Coulby calls for clarity as Bulls continue their fight

Fans collect money for the Bulls
Fans collect money for the Bulls
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As a fanatical schoolboy fan nearly 50 years ago, Stephen Coulby gave up his hard-earned pocket money to help save his beloved Bradford Northern.

When the famous club went under, it was their legendary former player Trevor Foster who led the fight for revival – urging supporters to do their utmost to help get them out of trouble.

The Welshman’s endeavours, along with those of many others, were richly-rewarded and, in part, are why a club still stands today.

Admittedly, it is in the middle of a similar battle as it strives to stave off another financial calamity, but the memory serves Coulby well.

“My heart goes out to people now, all face-painting and collecting money,” the club’s associate director told the Yorkshire Post. “I did it in 1963 and remember giving money to Trevor himself. The effort people put in then was tremendous, as it is now, and the players have certainly risen to the occasion.”

Since news of Bradford’s financial problems emerged on March 27, they have lost just once and will look for a fourth successive win when they entertain Super League leaders Huddersfield Giants on Sunday.

Having raised the initial £500,000 required by Easter Monday to avoid a winding-up order, the club still needs the same figure again in the next few weeks to secure its future.

Coulby is in a group of shareholders, including ex-chairman Chris Caisley, who hope to help the cause. However, they want current chairman Peter Hood and fellow board member Andrew Bennett to stand aside for that to happen.

Or, at least, explain the full extent of the financial problems at an extraordinary general meeting so they can decide whether they can help or not.

Coulby, who served on the board for 15 years, admits he was concerned about the way the club was heading back in 2010, and this was partly the reason for him standing down in August of that year.

He was joined by Rowland Agar and Ian Illingworth in becoming newly-titled associate directors, club stalwarts Jack Bates and Colin Tordoff having already left.

“Board meetings on Monday nights just became arguments, going through the same stuff every week,” said Coulby.

“We’d be saying there should be no spending on certain things, they’d argue otherwise and it was becoming ‘us’ and ‘them’. We agreed we’d take a step back, leave them (Hood and Bennett) to do the finance. They could guarantee it, which they did, and it was their responsibility.

“But as shareholders we still wanted some representation and agreed we’d meet every month.

“If there’s a financial matter they could consult us but we wouldn’t turn around anymore saying don’t do this or that.

“It would have worked if we were meeting every month but, 20 months on, we haven’t had a single meeting yet.

“Things have just gone downhill and we did lose confidence in Peter but I’d just urge him to meet us to see what we can do.”

The club says it has three options plus Caisley’s plan to consider. Coulby – who still represents the Bulls on the RFL Council – is hopeful an EGM will be called, sooner rather than later, so clarity can be found.

“If the club put a reasonable case forward and have plans in place then fair enough,” he said. “But they seem to be struggling and we just want to know the worst-case scenario to let us see if we can do something. There are people who want to help but aren’t prepared to deal with Peter.

“We just want to get the shareholders together – eight people own more than 80 per cent of the club and most of those have been on the board – to get things out in the open.

“It’s still not clear how the club got in this situation. We only stood down in 2010 and some of the worst-case scenarios we were predicting then were nowhere near what we’re seeing now.”

Some fans, however, are concerned about Caisley’s motives.

He may have presided over the club’s golden period, including 2003 when they won Super League, the Challenge Cup and a World Club Challenge title, but many believe his actions in the costly Iestyn Harris saga are part of the reason Bradford are now in this predicament.

However, Coulby – who organised the meeting with Leeds Rhinos owner Paul Caddick to resolve that long-running legal issue – insists that is not the case.

“Chris is supposed to have jumped ship when he stood down in 2006 but that is nonsense,” he said.

“He wanted to leave in 2004 as he had a young family and had been doing it – without payment – for years. But myself and Jack Bates persuaded him to continue another season. I also know the figures for that Harris-Leeds deal and it is not the reason the club’s in this state.

“One deal was not great, but what about Hape, Withers, Vagana, Vainikolo...?

“We would have done things different (re Harris) in hindsight but we could cover it due to the increase in TV money.

“It’s so sad how things have got but we just want to try to do what is best for the club.”

As the manoeuvrings continue, all of those concerned can surely never lose sight of that.

Regardless of who may be right or wrong, it is time for the in-fighting at Odsal to come to an end so a solution is found swiftly.