No winner in Bradford troubles

It’s been a dark week for Bradford fans, although undoubtedly briefly brightened by that incredible win at league leaders Wigan in the face of adversity.

The dust had barely settled on that victory at the DW Stadium when the news broke early this week that 16 non-playing staff had been made redundant, including head coach Mick Potter.

As things stand, the future of the club still remains in jeopardy, but even if they are rescued by someone, amidst reported interest from local businesses, there will still be plenty of questions.

How has this happened? You could almost forgive the situation if it was solely down to the Iestyn Harris saga, but it appears not.

How big are Super League’s problems? The Bulls are the third team to enter administration in under 18 months, and this instance has been far more serious than anything before. All coming within the licence era which was meant to help stabilise the game, and add financial transparency.

What next for the Bulls if they are indeed rescued? For the sake of the competition’s integrity, their licence should be revoked. Forget the fact that they are one of the most successful teams of the past two decades, or that they have a relatively healthy fan base, if Glasgow Rangers FC can be voted out of the Scottish Premier League, then the commercial value of Bradford to Super League means nothing.

Of course, the Bulls will be a great loss, but they will have the opportunity to start afresh lower down the leagues. There needs to be a message sent out to club’s that they cannot live beyond their means, nor can they blemish the name of rugby league. Either way, a serious investigation needs to go, and other clubs need to be honest and look at themselves.

There will be a number of businesses left short by the Bulls collapse, businesses who may now think twice when dealing with rugby league people in the future. I say that having experienced it first hand myself this week.

Not only that, but what about players that other teams were chasing in the close season, only to be outbid by Bradford, who were spending money they ultimately didn’t have? Had rivals been able to add a few more players of quality to their squad, who instead ended up at Odsal, they may have ended up winning a few more games, and thus attracting more fans (e.g. revenue) through their own gates.

If Bradford’s licence is revoked, there’s no guarantee a new team would be able to step up. With it being World Cup year next term, a reduction of fixtures may too favour the players.

If the Bulls do drop out, and are forced in to Championship 1, they will be faced with the prospect of playing the likes of University of Gloucestershire All Golds, which with all due respect, is a huge difference to any standard they will have played at previously. The gulf in the divisions is so much greater now than it has ever been, particularly with the re-structuring of the Championships for 2013.

The only realistic solution I can see is that the Bulls take part in the 14-team Championship next season, with a Championship team replacing them in the top flight. But would that allow the Bulls to apply for a Super League licence for the 2015 season? Back in the 2008 process, Widnes were effectively punished for their own administration problems the previous year, while the likes of Leigh and Halifax won’t be too impressed if their bids for 2015 are suddenly diminished in favour of the new Bradford, who could ultimately just replace any team that may be elevated in 2013 come 2015.

Right now, the main concern for the Bulls is that they avoid liquidation altogether on Friday, although even that does occur, their name surely won’t be lost to rugby league for long.

Either way, there are plenty of questions that need to be asked. But who’s going to answer them?

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