Andrew Chalmers and Graham Lowe named new Bradford club owners

Bradford's Odsal Stadium
Bradford Bulls won four Super League titles, the last of them coming in 2005

Former New Zealand Rugby League chairman Andrew Chalmers and ex-Wigan coach Graham Lowe have been confirmed as the new owners of the Bradford club to replace the liquidated Bulls.

The pair were selected by the Rugby Football League from a number of potential bidders.

The new club will retain the Bulls' place in the second-tier Championship division, with a 12-point deduction.

However, existing head coach Rohan Smith has left by mutual consent.

The 35-year-old Australian was appointed by Bulls in May on a three-year deal after James Lowes stepped down for personal reasons.

"We appreciate all he did for the Bradford Bulls and the support he has given the playing group," Lowe said.

"We are focused on bringing in a new proven and experienced coach as soon as possible and the recruitment process is underway."

Their season begins at Hull KR on Sunday, 5 February.

The group came close to taking the Bulls out of administration at the end of 2016, when a bid they made was rubber-stamped by the RFL, only to be rejected by the administrator.

Chalmers registered the name Bradford Bulls 2017 at Companies House.

RFL director of operations and legal, Karen Moorhouse, said: "The RFL is confident that the consortium selected to run a new club in Bradford will provide an exciting and stable future for rugby league in the city."

What awaits the duo?

The first task awaiting Chalmers and Lowe will be to replace Smith and get a squad together to compete in the Championship, and in particular tie down the existing players and staff members to new contracts, after their old deals were made null and void by the liquidation.

First-grade players such as Leon Pryce and Omari Caro had said they were committed to staying with the Bradford club, but others - including Kris Welham, Adam O'Brien, James Clare and Alex Mellor - have already signed with other teams.

"We are under no illusion of the enormity of the task that is ahead of us and that it is our job to win the trust of supporters and deliver a club that they are proud of," Chalmers said.

Lowe added: "We do not see this as a quick fix and we will work through the immediate issue of offering full-time playing contracts to the team.

"Following that, we will look at bolstering the playing squad as necessary to replace those players who have secured contracts elsewhere."

Graham Lowe's Wigan team at Wembley in 1988
Graham Lowe set Wigan on the way to a decade of dominance between 1986 and 1989

Rugby league credentials

In addition to a coaching career in the southern hemisphere, Lowe will be familiar to rugby league fans for his work in establishing Wigan as a major force in rugby league in the late 1980s.

His team featured stars such as Ellery Hanley, Joe Lydon and Shaun Edwards, winning a championship and Premiership final and Challenge Cups during his stint - as well as the World Club Challenge against Manly in 1987.

Coincidentally, it was at Manly where Lowe and Chalmers worked on the former's return to Australia.

Chalmers was a reserve grade player at Manly and Balmain before quitting the game because of injury. He also served as a director at Salford Red Devils.

Preserving history

There has been a rugby league presence in the city of Bradford since before the birth of Northern Union in 1895. Two local clubs, Bradford FC and Manningham, were among the founding members.

Northern continued the legacy after being founded in 1907 and enjoyed success in spite of a reformation of their own in 1964, winning the Challenge Cup and establishing the careers of stars such as Welsh ex-union convert Trevor Foster, Hanley and Brian Noble.

Meanwhile, the Bulls were groundbreakers in terms of marketing and on-field success in the Super League era before their recent downturn in fortunes.

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