Halifax have announced a new partnership agreement with Super League side Hull KR, a deal that will give coach Richard Marshall the option to take Rovers’ players on dual-registration deals in 2015.
Fax director Ian Croad said the arrangement, which has been in the pipeline since the autumn, was aimed at giving the club the best chance of bridging the financial gap to big-spending Championship front runners Bradford and London ahead of next season’s top flight restructure.
The two clubs, who meet in a pre-season game at Craven Park on January 11, will also exchange commercial and administrative ideas, with a third team - Championship One outfit Gateshead Thunder, who took Fax’s young full back Joe Martin on loan last summer - also likely to be involved to some extent.
The agreement to dual-registration, a concept rejected by former boss Karl Harrison during his three year tenure, is likely to cause consternation among sections of the club’s support.
The system has proved controversial, with the successes - at clubs like Doncaster, whose twinning with Hull FC turned them into title contenders - always measured against Swinton’s seemingly one-sided dealings with Warrington.
The tie up with KR will see Marshall, who experienced the latter arrangement at first hand as the Wolves’ assistant coach, deal with his former Fax teammate Chris Chester, now Rovers’ full time boss.
The duo, and Chester’s assistant Willie Poching, who also worked with Marshall at Warrington, recently met in Leeds to discuss the situation when Marshall was in camp with the England Academy side.
Rovers have also named Jason Netherton, the retired forward who was briefly on loan at the Shay more than a decade ago, as the official liaison between the two clubs.
Under Chester, Rovers have made 13 close season signings, the latest being the Canberra Raiders playmaker Terry Campese.
While the exact terms have not been made public, Croad said that Marshall will have the last word over how many - if indeed any - KR players he wishes to use.
Fax have also retained the right to take players on loan from other top flight teams.
“Richard does not have to use it, but if he wants to use it, or needs to use it because of injuries, there is a group of players he can call on,” said Croad, who said he expected “to get some flak” over the deal.
“I think people need to put aside their emotions and look at this as a business decision.
“There’s a massive hurdle we have to clear on the field next year and we need to use all the means at our disposal to try and do that.
“This is a lot more than just a playing agreement; Hull KR have made the journey we want to make from Championship to established Super League club and there’s a lot we can learn from their experience.
“All I would ask is that people don’t judge it now, but wait and judge it at the end of the season.”