Rugby Union: Cooke linked to Bedford scheme

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The former England manager Geoff Cooke is poised to become the director of rugby at Bedford.

And the former Welsh international stand-off Paul Turner, who is currently the player- coach at Sale, could become the director of coaching.

Members of the Second Division club will be asked to vote on a proposal put by a consortium to buy 50 per cent of the club.

Under the scheme, the company Sports Network Europe will enter into a joint venture with the Bedford rugby club and inject pounds 2.25m over five years to pay players and to buy new ones.

The Bedford chairman, Ian Bullerwell, said: "We have been negotiating with Sports Network Europe for the past month and we hope our members will accept a package which could see us challenging the Bath and Harlequins of the rugby world.

"Both Geoff Cooke and Paul Turner have agreed in principle to join us, and a number of leading players have said they will come too." The final decision will rest with Bedford's 700 members, who will meet tomorrow evening.

Already the Irish lock forward Paddy Johns has intimated that he will join the club, and Bullerwell expects other big names to sign up if and when the membership gives the new proposals the go ahead.

Among the backers of Sports Network Europe are Frank Warren, the boxing promoter, and the company proposes that Bob Burrows, the former head of ITV sport, will assume the position of chief executive.

Bullerwell added: "Last season we suffered a marked lack of success in the Second Division. It is only because of the reorganisation of the Courage Leagues that we are not playing in the Third Division next season.

"It is crucial that we tackle the challenge of the new professional era that lies ahead in the same way that our rivals at Northampton, Richmond, Newcastle and Saracens have already done. The alternative is relegation to junior club status," he said.