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Battling Bulls may yet prosper in adversity

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George Riley George Riley | 12:31 UK time, Thursday, 10 May 2012

If Bradford Bulls are to be saved, this week's departure of chairman Peter Hood was vital. I say that not in any way to disrespect Hood - I don't know the man. I say it because none of the investors contemplating rescuing the club would do so under the current regime.

I spoke to chief executive Ryan Duckett on Wednesday after the news of Hood's departure was made public. While he would not reveal details of potential investors - who or how many they were - he told me there was a "group of shareholders" who wanted to get involved in the club's future.

This group, Duckett revealed, had indicated that "there are certain people who they are not confident in".

In effect, Hood jumped before he was pushed, and would not have survived a vote of no confidence at the extraordinary general meeting called by the club's majority shareholder Chris Caisley - Bradford's former chairman.

Duckett also told me the prospect of Caisley taking over again was one with which he would have no problem at all.

Since reaching their initial survival target of £500,000 thanks to the remarkable efforts and generosity of their own fans, Bradford have gone quiet on progress. This has left fans frustrated, and Duckett would not reveal the current financial situation when I asked.

But spare a thought for the players while all this is going on. This is not just sport, it is life. These are not Premier League millionaires, these are relatively low-earning league players running into brick walls every week to support their families. What on earth are they going through?

"Like the fans, I thank the players for their support and patience," Duckett said.
"They have been brilliant with the last few weeks having been very difficult not knowing what's going on, but hopefully we will soon have momentum."

Odsal was sold to the RFL and then leased back by Bradford. Photo: Getty

Centre Keith Lulia is in his first season at Odsal after quitting Australia with his wife to try Super League. He was excited and optimistic about the move, citing the opportunity to join one of the biggest names in Super League as key to his decision to emigrate. He is only 24.

"Me and my wife moved over for a fresh start," he said. "We were just settling in and starting to love Bradford and now this. It's been stressful the whole time and I just want it to sort itself out. We have no option but to go with the flow.

"I think of Bradford as one of the top Super League teams with a great history and now I don't know if I'm getting paid."

Lulia only signed a two-year contract and admits it has been so unsettling he will not
sign a new deal until the club's future is decided.

"I will re-sign if they get someone to buy the club or find some money. Until then who knows what I'm going to do. If they fold I'll be at another club.

"I want to know where I stand with the club and what is going to happen. This is a big distraction".

Prop Nick Scruton agrees with the Australian.

"It's unsettling," he said. "We don't know from week to week if we're getting paid. We have to try and put it to the back of the head and the boys have been awesome, trying to do Bradford proud."

But Scruton, although sidelined himself after shoulder surgery, says he has seen the team bond through their shared adversity.

"It has definitely pulled us closer together," he said.

"When it happened, we got together and decided we can't break off in to little splinter groups, we all have to get through it together, so we are now as one, and hugely tight-knit."

Bradford's future remains unclear but Duckett is meeting investors over the next week and remains confident, even though he concedes "significant investment" is needed to keep the club alive.

But would it now be easier just to hold their hands up and go into administration? "Absolutely not," he said. "That is the last thing any of the investors want."

And after taking half a million pounds from the fans to stay afloat, it would indeed appear unthinkable for Bradford to go down that road now.

More likely is a return for Caisley, the man who oversaw the glory years of five successive Grand Finals at the start of the millennium. What chance Brian Noble, a Bulls hero for coaching those champion sides, returning too, with Mick Potter in the final year of his contract?

What is for sure is the immense credit the Bulls players should take for their efforts through this. The Good Friday derby win over Leeds on the day that could have proved their last conjured memories of those heady Caisley-Noble days.

Their subsequent against-the-odds efforts have the Bulls in a play-off spot and heading for their most successful season in years.

So at the risk of breaking new ground in quoting Dolly Parton in a rugby league blog, if you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    No club is "too big to fail", but loosing Bulls would not only be a hammer-blow to the SL, but the non-league (or rather the league-bashing) press would have a field day.
    The game as a whole can't go on with this financial mismanagement or (by all accounts) drug cover-ups by Hull FC and all the other nonsense that's gone on the last few years without someone at the RFL taking ultimate responsibility.

    How many more Crusaders debacles or London (Fulham/Crusaders/Broncos/Quins - delete as appropriate) going bust for the umpteenth time are we going to put up with before there's a coup at Red Hall?

  • Comment number 2.

    George

    serious question - why ask players what they think- isnt it obvious what theyre going to say- if the worst happened most, as we saw with Crusaders will get signed by other clubs.

    i dont want to sound unsympathetic but my mrs was made redundant 16 months ago and despite numerous interviews hasnt been able to find work - there are plenty worse off than "reasonably" well paid sportsmen who dont merit special attention from the media simply because of what they do

  • Comment number 3.

    Maybe if the media hadn't fallen hook, line and sinker when the Bulls got the begging bowls out, this subject could have been discussed a lot more objectively.

    Any fool knows that professional rugby league in Bradford would continue were the Bulls to have fallen into administration. If Wakefield can survive it, any 'big' club can do.

    The myth being perpetuated that suddenly there'd be no rugby and the panic amongst gullible fans caused this situation now.

  • Comment number 4.

    The departure of Peter Hood is a step in the right direction, I hope that the fans who donated to Bradford are entitled to a fair and reasonable share of the club.

    Fingers crossed the Bulls will keep going. Mind you, franchising was meant to stop this sort of thing from happening, right??

  • Comment number 5.

    The way forward for Bradford would be to spend sensibly and develop the squad around Bateman, Whitehead, Burgess, O'Brien, Crookes and the other youngsters coming through.

    Since 2006 there has been an incredible turn over of players with the standard falling year by year, in hindsight probably because of the financial problems. They need to try and balance the books and keep the players that are performing. If players aren't performing and theyre coming out of contract look internally to promote young players or target young players at other clubs that aren't getting much game time and want to prove they are super league caliber.

    Personally I would question why a club that is struggling would spend so much on one position, e.g. hooker, to have Diskin and Le'strange in the squad. I would suspect they are both high earners at the club and yet week to week we only get 40mins out of them because of sub rotation.
    I would also stress the next board should not be so quick to offer lengthy contracts to players based on short term form. In recent years Sykes, Platt, Scruton have been offered long extensions to contracts based on some decent games but once injuries and poor form set in the club is lubbered with players on high salaries that can barely command a starting position in the top 13 or 17.
    I hope the recent crisis has in a way made the club sit up and realise how poorly run it had been for a number of years and they follow a more conservative approach with long term plans in place to develop young players and greater emphasise on promoting youth and keeping hold of them i.e. the model Daryl Powell first used at Leeds and now similarly Wigan and St Helens are using. I personally think the man to do this is Mick Potter and hope we dont lose him at the end of the year.

    COYB

  • Comment number 6.

    Surprised Caisley seems to be coming out of this smelling of roses. Wasn't he the man who affixed the heavy load upon which Hood placed the straw that broke the camel's back?

    With £500k plus already in the survival fund, between potential investors, the continued charity of  fans, and the RFL, I can't see Bradford going out of business, especially as the latter would loose their key tenant in paying rent at Odsal (conflict of interest there at next round of licensing?).

    Could one positive of this episode be the RFL now own a stadium with great transport links in the middle of the rugby league heartland? A national rugby league stadium a medium-term ambition of the RFL?

     Obviously Challenge Cup and Grand Final have established homes that the RFL wouldn't want to give up. But a 40k stadium for Magic, challenge cup semis, an expanded world club challenge and England games, with maybe just lower tier used when lower attendances anticipated and for Bulls games,  is potentially cost-effective usage?

    Would increase our sports profile, something the RFL are always keen to do. What do you think George?

  • Comment number 7.

    George, yet again you have singled out the 'the remarkable efforts and generosity of their own fans'. May I remind you that there were fans of other clubs (myself included) that have such a love of the game that we also dug into our pockets to help such a historic team when they needed it.

    Whilst I didn't do it for the plaudits I would like it if it was recognised that it wasn't only the Bradford fans that donated money.

    Also, Caisley seems to be seeling himself as the saviour of Bradford, but didn't most of the problems (that may have been poorly managed by Hood) stem from his tenure in the first place? Frying pan and fire spring to mind.

  • Comment number 8.

    I'm disappointed that it seems so many people are being negative...this isn't football we're talking about, this is Rugby League (capitals intentional). It's not individual teams we should be proud of, but the sport as a whole.

    As a Rhinos fan (and consequently, dire adversary of the Bulls), I wholeheartedly wish Bradford the best in their current problems, for the betterment of the sport. I'd even go so far as to say I'd gladly see Leeds lose to Bradford all season if it meant Bradford survived as a top-flight club...and that's really saying something.

    The fans of all clubs have done their bit (and will continue to), the last mile is down to leadership from the club, the RFL and investors to build on the generosity of the fans to ensure Bradford don't fail...because failure of an historically illustrious club in the heartland of British RL just isn't right.

    Crusaders was a tragedy, but ultimately a failed experiment; Broncos/Harlequins is always going to be an uphill struggle so kudos to them for keeping going. I know it's not practical for fans, but I know I always get a buzz out of playing Catalans...it's an international match; perhaps more diversity in the opponents is the key to raising more interest in the game?

    I know the rest of the world is not to the standard of Superleague, but maybe some more showcase matches with Aussie, NZ and maybe PNG teams would be a good thing? Just chucking out ideas.

  • Comment number 9.

    When Hull fc nearly went out of existence i never saw any support from the rfl why should Bradford be treat differently.

 

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