Richard Hercock: Trouble and strife if relegation decider is a family affair

Dr Marwan Koukash

Dr Marwan Koukash

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Dr Marwan Koukash is a bit like Marmite. You either like him or – well, not hate him, but you take my point.

He is the colourful owner of Salford Red Devils whose summer name change hardly caused a ripple, particularly when you consider the level of protests at the eastern end of the M62 where Hull City are dallying with a change of identity to Hull Tigers.

In a sport where tradition is embraced, its passion passed through the generations, the arrival of new money in the shape of Dr Koukash, who gained a PhD in electrical engineering at Liverpool John Moores University, was a jolt to the status quo.

He has big ambitions for Salford, is a keen advocate of scrapping or amending the game’s salary cap, and brought in 14 players over the winter.

The racehorse owner certainly has split opinion in rugby league, and has never been constrained in his own views. He was fined £1,000 earlier this season for a scathing attack on the game’s sporting body, the Rugby Football League.

So much cynicism greeted the revelation that his wife, Mandy, had also caught the rugby league “fever” and wanted to buy ailing Bradford Bulls.

Mrs Koukash submitted a bid to the Bulls’ administrator before Thursday’s deadline and noises coming out of the other side of the Pennines suggest she is confident of success.

A decision should be made early next week, and if Mrs K does become ‘Queen of Odsal’ then it will make for some interesting pillow talk in the Koukash household.

I have heard of couples having a wager on their fantasy league teams, but actually owning your own team does seem a little extreme. Can we expect to hear that Victoria Beckham is buying LA Galaxy to rival husband David’s new MLS franchise in Miami in the not too distant future?

In all seriousness, there are obviously some grounds for concern over conflict of interest.

Picture the scenario if Mrs K wins the race to buy the Bulls and, on the last day of the season, Bradford need just a point to avoid relegation to the Championship.

Who are they playing? Salford, who are currently mid-table.

It would be an invidious position for Salford to find themselves in should they be required to win and sentence their owner’s wife’s team to relegation.

There are no RFL rules preventing a husband and wife owning rival clubs, but maybe this is an issue which needs looking at. It just does not seem healthy for the game.

What is not in doubt is, if Mrs K is successful, she will bring much-needed financial stability to Bradford, a club who have lurched from one crisis to another in recent times.

Maybe a woman’s touch is just what the Bulls need to restore them to their former glories, as experienced under coach Brian Noble, now working for 
Dr Koukash at Salford.

Noble made me chuckle when he said on Thursday: “I don’t want to cause a family rift between husband and wife but it would be an interesting fight.”

It conjured up images of the Koukash family breakfast bar, the spouses mulling over the league table and reports in the morning newspaper.

Most married couples can find plenty to argue about, without adding the explosive element of rival club ownership.

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