Rugby League rallies round wounded Bulls
If I were a Bradford Bulls fan or player, I would be frightened and furious. So many questions to be asked, so few answers available.
The response from the rugby league community to Bradford's desperate plea to stay alive has been incredible, with over £100,000 raised in the first 48 hours of the £1m rescue bid.
But how can a club that won every trophy going in 2003-4 be close to losing everything?
Glory days: Robbie Paul (right) and James Lowes celebrate Bradford's 2003 Grand Final win. Picture: Getty
Certainly when Stuart Fielden was sold to Wigan for a Super League record £455,000 in 2006, the Great Britain prop could never have envisaged that six years later he'd be sat in the Bulls office answering phones to fans pledging money to save the club from extinction. Matt Diskin, a Grand Final try-scorer and man of the match for Leeds Rhinos against Bradford in 2004, has been doing the same.
Players past and present are auctioning off priceless items. Prized possessions like Brian McDermott's 2003 Bradford Grand Final winners' medal and shirt are being flogged to raise a few quid. McDermott has asked the future owner that his kids be allowed access to the treasured items to keep the memories alive.
Supporters are doing all they can, with one female fan offering to put on a Motown music concert at Odsal. In raiding the fans' funds, though, the club are dipping back into an increasingly shallow well. It's the last and only option without a wealthy benefactor in the mould of a David Hughes, who is keeping London going, or double-glazing boss Andrew Glover who made Wakefield secure.
It's a dire warning to British rugby league that without these Super League sugar daddies, even more elite clubs could fold. Bulls legend Robbie Hunter-Paul, who told me he was "blindsided" by the news, argues that the backing of a wealthy fan is not a pre-requisite for survival. It is the very fact we are talking about our clubs surviving rather than flourishing that is the real concern.
I'm told some of the Bradford players only found out the harsh reality about the situation via Twitter. They were then briefed before training on Wednesday, after which a group of shell-shocked senior players, including Heath L'Estrange, Matt Diskin and Jamie Langley, met chief executive Ryan Duckett for what I'm told was a frank exchange. Then they had to go out and train.
Hood, who had announced the news in the morning paper, was apparently away from the club visiting the Prime Minister.
So were has the cash gone? In truth there has never been that much despite a decade of dominance in the glory days. Odsal is such an old, big, unique arena that it takes a lot more money to maintain.
The Bulls have also almost routinely spent their entire salary cap and the current hierarchy may also argue it inherited a club that had been mismanaged. The sale of Odsal earlier this year preceded the tightening of their Royal Bank of Scotland overdraft - although the bank argues it has not cut that facility - as Bradford claim - and all of a sudden there was nowhere left to turn.
What happens now? Even if half a million can be raised by next weekend, that money would go straight to keeping the creditors happy and then to pay the players.
It is unrealistic to suggest that all will be well again after this "blip", as director Andrew Bennett labelled it after declaring them "at death's door".
This "blip" relates to a short-term cash-flow shortfall from 14 March to 14 April and the confidence at the club comes from the fans and plans being in place to press on if these choppy waters can be steered in the interim. Clearly, there needs to be huge operational and structural changes to the way the club is run.
If Bradford do survive, this may prove the best thing to happen since their struggles began. Look at Wakefield after their return from the brink. They are in a much stronger position now and there's a bounce-back at a recently-renovated ground. But a penny for their thoughts - and those of Crusaders, who weren't quite so fortunate last year.
The encouraging sign is huge efforts are being made throughout rugby league to help the Bulls. The sad reality is that Odsal has gone from being the place to be in the heady days of Bullmania, to the place to avoid - unless you have a spare £100 in your pocket.