Could Bradford Bulls return to Odsal in the future

Bulls fans bid farewell to Odsal in 2019.
Bulls fans bid farewell to Odsal in 2019.
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The Rugby Football League is to continue to maintain an empty Odsal stadium in 2020 to ensure Bradford Bulls would be able to return to play there in 2021, RFL chairman Simon Johnson has said.

READ MORE - Nigel Wood leads Bradford Bulls rescue bid

The governing body paid around £1.2million to the Bulls for the lease of the famous old ground in 2012 at the height of the club's financial woes in order to secure its future as a rugby league venue.

However, the ground which once hosted a world record crowd of 102,569 for a Challenge Cup final replay in 1954 will be unused next year following a decision by Bradford's former chairman Andrew Chalmers to switch the club's home games to Dewsbury.

Odsal has depreciated significantly in value over the last seven years and Johnson says the board is exploring the possibility of selling its asset while keeping open the option for the team's return.

"Odsal is currently mothballed, following the decision by Bradford Bulls to leave," Johnson said.

"The board is working with the club to ensure that a return to the stadium in 2021 remains an option, whilst continuing positive discussions with Bradford City Council on a development plan for the site."

Chalmers recently stepped down as Bradford chairman, paving the way for a new consortium to take over ownership of the four-times Super League champions.

Ironically, the new majority shareholder is Nigel Wood, who as RFL chief executive signed off the purchase of the Odsal lease by the governing body in 2012 but Johnson says he became satisfied with the new management before approving the share transfer.

"It is important to remember the board of the RFL does not run rugby league clubs, our job is approve ownership and ensure clubs put forward plans and budgets to give them the best chance of remaining sustainable," he said.

"What I can say about this consortium is that they have submitted to the executive team budgets that show how they intend to run the club sustainably and how they intend to address the debt and ensure the creditors are dealt with properly and fairly.

"We're comfortable with the financial information they have supplied."

Johnson says the new shareholders have passed the owners and directors test.

Canadian businessman Eric Perez, the man who founded Toronto Wolfpack, has been appointed as interim chairman and the only other member of the consortium named so far is Mark Sawyer, chairman of fellow Championship club Dewsbury who has taken a minority stake in the club.

Johnson says the governing body is also satisfied with the outcome of an investigation into events at Bradford since the purchase of the lease and the three subsequent insolvency events.

He said: "The board considered a very detailed chronology and summary of all the decisions that have been taken by the RFL since 2011 and our conclusions were that they were reasonable based on the circumstances and relevant information pertaining at that time."