Still falling: Bradford risk losing their home 10 years after 'chasing the dream'

No Premier League club has slipped further and, writes Simon Hart, they may now have to quit Valley Parade

The centenary of Bradford City's solitary FA Cup success is being marked by an exhibition at the city's Industrial Museum. A more recent golden era, Bradford's two-season stay in the Premier League, ended 10 years ago yesterday with a 0-0 draw at Coventry City but it must feel like equally distant history right now for the troubled West Yorkshire club.

When Bradford concluded their poorest campaign since 1966 with a 5-1 home drubbing by Crewe two weeks ago, leaving them 18th in League Two, the worst aspect was not the pitiful performance but the knowledge that it could prove their last at Valley Parade – or the Coral Windows Stadium as it is currently known – their home of 108 years.

After four seasons in the bottom tier, Bradford's owners say they can no longer sustain the costs of the ground – £750,000 in rent, with overheads taking the annual total to around £1.2m – and are considering joining the Bradford Bulls rugby league team at Odsal Stadium. As Mark Lawn, the club's joint-chairman, put it last week: "If you've got a millstone round your neck, do you try swimming with it – or do you cut the rope?"

Bradford have easily League Two's largest attendances – an average of 11,127 this season – yet even with that Valley Parade stands over half-empty on a match day. Although the club sold more than 9,000 season tickets in 2010-11, most were on cut-price deals, while the average number of away supporters at the ground was no more than 300.

It was under Geoffrey Richmond, chairman from 1994 to 2002, that Valley Parade was redeveloped; ironically, the second tier on the 9,004-seat main stand now resembling a white elephant was opened after relegation from the Premier League in the summer of 2001. Simon Parker, who has reported on the club for the local Telegraph & Argus for the past decade, believes the blame for their plight rests ultimately with Richmond, who resigned in 2002 and was declared bankrupt two years later.

"They have made mistakes since but the root problem was spending crazy sums chasing the dream," he said, citing Richmond's self-confessed "six weeks of madness" after the club had stayed up in 2000, when they signed Benito Carbone on a £40,000 weekly contract – including half a dozen return flights to Italy for him and his family – and broke the club's transfer record on the £2.5m midfielder David Hopkin from Leeds. This summer, Bradford must cut their wage bill by a third from £1.5m.

When it comes to teams relegated from the Premier League, Bradford's is not the only cautionary tale but no club can match the depth of their descent. If three relegations between 2001 and 2007 were not enough, Bradford have twice been in administration too – in 2002 after the collapse of ITV Digital and again in 2004.

It was during the second instance that they agreed with Gordon Gibb – the owner of the Flamingo Land amusement park in north Yorkshire, who had bought the ground a year earlier before quitting as chairman – the rental arrangement which they now want restructured to avert the threat of a third administration. The Gibb family's pension fund is the technical owner of Valley Parade, while the club's offices are owned by Prupim, a property investment company. Their combined sale in 2003 yielded £5m; each costs £370,000 per year on a 25-year lease and joint-chairmen Lawn and Julian Rhodes wish to stagger the charges to pay less now, with proposed increases on each step back up the divisions. With the Football League requiring notification next month, a decision on Valley Parade is due but negotiations are ongoing.

Peter Jackson, the interim manager since Peter Taylor's departure in February, was Bradford captain when the club played at Odsal after the 1985 Valley Parade fire which claimed 56 lives. He is hopeful the club will not have to return there. "With what we all went through 26 years ago Valley Parade means so, so much to a lot of people, so hopefully it won't go to that," he said.

Jackson's own future as manager is equally uncertain but he adds a note of optimism. "We can't go any lower than we are now, I feel, with the threat of administration and of moving stadiums and where we finished last season in the league – we only survived with two games to go. The only way the club can go is up."

Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick