RFL defend decisions over new Bradford club as preferred bidders get set to unveil coach

Odsal Stadium, Bradford.
Odsal Stadium, Bradford.
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THE RUGBY FOOTBALL League has staunchly defended its actions in both who it has selected as the owners of a new Bradford club but also deciding in which division they will play.

New Zealanders Andrew Chalmers and Graham Lowe were the preferred bidders after Bradford Bulls went into liquidation this month following seven weeks in administration.

The duo are expected to make a series of major announcements regarding the re-formed Championship club, including the identity of their head coach, at a press conference today.

The RFL have come in for some fierce criticism for the way it has handled the whole saga but, during a media briefing in Salford yesterday, they explained why they chose the Kiwi pair and also why Bradford were not made to start life in League One.

“Rugby league experience was a big part of the (selection) decision,” said RFL chief operating officer Ralph Rimmer, with Chalmers formerly in charge of New Zealand Rugby League and Lowe being an ex-Wigan and Kiwi coach.

“They bring some capital investment as well. Their vision was also a part of it and they’ve got a big philosophy surrounding local talent. That rugby league understanding, however, was more compelling than any of the other four bidders.”

Questions had surfaced about some of the duo’s previous business dealings in New Zealand but Rimmer maintained they had passed their fit and proper persons test.

Rimmer, who said three parties are keen to work alongside the new owners, added: “It was part of the due-diligence; we’ve had a lengthy explanation of what went on which has been confirmed by solicitors over there in regards to how it was settled with the Crown to their satisfaction.”

Although the new owners have not provided a financial bond as a guarantee to the RFL, the governing body was satisfied with their “comprehensive” three-year business plan while RFL chief executive Nigel Wood refuted a claim by failed bidder Richard Lamb that he would put £1m into the club if successful.

Bradford will start with a minus 12 point deduction and just £150,000 central funding instead of the £270,000 the former club was due.

But the RFL opted against dropping them into League 1 which drew some criticism regarding whether it is a strong enough deterrent to other clubs.

However, Wood insisted: “Anybody who trivialises insolvency completely misses the point. It causes a lot of real distress, a lot of pain, hardship, uncertainty and there is always a butcher’s bill to pay.

“So I don’t think a decision, however controversial, to leave the club in the Championship, will cause a race to administration.”

Rimmer described keeping Bradford there, rather than promoting newly-formed Toronto Wolfpack or giving relegated Whitehaven a reprieve, as the “least worst option” given the logistical problems of it all.

As Bradford prepare for Sunday’s friendly at Huddersfield, Kiwi half-back Dane Chisholm has been told there is no contract for him and Australian Lachlan Burr is the latest ‘free agent’ player to move having joined Leigh.