Bradford cannot look to RFL to bail them out again after ground sale

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Questions continue to rage as to why cash-strapped Bradford Bulls find themselves in their current financial mire.

It is remarkable that such an esteemed club has had to dig out the begging bowl and plead with their supporters to help save their skins.

Those fans, quite rightly, are keen to make sure their hard-earned money is not mismanaged again if their club does overcome this troubling hurdle and survive.

There is no doubting chairman Peter Hood’s integrity, work ethic and passion for the cause but mistakes have clearly been made by the current Bulls board and some of its predecessors.

However, desperate times call for desperate measures and, today, the main concern has to be concentrating all minds and efforts on getting them out of this worrying situation.

Progress so far has been excellent with the Bulls last night reporting they were closing in on the £250,000 mark in pledges made to the cause.

There is every chance they will reach the £500,000 target set for Good Friday and earn a stay of execution but this is no time for complacency; they have clearly been guilty of that in the past given where they are now.

The Bulls are keen to stress the importance of Friday night’s game against Leeds Rhinos, steadfastly sticking to their claim it could be the last fixture in the club’s illustrious history.

They are at pains to inform fans how valuable it could be in their bid for survival.

Having budgeted for a crowd of 16,000, anything above that would go straight into the coffers.

With tremendous support already shown by Leeds fans, and the game not being televised, there is real hope the gate could be swelled significantly.

Jamie Peacock has urged people to help break that amazing record of 24,020 when the sides met in 1999 or the 23,375 five years later.

If they did, in one fell swoop it would equate to around £100,000 extra in their battle for safety.

Players earned nearly £4,000 when they washed 400 cars at Odsal on Sunday and there could be massive inroads met when an auction takes place on Thursday night; Peacock, Leon Pryce, Stuart Fielden and Brian McDermott are among those putting valuable personal mementoes up for grabs.

There is, undoubtedly, a huge wave of public support from throughout the game cascading down to Odsal, fans from all clubs hoping to make sure this great name does not disappear. But, make no mistake, that is still a very clear danger.

If they do not meet their targets, and both the tax man and bank manager call in the debts, they could be out of business.

The Yorkshire Post understands the Bulls currently owe their bank less than £150,000 after their overdraft was unexpectedly reduced but have a looming tax bill to meet and are also struggling for cash to pay players’ April wages.

People are wondering why the Rugby Football League has not helped the Bulls’ cause.

It purchased the Odsal Stadium lease from Bradford in January, the club returning some of that cash to pay off a debt it owed the RFL.

Surely, to overcome this short-term cash-flow problem, Red Hall bosses could loan some back?

It appears not. Perhaps, given so many rival clubs were privately seething that the RFL intervened to buy that lease, its upper echelons have decided no more assistance to one club on this level should be afforded.

Helping Bradford once could be viewed as savvy business. After all, if the club did go bust the RFL would instantly be able to house any reformed venture.

But bailing them out twice in such a short period would be seen as blatant favouritism.

Relationships between the two certainly must have deteriorated significantly during the interim and the intricacies of the Odsal deal remain opaque.

Bradford – whose handling of questions at the time was less than frank, to say the least – thought, with the proceeds, they would only have to clear a little over 60 per cent of their £725,000 RFL debt (Sky television money they had been advanced), leaving some left over to appease the tax man. The RFL will argue otherwise and say the terms were always clear; it all had to be settled.

The problem it has now, though, is it has threatened to revoke licences of clubs deep in financial crisis. But when issuing that warning last July they must have had Grade C clubs such as misfiring Wakefield and Crusaders in mind, not four-time Super League champions and Grade B licensed Bulls.

Will they follow through with that threat if Bradford do not claw their way back to safety?

Some Bulls insiders fear they will. The only solution is to take the decision out of their hands and get back on an even keel.

Hood has significant sponsorship deals in place and has vowed to cut football costs.

That will place more reliance on young talent such as John Bateman and Elliott Whitehead but the club will at least live within their means; an obvious failure to do that in the past has been the root of all these problems.

If the Bulls’ hierarchy had their time again, they would not have paid £3.6m cash to build the Coral Stand in 2003 and, instead, would have taken out a readily available and affordable loan.

But times were good then, when they were treble winners, and no one envisaged this current economic downturn.

A bumper crowd on Friday night will do much to revive Bradford Bulls and remind everyone, themselves most of all, what they bring to Super League.

The game owes them nothing but, if they get a second chance, it must not be squandered.