Relieved Bradford hit first target

BUOYANT Bradford Bulls have secured their short-term future by raising more than £500,000 and now have “four to six weeks” to generate the same sum again.

Just under a fortnight after appealing to fans to help them stave off going bust, the Super League club yesterday confirmed they have reached their initial pledge target.

Bulls chief executive Ryan Duckett says a pressing tax bill – and the players’ wages – will now be paid to alleviate the looming threat of a winding-up order.

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Bradford, however, must still find another half a million pounds to ensure they can see out the season and build for the future.

Duckett believes the supporters’ sterling efforts have bought them time to do just that but also highlighted to potential investors the benefits of putting their own money into the business.

If the club are to continue, they require fresh impetus and those avenues will now be explored.

Duckett told the Yorkshire Post: “It was always the case that the first £500,000 would give us the chance to do this.

“Our supporters have been tremendous; we literally had no cash and this was always done to sort these short-term liabilities.

“It doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods but it means we’ve got four to six weeks to look to tie up some of this interest, whether it be people getting more involved with the club or even acquiring it.

“Some of the commercial opportunities are potentially very good and people looking at investing into the club have certainly been impressed by the tremendous response of our fans and other stakeholders.

“We’ve had a brilliant response not only from our supporters but the whole rugby league community. We’ve had some interesting conversations with people about the club but also sponsors and a few other things. This gives us some time to get them over the line.”

The pledge total had reached £506,000 when the club made their announcement late yesterday afternoon. It had been a tortuous wait for nervous supporters who had already been told Saturday’s planned announcement was delayed for one last push.

The pledge deadline was put back until midnight on Monday in order to reach the crucial target and last night relieved fans were confidently looking ahead to a more prosperous future.

The squad, who had already raised spirits with two magnificent wins over the Easter weekend, will also be happier in light of yesterday’s events.

When asked if they would be paid their wages this month, Duckett responded: “Yes, I’m very confident they will.

“We made it clear that the players’ wages – which are due at the end of the week – and the tax bill were the main concerns.

“We now need to get the actual pledges in to do that; some people have left cheques, some have given their details over the phone but there are others who we need to redeem their pledges as soon as possible so we can address these short-term issues.”

Duckett and chairman Peter Hood spent yesterday locked in talks with various potential investors as they began to work on a clear pathway for the Odsal club.

Former chairman Chris Caisley has already expressed his desire to return – but only if Hood stands down – while Guiseley FC owner Steve Parkin could now revive his interest in the former champions.

So far, the Bulls have resisted any temptation to cash in on any of their prized assets.

They insist the sale of talented young players, such as England Academy captain John Bateman or England Knights second-row Elliott Whitehead, would be the last resort.

Bateman alone could attract a six-figure fee from Warrington Wolves but Duckett said: “The youth we have here has always been part of our long-term strategy and it’s not something we’re wanting to do.

“Hopefully we can raise the next monies through other means and keep to that long-term strategy.”

As relief pervaded Odsal last night, Duckett added: “It’s been a mad couple of weeks for our staff and players as well who have played their part in what has been a really tough time.

“But we’re positive about the future and are looking forward to now proceeding to the next phase of our plan.

“The directors, staff, coaching staff and players would like to sincerely thank all of those who have pledged and those who have contributed in a broader sense – working tirelessly, fundraising and organising events to raise cash for the club.

“We are truly grateful to every participant for every ounce of effort put in to save the club.”

An attractive Challenge Cup fourth-round tie at the weekend would have served as another major boost towards the club coffers.

Unfortunately, the visit of Championship One Doncaster will not generate the same bumper pay day as Bradford’s emotional Good Friday win over Leeds Rhinos.

However, progression into thelast 16 could set up such a tie and ex-England star Jamie Langley told the Yorkshire Post: “Just hearing we’ve reached the pledge total is a massive relief.

“It had been steadily climbing but we were always a little nervous we wouldn’t get there.

“A huge thanks to everyone who has supported the cause. Getting four points against Leeds and Widnes just bolsters the fact the club is going in the right direction and justifies everyone pledging.”

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