BRADFORD Bulls have secured valuable support from the Houses of Parliament in their bid to stay afloat – and witnessed former chairman Chris Caisley pledge to lead them out of the doldrums.
However, although both announcements may be seen as positive developments as they bid to raise £500,000 to avert going into administration, the struggling West Yorkshire club’s future remains as clouded this morning as it did when their survival bid started last Tuesday.
Bradford take on Leeds Rhinos at Odsal tonight hoping a 20,000-plus crowd will serve as a last push towards reaching their target before a final decision is made tomorrow as to whether they can continue.
Pressure from their bank has left them in this current position, alongside a looming tax bill, but the Parliamentary Rugby League Group have acted to to try and give the club extra breathing space.
On behalf of the Group, its chairman Greg Mullholland, MP for Leeds North West, has written to his counterpart at the Royal Bank of Scotland Sir Phillip Hampton urging for an extension to their overdraft to overcome short-term financial problems.
He warns that putting the Bulls in such a “dire” position could have “huge ramifications for the city of Bradford and rugby league generally.”
Whether their actions will have any success remain to be seen and concerned fans will be more intrigued by Caisley’s offer of assistance.
A visionary figure who oversaw the club’s most successful period, including all four of their Super League titles before standing down in 2006, Caisley has vowed to turnaround the club’s fortunes once more if given the chance.
However, he insists he can only implement his business plan if successor Peter Hood stands down, something the current chairman, so far, has refused to do. Caisley is the largest single shareholder in the club with 26 per cent but claims to have the support of the majority, including former directors Rowland Agar and Stephen Coulby. He has called for an extraordinary general meeting, saying that majority has lost faith in Hood and fellow director Andrew Bennett who, between them, control 25 per cent.
Hood, though, is currently fighting to reach that £500,000 figure in hope that he can ride out the storm and take Bradford into calmer waters.
He has not ruled out standing aside if someone can come up with a suitable offer to bankroll the club and it is understood two parties are waiting to see how things develop over the next 24 hours.
Caisley’s assembly on their own are unlikely to have such funds and it remains to be seen whether he can attract the finance to force Hood’s hand.
He said: “Peter seemingly believes that he and Mr Bennett give the club the best chance of successfully finding a pathway through the financial difficulties because they are in discussions with potential investors who are of a similar view. The majority shareholders disagree and have asked the club’s directors to convene an extraordinary general meeting when the matter can be dealt with.”
He says Gary Tasker, who was Bulls general manager during those earlier halcyon days, is ready to conduct an urgent review of the club’s business and Caisley has, apparently, got the support of ex-Bradford head coach Brian Noble to aid football matters on a consultancy basis.
Supporters have met the potential rescue act with a mixed response. Undoubtedly, under Caisley and Noble, Bradford literally ruled the world of rugby league, lifting three World Club Challenges. But some fans also believe the spending at the height of their erstwhile chairman’s reign, including the controversial capture of Iestyn Harris, is in part to blame for today’s current problems.
There is a possibility that all the potential protagonists could be in the Odsal boardroom this evening. An impromptu deal could be thrashed out then but the likelihood is Hood will wait to see what tomorrow brings.
Bulls coach Mick Potter, meanwhile, will urge his squad to concentrate on the 80 minutes.
“I don’t want them getting distracted by what’s going on in and around here,” he said.
“The point I’ll be getting across to the players is, focus on what they can do – playing rugby league. The rest of the stuff will look after itself and let’s hope we have a good feeling at the end of the game.”