A Q&A with new Bradford Bulls shareholder Mark Sawyer

Matthew Shaw speaks to Bradford shareholder and Dewsbury Rams chairman Mark Sawyer about the Bulls.

M Sh: You said at the forum you’d be happy to outline the budgets for next season, what are they?

M Sa: I will be probably in a couple of days because I’ve just got to agree the budget with the RFL to do with the Academy and so on, then I can give you the global figure. But John (Kear) has a base figure and he’s working to that at the moment. Went the global figure comes in we’ll be quite willing to release that.

M Sh: In terms of outgoings, how many players that are contracted for next year do you anticipate will leave?

M Sa: I don’t know, what I would guarantee is that some are going to be leaving for various reasons. We saw a senior player leave for various reasons. What we saw there was a player move to Keighley that would have happened anywhere. He’s going there and getting part of the coaching setup coming to the back end of his career. It was the right thing for the Bulls to do. People are saying he was ditched for budget restrictions, that’s not the case.

M Sh: How big is the creditors’ bill?

M Sa: It’s substantial. The main creditor is Andrew Chalmers and he has given an undertaking that his bill will not be pursued and we have no right to pursue it.

M Sh: Can you outline the long-term strategy to be back at Odsal?

M Sa: When we say getting back to Odsal, it’s our prime target in Bradford but what is clear is the Bulls need to be in Bradford. It might well be that we can’t do anything to get back to Odsal. We’ve now got a lot of ideas how Odsal can be made sustainable and improvements that can be made. We need to come up with a scheme for the whole site and show what our plans are. The important thing is to make sure all the stakeholders are involved. Bradford must get back. Bringing the Bulls back to Bradford, that is what our campaign is based on. To be sustainable, it has to be back at Bradford. It’s a top six club, but what we’ve got to do is build back up but do it as quick as possible. Eric is excited and thinks he can build up the commercial base very quickly. We’re moving as quick as we can, but we can only move if it is affordable and sustainable. There have been three failures and frustration at past regimes. Without putting the hard yards in, the club won’t go anywhere.

M Sh: What are the goals for the club on and off the pitch in the next 12 months?

M Sa: We want to be competitive in the division. The goal is a lot higher than worrying about relegation. But we want to show a genuine pathway to get back to Bradford. People can make no doubt, all the stops will be pulled out to get back to Bradford. That is the main aim. On the pitch I would say that John and the coaching staff are behind the budget they’re working with. It will be a basic budget, we’ll release that figure as I don’t want to be misleading people. I’d like to think we’d be nearer the middle than relegation, maybe a little higher. We’re realistic and not expecting any more than is realistic. We’ll assemble a team, some will be going out, we will lose some we don’t want to lose, but it won’t be a mass exodus.

M Sh: I assume another goal is to clear the creditors’ bill?

M Sa: We’re coming to an agreement with the creditors one by one. There will be some frustration someone hasn’t been in touch, but we’re dealing with things as quick as possible. One of the major creditors will be paid off of on Friday on an agreement. There’s one team that has agreed for us to pay off some money owing in instalments, all the other clubs have been paid off. The image of Bradford, to supporters and other clubs, it’s important that brand has some pride put behind it.

M Sh: When you say clubs will be paid off, there was talk ticket sale money was owed?

M Sa: All ticket sales to all clubs have been paid. There’s one club with an outstanding balance. They’ve been very good to the Bulls and said they’ll take instalments. I don’t want to say who that club is because I don’t want to cause them embarrassment, but everyone else is paid off. There is a substantial debt there, but that happens with rugby clubs and trading. We think we can cope with it and we’re putting our money and neck on the block to resolve that situation so the club doesn’t fall into a CVA or liquidation. If we get it wrong we will lose a lot of money too. But I don’t think we’ll get it wrong and I’m overwhelmed with the support coming forward from people.

M Sh: Is it true the club has received advancements on next year’s central funding? If so, how much?

M Sa: No.

M Sh: Will the club be remaining at their Tong training facility?

M Sa: What I would say the council has been as supportive as they can be. But they have to protect their ratepayers, taxpayers and whatever, but they’re desperate the Bulls get back to Bradford. The local MP could not possibly be more supportive.

M Sh: What’s the gain in this for you? You’ve done a good job at Dewsbury, it appears you’re putting your neck on the line here.

M Sa: I am, make no mistake about it. I’m also open and honest and a lot of friends within the game have said I must be mad. But the money I’m putting at risk is my family’s money and does not affect or risk the money I put into Dewsbury one iota. I’m going nowhere from that. But with the circumstances of Bradford doing a ground share and being asked to negotiate out of special measures, and Andrew asked me to find a buyer for the shares. I was a reluctant investor to start with. I was trying my best not to get involved, but the bottom line is people would be fearful of investing in what is a tarnished brand and make no mistake, it is tarnished. I’m a bit fearful to be honest because we don’t know how many people will come to Dewsbury to watch them, but there will be some concerned the numbers will drop off and what security and backup we were offering from the RFL. Thy questioned that and was one reason they were struggling to get out of special measures.

I’d have a little bit of personal satisfaction if I got the club back on its feet. I’ve no interest in doing a royal wave from the box at Odsal or wherever they go back. When anybody went to Sheffield against Bradford, the last match at Odsal, they couldn’t help but have their heartstrings pulled. I hope I can make a difference, nothing can be guaranteed. People must understand I’m putting a team of shareholders together with myself and Nigel’s (Wood) family the major ones. Others will be coming in but they’ll be smaller shareholders. All we want to do is get this club back on its feet. All the nonsense in the papers slamming Nigel Wood are just totally wrong. He’s put his hand up, he’s a Bulls supporter and wants to make a difference. It isn’t the intention from me to be selling shares for a quick profit, and I will ensure it doesn’t affect my involvement in Dewsbury. I think I can add a bit of value.