Bradford Bulls lose six points as new deal hits snag
Club tumble outside play-off places and takeover remains dogged by problems
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Thursday 26 July 2012
If new owners take over the ailing Bradford Bulls before tomorrow's liquidation deadline, they will be inheriting a club which has just taken a sudden lurch down the Super League table.
The Bulls were yesterday docked six competition points for going into administration last month. That punishment will have come as no surprise to them, although both Wakefield and Crusaders "got away" with four-point deductions before the start of the 2011 season, because new owners undertook to pay off some of their debts.
"We are not yet in a position to be able to offer any recompense to our creditors and as such a six-point deduction was what we expected," said the Bulls' interim chief executive, Gary Tasker.
The immediate effect on Bradford is that they drop to ninth in the Super League table, outside the play-offs for a fourth consecutive year. That is despite winning three of their four matches since they went into administration and the full extent of their problems became apparent.
They have not given up hope of extending their season, however. "We are still in the competition and a place in the top eight is still within our grasp," Tasker said.
The joint administrator, Brendan Guilfoyle, says he has an offer on the table from the so-called ABC consortium of Asian businessmen, headed by the Akbar's chain of restaurants.
That offer is now being scrutinised in detail by the Rugby Football League, but it is already known to involve two potential sticking points. The group wants to buy back Odsal Stadium, bought by the RFL in what now looks clearly like a defensive stratagem earlier this year.
Many Bulls' fans would be wary of that plan, if it enabled new owners to sell Odsal for redevelopment and move in with Bradford City at Valley Parade, on the other side of a geographically polarised city.
The other item on the wish list is the guarantee of a Super League place. In one sense, the Bulls already have that; in another, they can never have it. In the absence of promotion into and relegation from Super League, Bradford are in the competition by virtue of a three-year licence, starting this season.
That licence can be rescinded at any time, if a club fails to come up to scratch, so it can hardly be termed a guarantee.
Besides, the whole relegation debate is back on the agenda following the publication last week of a report from the RFL's acting chairman, Maurice Watkins. There is no longer a clear consensus that a system of licensing is necessarily the way forward, although one of the arguments advanced in its favour is that it encourages investment because of the imperfect degree of certainty it provides.
Bradford's next game is scheduled for Sunday at Warrington. The home side has followed the lead of Leeds last weekend by contributing the proceeds of ticket sales to Bulls' fans to their club's coffers.
That is indicative of the general goodwill towards Bradford. Although some will remember being lectured by the Bulls on the way to run a Super League club, there is – unlike the case of Rangers in Scotland – no appetite to see them grovel in the lower leagues. There will be those thinking that "there but for fortune go we." Only last week, Salford were forced to issue a denial that they were about to enter administration and there are other precarious operations.
One near certainty is that, in the current climate, Bradford will not be the last to feel the buffeting of the elements. If they do not come through, it will be all the harder for whoever comes next.
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