future funding.”
Northampton chief executive Mark Darbon said the relationship is for the “long term” and “could evolve further over time”.
“The new partnership will be mutually beneficial, aiming to bring greater benefits to players and coaching staff at both clubs, as well as helping both organisations financially,” Darbon said.
Bedford Blues director of rugby Mike Rayer added: “Given the current circumstances and longer-term picture, the partnership with Saints is a no-brainer.
“Conversations with Chris Boyd have been really positive and it’s a great opportunity for more collaborative thinking and progression.”
The partnership has been forged independent of the RFU and Premiership Rugby, who have struggled to agree on a unified vision for the Championship in recent years.