Fans would have pivotal role in one of four Bradford RL bids

ONE of the four bids the Rugby Football League are considering to take on a new club in Bradford has based its application on replicating the supporters' trust model central to German football.

Fans of liquidated club Bradford Bulls will hope there are brighter days in prospect with four bids submitted to the Rugby Football League to set up a new club in the city (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).
Fans of liquidated club Bradford Bulls will hope there are brighter days in prospect with four bids submitted to the Rugby Football League to set up a new club in the city (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).

After a dozen initial requests for further information, the governing body announced they received a quartet of submitted bids by yesterday’s noon deadline.

Their executive will now assess them all before making their recommendation to the RFL independent board as to who they believe should start a new professional rugby league club in the city following last week’s liquidation of Bradford Bulls.

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Lucid Sporting Management incorporating a proposed chief executive of Damian Irvine – the former Cronulla Sharks chairman and Wycombe Wanderers’ head of commercial activities – plus joint-chairmen Richard Lamb and Andy Agar, are hoping to earn that chance.

Lamb, who is also Rotherham Titans’ chief executive, told The Yorkshire Post: “Ours is slightly different to the traditional model.

“Effectively, we’re saying the three of us – myself, Damian Irvine and Andy Agar – would run the company, but we’d set it up essentially as a fans’ trust like the Bundesliga model of ‘50 + 1’.

“The key element is we’ll run it as a commercial entity with 52 per cent as the fans’ trust and 48 per cent as LSM.

“We wouldn’t rely on the supporters, but with the help of them we feel it is something that, together, will secure the long term of the club.”

Former World Club champions Bradford suffered three administrations inside just five years following a succession of financial mismanagements so the RFL are intent on securing the right people to take charge next.

They have outlined certain criteria and Lamb continued: “We have fulfilled all the requirements asked of us by the RFL.

“We’ve provided proof of funding, have set out a three-year plan and can provide guarantees.

“Now we’ll see how it compares with the other bids.

“We’re not property developers; we’re not interested in buying Odsal. We’re wanting to establish a rugby league club that has longevity.

“Rather than having a boom and bust period, with our financial model we don’t feel like we are over-expecting and believe this is sustainable.

“It’s important we re-engage with fans and give people confidence that there is security around the club as, otherwise, it will be an even longer, harder process than what it is already sure to be.

“We feel we’re being realistic about our numbers and we’re hopeful that the RFL will look at it and believe, too, that it will work in this way.”

Current British football clubs to operate like this are Wycombe, Portsmouth and Rochdale.

David Thorne, the former chief executive and owner of Wasps rugby union side, has shown his intent by registering a company called Bradford Bulls Capital Limited with Companies House last Wednesday.

The New Zealander also spoke to the remaining members of their playing squad – five have left since the club went into liquidation – at Odsal Stadium on Friday.

Thorne, too, finalised his bid before the deadline yesterday but last night said: “I want to respect the process of the RFL now and don’t think it would be appropriate to make any comments.

“It’s a delicate situation and in the interests of everybody concerned I think it is now best to wait for them to make their decision.”

Any new club in Bradford have been told they will start the new Championship season – their first game is set for Hull KR on February 5 – on minus 12 points.

Although the RFL board are not expected to make a decision on new owners until the end of this week at the earliest, it is hoped a scheduled friendly fixture at Batley Bulldogs on Sunday could still go ahead.

Batley chief executive Paul Harrison said they have also offered to help Bradford players whose wages were not paid last month.

“There’s a lot of stuff to sort out, but if we can play them we will and we’re just waiting to find out,” he said. “We should know from the RFL by Tuesday lunchtime. We said we’d share the gate with their players – the ones who are getting the harsh end of the stick – and we’re quite happy to do that direct so it is nothing to do with the club.”

In a statement last night, the RFL said that the “four bids that have been submitted will remain confidential and will now be thoroughly assessed by the RFL Executive, which aims to make a recommendation to the RFL Board as soon as possible”, adding: “Bradford is a great city with a rich Rugby League heritage and deserves a professional club that supporters can be proud of.”