Bulls given vital breathing space

The latest on the future of the Bradford Bulls.
The latest on the future of the Bradford Bulls.
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FIVE different Bradford businesses make up the consortium which is putting together a rescue package to save the city’s troubled Bulls rugby league club.

The Odsal outfit were just hours away from being put into liquidation on Tuesday as administrator Brendan Guilfoyle attempted to find a buyer for the crisis-hit Stobart Super League club.

It was only the emergence of the ABC consortium allied to the Rugby Football League’s decision to forward money from the club’s Sky television allocation to help pay tomorrow’s £200,000 wages bill which convinced Guilfoyle to extend the deadline to find new buyers until Friday, July 27.

One of the consortium businesses is the city’s famous Akbar’s restaurant, led by managing director Shabir Hussain, while the Yorkshire Post understands others include property developers from the West Yorkshire city.

ABC met with Bulls management, Guilfoyle, interim chief executive Gary Tasker and former Bulls coach Brian Noble on Monday night to look at bringing the Bulls out of their financial chaos and back onto a stable footing.

“What is being put together is a rescue package to rescue the Bulls from the situation they are in,” said Dill Butt, the corporate affairs director at Akbar’s.

“We are not making any commitment to what the final outcome is. We want to support the survival of the Bulls. It’s steeped in history and is part of our heritage.

“We want to move fairly quickly.

“Akbar’s have always been keen followers of Bradford Bulls and it has been very much at the heart of the community and the heritage of Bradford. We are putting together some sort of rescue package and are still in negotiations but things are looking very positive. We are looking to make an announcement at the end of this week. We are pledging our support if everything we are in discussion about proves to be a viable proposition.”

The consortium want assurances from the RFL that the Bulls – who face a possible six-point deduction for entering administation – will keep hold of their Super League spot and buy back the lease for Odsal from the game’s ruling body.

A stumbling block could be the RFL’s concerns over what would happen to Odsal if they sold back the lease, amid suggestions the Bulls could move to Valley Parade.

“I am very confident that, on the proviso that they (the RFL) come forward with what we would like to see, the Bulls have got hope to continue on,” added Butt.

Shabir Hussain, the founder of the Akbar’s chain – he started with a 28-seat restaurant in Bradford city centre – now has outlets across the North.

His ethos has always been “anything is possible – it’s just a case of how bad you want it”.

The extension to the deadline to find new owners means, on the field, Bradford can at least start looking towards their next Super League match, at Leeds Rhinos a week tomorrow.

Mick Potter, the Bulls coach who was made redundant along with 15 full-time staff in a cost-cutting exercise last week, returned in an unpaid role to help Bradford beat London Broncos on Sunday.

Despite being on the look-out for new employers in his native Australia, 48-year-old Potter has agreed to help out the Bulls in the short-term with preparations for the trip to Headingley Carnegie.

“I’m planning that now, unless something untoward happens – all the coaching staff are,” said Potter. “We can’t abandon the players. The alternative is they won’t be prepped and you can’t go into a game against Leeds under-done. You have to be at your best against Leeds.

“We’re in the process of planning for that game, getting the information together that the players will need, and it will continue over the weekend.

“We’ll be in (today) but the next training session when all the players are in will be on Monday. Some are doing extra at a local gym to maintain their strength and fitness.”

While Potter is prepared to work without pay in the short term, he has continued his job search in Australia.

“I’m still voluntary and I’m getting in touch with Brendan to let him know what’s going on,” he said.

“It’s unsustainable long-term and I need to find a job that actually pays its way. I’m still trying to make contact in Australia but it’s proving very difficult because there are no positions in rugby league.”

Bradford fans have launched a hardship fund to help the backroom staff who lost their jobs.

BullBuilder, the Bradford supporters’ trust, say the fund will be administered by the club’s pastor Warren Evans.

“We were concerned to do our best to ensure that their commitment to the Bulls’ cause would not lead to financial hardship on their part,” said spokesman Mike Farren.

“We guarantee that the fund will be ring-fenced for the specific purpose of helping these individuals and will be returned to the contributor if not used in this way.”

The trust have also agreed to foot the bill for the club’s academy team’s trip to Hull KR this weekend and the cost of a physiotherapist to ensure the match goes ahead.

Potter said: “It’s a lovely gesture and it shows the passion and commitment the fans have for the club. I feel they shouldn’t need to be doing that sort of stuff but everybody should be grateful to the supporters.”