Bradford Bulls: Former Super League champions liquidated

Odsal Stadium
Bradford rugby league teams have played at Odsal Stadium since it opened in 1934

Former Super League champions Bradford Bulls have been liquidated after the club's administrator rejected a bid to save the club.

The Bulls entered administration for a third time in four years in November.

The administrators hoped to have a deal agreed by Christmas but turned down a bid from a consortium on 29 December.

Despite the liquidation, the Rugby Football League has confirmed that a new Bradford side could compete in the second-tier Championship in 2017.

The new Bradford team would start the season, which gets under way on the first weekend of February, with a 12-point deficit.

They would also get the lowest funding of all Championship clubs from the RFL, receiving just £150,000.

The RFL said in a statement: "To clarify the next steps for all concerned, the independent RFL board has met to determine how the future of professional rugby league in Bradford can move forward in 2017.

"While a number of alternatives were considered the board were most mindful of the planning already undertaken by all other clubs in the competition structure, the season tickets already purchased and the players and staff who will now be seeking employment in and around the sport in 2017.

"Accordingly the board has agreed that the wider interests of the sport is best satisfied if it offers a place in the Championship to any new club in Bradford and that such a club start the 2017 season on minus 12 points.

"Any interested parties should contact the RFL directly."

'Everybody has been made redundant'

Bradford Bulls general manager Stuart Duffy told BBC Radio Leeds: "The Rugby Football League have said they have contingency plans in place and someone could buy the club from the liquidators but at the moment everybody has been made redundant.

"Everyone is very disappointed because we were led to believe that things would come to a successful conclusion on Tuesday. Nobody has been paid their wages for December and we had been hoping to be paid on Wednesday, so this is a bombshell.

"This is a nightmare for everybody involved."

The RFL said it intends to "offer support to all staff and players who have had their employment terminated".

Smith up for Bulls challenge

Head coach Rohan Smith, who joined Bradford on a three-year contract last May, and the entire playing staff were among those made redundant.

But the Australian said he and many of the players would be willing to stay on under new owners to try to revive the club's fortunes.

"I would love the opportunity to continue on if the new owners and the new management and I have the same beliefs and can work together," said Smith.

"I imagine the vast majority of players would want to stay. Many have told me today they are not interested in going anywhere else."

How it came to this

Bradford Bulls
Bradford Bulls, who have won the World Club Challenge three times and the Challenge Cup five times, last lifted the Super League trophy in 2005

Bradford Bulls were one of the most iconic names - and clubs - within British rugby league, having led the way when the sport switched to summer in 1996.

However, the Bulls' downfall has been swift. In March 2012 they revealed a £1m shortfall and the club was placed in administration in June. That August, Bradford Bulls Holdings Limited was sold to OK Bulls limited, a consortium led by local businessman Omar Khan.

In 2014 a second administration followed, along with a six-point penalty deduction, and they were relegated from Super League at the end of the season.

Despite reaching the Million Pound Game in 2015, the Bulls lost to Wakefield and failed to reclaim their top-tier status.

In 2016 they failed to reach 'The Qualifiers' altogether, finishing fifth in the Championship.

Analysis

James Deighton, rugby league producer for BBC Radio Leeds:

"It's an incredibly sad day for the sport both locally, and nationally, with the news of the Bulls' downfall. We can only hope that there's a will, and a way, to attempt to reform the club as happened in the 1960s.

"Having said that, when you consider that the recent administration is the club's third in four years, Tuesday's news may be an inevitable consequence of the instability at Odsal of late.

"There was a large window in time during which the Bulls led and everyone else tried to follow - however, the path that the club has trodden in recent years will be one that others will look to avoid.

"There's no doubt in my mind that Super League has been the poorer for the Bulls' relegation in 2014, and the sport will be the poorer for the club's demise in January 2017."

Reaction

Bradford Council leader, Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, said: "This is a difficult time for Bulls employees, players and fans.

"We know the RFL worked hard to support a positive outcome which would protect the interests of rugby league football in Bradford.

"I'm glad they are now taking steps to quickly re-establish the Bulls in time for the 2017 season. Everyone, including the council, is keen to get behind a new owner who can deliver a secure future for the club."

Leon Pryce
Bradford Bulls half-back Leon Pryce reacted to the news on Twitter
Ryan Sidebottom on Twitter
Yorkshire and former England cricketer Ryan Sidebottom has his say on social media
Sam Burgess
England captain Sam Burgess' reaction to the news on Twitter

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