AS THE battle to secure financially-stricken Bradford Bulls’ future continued last night, the Rugby Football League insisted they would not sell Odsal – the club’s famous stadium – cheaply to aid prospective buyers although they are open to offers.
The governing body were moved to make a statement barely 24 hours after the administrators of Bradford said they hoped to make a “significant announcement” about the sale of the Championship outfit.
Amid great confusion, players had been told by those administrators on Wednesday morning that the club faced liquidation if they did not find a buyer by today – only for them then to publicly state they had offers from two preferred parties on the table.
It is believed both are keen to take control of Bradford’s ground, their home since 1934, but which was sold for an undisclosed fee – believed to be £1.25m – to the RFL in January 2012.
That was just five months before they went into their first administration – the current spell is the former Super League champions’ third in five years – and the cash-strapped club have rented it back from the governing body ever since.
However, the RFL have wanted to “clarify” certain issues regarding their part in any deal to sell mired Bradford, which was placed in administration yet again five weeks ago following a winding-up petition by HM Revenue and Customs amid debts of more than £1m.
A statement read: “It is the role of the RFL to protect the interests of the game of rugby league. We understand that a number of interested parties have made it clear that any interest in buying the club is contingent on the RFL transferring its leasehold interest in Odsal to that party at an unspecified value.
“Clearly this is not an asset of the club, and therefore not available to be sold by the administrator.
“However at every point in the process we have been clear that the RFL Board would consider entering into separate discussions with any party to purchase the RFL’s interest, provided that the offer was reflective of the inherent value of the asset and safeguarded rugby league in Bradford.
“Whilst to date we have not received any substantive approach regarding our leasehold interest from any interested party, we remain open to such discussions.”
The statement continued: “The RFL would also like to reiterate that when a club enters administration due to poor local management, it is only right and proper that it protects the integrity of the league to ensure other properly managed member clubs do not suffer a disadvantage, by applying a sporting sanction.
“The exact sanction depends upon whether an arrangement is made with the existing club’s creditors and if so the scale of such an arrangement.
“These are set out within the guidelines of the RFL’s Insolvency Policy and the maximum sanction is a 12-point deduction.”
This seems likely for whoever takes over and, of course, if Bradford were able to start the 2017 season, as is the hope, it would almost write off any chance of making the lucrative top-four Qualifiers.
That, in turn, means there would be no promotion again and the Bulls, relegated in 2014 after their last administration, would be left in the second-tier once more – but still alive.
Liquidation, meanwhile, would be a fresh debt-free start, but leave them needing to apply for membership in League 1.
The RFL added: “Finally we’d like to say to all supporters, players and staff of Bradford Bulls that we are pushing for, and hopeful of, a positive conclusion in the coming days and we will continue to work closely with the administrator to try to ensure that this is the case.”