If you’re a Bradford Bulls fan, like me, you’ve probably spent the last few hours asking “what the f**k is going on?”
A brief history of the last few years reads a little like this: big club, badly managed, Iestyn Harris, missed play offs, change of owners, bad debt, verge of bankruptcy, missed play offs, change of owners, badly managed, bad debt, verge of bankruptcy, missed play offs, change of owners, actually it didn’t change owners, players leaving, change of owners, points deduction, no owners.
It’s a shambles.
Recently the “new owners”, Mark Moore, Andrew Calvert and Ian Watt – collectively Bradford Bulls 2014 Ltd – have threatened to take over the club but resigned over Christmas because of what they claimed was stubbornness by the outgoing owner Omar Khan (OK Bulls). Have some very public Hokey Cokey, last week they announced they had bought the club from OK Bulls and were waiting for the RFL’s decision on a points deduction for going into administration.
On Tuesday the RFL announced their decision – a 6 point deduction. Obviously not happy with this because they believe it will force the club into relegation this year (they’re probably right), the trio of Bradford Bulls 2014 Ltd have now withdrawn their offer (again) to buy the club.
As it stands, Bradford Bulls look stuck up a creak without a paddle.
Now, I’m no expert in diplomatic language, but the two statements put out by the opposing sides – Bradford Bulls 2014 Ltd and the RFL – are both noticeable for their unusually direct language.
Bulls 2014 talk about the RFL not acting “properly or professionally”. They mention “poor leadership” and “errors” by the RFL and that the governing body have made “decisions based on inaccurate information, obtained without authorisation of the board.”
It’s an amazing statement and worth reading the full text on the Bulls website.
The Counter Punch
As the governing body, the RFL has a job to uphold the rules. They also have to keep the integrity of the competition and having teams disappear mid season isn’t good for them. However, they felt they had to go by the book with the Bulls and applied the maximum deduction for their crime.
The RFL were the judge in this case, but they were not prepared to be a scapegoat. Following the Bulls statement, the RFL hit back with this – another great, if undiplomatic statement.
“The root cause of the current situation is the failed attempt by Mark Moore and Ryan Whitcut to use the club’s own money to purchase Bradford Bulls from Omar Khan, who had left the club in a parlous state.”
Wow. And this:
“At a meeting with the club’s directors on February 7 they informed the RFL that they needed a further £500,000 of investment or advances of broadcast monies in order to continue to trade.”
Who Is Right?
At this stage it’s a guessing game, but I’m inclined to side with the RFL. While prone to the occasional mistake, the RFL’s statement is much more factual, emotionless and to the point – the Bulls 2014 had no cash to buy the club and wanted to use the club’s own fund, which they wanted the RFL to advance them.
While the Glazers used a similar scheme to buy Manchester United, they based their borrowing on future earnings and commercial revenue, not asking the governing body to lend them a few quid.
As it stands, the club is effectively ownerless. OK Bulls have gone into administration and are trying to offload the club they saved but ran so badly they loaded it with additional debt. Bradford Bulls 2014 Ltd are trying to bluff the RFL into accepting a crooked looking offer, a bluff which the RFL look to have called. That leaves the administrator, David Wilson, in charge, working with the RFL to find a new buyer.
Realistically, short of a Bulls fan winning the lotto this week, who would buy the club? They have a paper thin squad which has just lost the stand off for a few months, a 6 point deduction meaning almost certain relegation, debts that run comfortably into six figures that need settling and very little time to sort it out.
I’m an optimist, I really am (I even backed Wigan in the world Club Championship!), but at the time of writing, I’d be amazed if the Bulls make it to the half way point of the season.