The wife of Salford owner Dr Marwan Koukash is involved in the battle to buy troubled Super League club Bradford Bulls.
With yesterday’s 5.30pm deadline to lodge formal bids with David Wilson, the club’s administrator, passed, The Yorkshire Post understands there are at least five offers on the table.
But Bradford City, the Bulls’ neighbouring football club, are believed to have opted against submitting a formal bid at this stage.
The Bantams have been linked with a Bulls takeover on several occasions, and although the Valley Parade club have held talks with the Rugby Football League and the administrators over recent weeks, no offer was submitted before last night’s deadline.
That opens the way for several other bidders, including London-based businessman Richard Lamb, Bradford Park Avenue and Mandy Koukash – wife of Salford’s millionaire owner.
A decision on the Odsal club’s ownership is due next week – with the RFL working in the background to check if the would-be buyers pass their fit and proper persons’ test. But it is the decision of Mandy Koukash to enter the bidding which has surprised many in the game.
The RFL confirmed yesterday there were no rules preventing a husband and wife owning rival Super League clubs.
There is already a similar situation in Super League, with Gary Hetherington holding the role of chief executive of Leeds while his wife Kathy, a former Hull chairperson and major shareholder, is currently acting as consultant chief executive at Wakefield.
Koukash insists his wife’s potential deal would not provide a “conflict of interest”.
“We’re as confident as we could be at this stage,” he said. “I am being told our bid is very good. There is substance behind it.
“There is no conflict of interests whatsoever. I see it as promoting the sport even further.
“Mandy wants to run the club herself, although I don’t think she will be fully hands on. I am sure she will bring in other people.”
Bradford are currently bottom of Super League and in a relegation fight after having six points deducted for going into administration.
The Koukash deal would provide coach Francis Cummins with cash to strengthen the squad.
“There would be funds to make sure the club survives this year,” Koukash said. “It’s going to be a big fight for them, having been deducted the six points. The main objective this year would be to avoid going down.”
Bulls legend and former coach Brian Noble – now working for Koukash at Salford Red Devils – yesterday backed Mandy Koukash’s rescue bid for a club where he was in charge when they won three Grand Finals in 2001, 2003 and 2005.
Noble believes, like Koukash, that Mandy has fallen in love with rugby league and is eager to get involved in her own club.
“I’ve given them a feel for the club and how massive a club Bradford can be if it is run properly,” Noble said.
“I have suggested that, should Mandy want to go into the Bulls, then it would be as exciting a prospect as Salford now.
“I hope she gets it. If she can bring the same enthusiasm and energy to Bradford that has been brought here, then happy days.
“I think the administrators and the Rugby Football League need to make a good decision. I don’t want to cause a family rift between husband and wife, but it would be an interesting fight. It would be awesome – I’d love to see that played out publicly.”
Noble, now in his second season in charge of Salford, is the most successful coach in the history of Super League courtesy of his spell with the Bulls and, as a Freeman of the city, would love Bradford to reclaim their former glory, although not at the expense of his current club.
“My focus is absolutely on the Devils and that won’t change at all,” he added. “But do I want Bradford to be successful? You’re damn right. Do I want them to be the team that had 25,000 people watching them? Absolutely.
“First and foremost I’m a proud Bradfordian – I remember walking up to the club when I was 15 years old – and I really want them to be second-best behind Salford”.
Lamb – owner of The Lucid Group – last night tweeted ‘a bid is being put in for the Bulls... #Tenaciousandproud’ just before the 5.30pm deadline.
Earlier he had said: “Building board of non execs that are people who are business people. Fans and potential sponsors. It is new people who want to get involved.
“Seen all numbers. If fans get behind it will make club great. I will ensure supporters on exec board. And my goal is to hand back to fans.”
The Bulls host Huddersfield Giants on Sunday – Dr Koukash and wife Mandy plan to attend – when a home win would see Bradford clear their six-point deduction.