RFL urged to show leniency to troubled Bradford

Bradford South MP Gerry Sutcliffe last night urged the RFL to show some leniency and come to the bargaining table to help save beleaguered Bradford Bulls.

As the governing body yesterday rejected a second offer from the ABC consortium wanting to take the financially-crippled club out of administration, hopes were fading for a positive conclusion.

The RFL revealed for the first time that ABC’s revised bid was not only rebuffed due to it being conditional on the Bulls’ Super League licence and buying back the Odsal lease, but given there was no detailed business plan provided, proof of funding or even the identity of its directors.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

However, Sutcliffe, who is fronting a rival bid with Bradford curry house owner Omar Khan as its “chief funder”, says they have produced all of that requisite information and have no interest in taking charge of the stadium.

Super League tenure remains a sticking point, though, and the RFL has always maintained they will not accept conditional bids.

But Sutcliffe told the Yorkshire Post: “We can’t work our business plan with anything other than Super League.

“We haven’t got the same sort of view as the other bid with regards the lease; we agree with the RFL that the long-term development of Odsal to the benefit of the sport is important ie. the Odsal Sporting Village. We don’t want to buy it. But it is just about the licence.”

Bradford revoked their Super League membership when they fell into administration on June 26 and, while they can finish the season, they have no guarantee they will be able to resume in 2013.

Unless a deal is done, liquidation looms and a new club would have to start in the Championship or perhaps even Championship One akin to what happened with Scottish football giants Rangers.

However, Sutcliffe added: “This is very different to the Glasgow Rangers situation. They may have been put in the Scottish Third Division but they have the opportunity to get promotion back up into the Premier League.

“Because of the licence system we have, there’s no guarantee we’ll even get the chance to get into Super League again if we’re put in the Championship.

“I’m not sure if licences will be around in the future but what they are asking us to do is go down a division knowing we may not have the opportunity to return.

“What we’ve done over the last two-and-a-half weeks is talk to everybody in Bradford who cares about the Bradford Bulls. There are different business people included in our bid but also the supporters themselves while I’m putting my name to it as an MP and former Sports Minister so surely that gives us a bit of kudos?

“We’ve taken time speaking to the administrator to get these T’s crossed and I’s dotted to make sure we can provide all the information the RFL want and we’re happy to talk and discuss it all.”

The ABC consortium has said it will pull out unless a Super League future can be confirmed.

When asked if Khan’s offer was the same, Sutcliffe replied: “We’d want to know how they (the RFL) would support the business and keep rugby at Odsal.

“If they were to give us money to help support us then we might take a different view but it’s difficult to move forward with a business plan without knowing your income streams.”

On ABC’s bid, RFL director of standards and licensing Blake Solly said: “Whilst we are encouraged by the continued interest in purchasing Bradford Bulls, it is disappointing that the ABC Consortium are still unable to submit an unconditional offer.

“We have been consistent and clear in that our position is we are unable to consider any offer which comes with strings attached. The position with Bradford Bulls is identical to that faced by Widnes Vikings and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, who were taken out of administration in 2007 and 2011, respectively, by new owners without any guarantee as to which competition they would be playing in.

“All enquirers have been informed that the RFL is only interested in receiving offers for Bradford Bulls which are free from any condition pertaining to competition membership or the re-acquisition of Odsal Stadium.

“The ABC Consortium have also been informed that any unconditional offer would also have to be accompanied by a detailed business plan, the identity of all material shareholders and proposed directors and the appropriate proof that the required levels of funding are in place.

“Unfortunately the ABC Consortium have been unable to supply any of the above information, leaving the RFL with no option but to deem the offer unacceptable.”

The RFL is continuing to speak to the club’s administrator following his request for an advance of remaining distributions to meet payroll on August 14.

Bulls interim chief executive Gary Tasker has urged fans to attend Sunday’s home game with Widnes Vikings as they bid to recover the six-point deduction incurred for administration.

“We’re confident we can achieve our goal of reaching the play-offs and need as many supporters as possible to come down on Sunday to get behind the team,” he said, with children able to gain entry for just one pound.

“Support of our fans is vital to our short and long term future.”

Leeds Rhinos’ Brent Webb and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats’ Oliver Wilkes have been banned after being found guilty by the RFL of reckless tackles in Monday night’s Super League match.

Rhinos full-back Brent Webb was suspended for two matches and fined £300 after pleading guilty to a Grade B reckless tackle with his shoulder/elbow on Danny Kirmond in the third minute.

Wilkes, who pleaded not guilty, was fined £300 and banned for one match after a Grade B tackle on Rob Burrow.

Huddersfield Giants have signed 21-year-old prop Anthony Mullally from Widnes Vikings for an undisclosed transfer fee.