Bradford Bulls: An imperfect solution in an imperfect sport

Wouldn’t it have been nice if Bill Gates, Warren Buffett (the world’s most successful investor), the Duke of Westminster (Britain’s richest man) and the Sultan of Brunei had all been engaged in a battle to buy Bradford Bulls?

We could have all sat back and watched a bidding war between all those wealthy individuals.

But unfortunately for the Bulls, none of those four seem to have been interested in heading to Bradford to buy the club and rebuild Odsal Stadium.

So who else was going to do it?

The answer is, probably no one, which means the Bulls could have been left to hit the rocks and possibly be wound up.

And that would have been a tragedy for the club’s supporters, for the City of Bradford and for the whole of Rugby League.

It would have been so bad as to be unthinkable.

And I assume that is why a consortium led by the former RFL CEO Nigel Wood and including the current Dewsbury Rams Chairman Mark Sawyer got together and decided to try to save the club from that terrible fate.

And for doing that, they seem to have attracted a great deal of venom from some sources, including a section of the Bradford supporters.

Rugby League supporters are past masters at the art of conspiracy theories.

Many of them have told me that Nigel Wood is only buying the club because he has something that he doesn’t want to be uncovered by anyone else who might buy the Bulls.
That seems an absolutely ridiculous idea to me and I haven’t seen an iota of evidence that suggests anything other than the fact that Nigel wanted to try to rescue the club from its recent predicament.

In the past I have had plenty of disputes with Nigel during his time at the RFL. I suppose that is inevitable when he ran the game and I was trying to get to the bottom of what was happening at Red Hall.

The media are not always popular with people who run professional sport or sports clubs. That is just a fact of life. I certainly used to think that Nigel would have gained from being more open with the media.

But when compared to the future of one of our historic clubs, none of that matters a bean.

What matters is that the club is revived and brought back to health, both on and off the field.

That process has now seemingly begun, with the club having come out of special measures, so that it can now actually begin signing new and existing players.

And even more importantly, the club has avoided going into administration for the fourth time since 2012. Nigel and his colleagues have agreed to negotiate repayment terms for all the clubs existing debts.

As someone who was owed a five-figure sum by one of the previous incarnations of the Bulls, ending up with nothing, I only wish that Nigel and his colleagues had been on the scene earlier.

They have appointed Eric Perez as the club’s interim Chairman. And if you know anything about Eric, I would suggest that he is something close to a reincarnation of Peter Deakin, the man who played such a great part in popularising the Bulls’ brand almost 25 years ago. Like Peter, Eric is a man who can sell his vision of Rugby League, which we can see with the remarkable success of Toronto Wolfpack, which was his idea.

My only regret is that Eric doesn’t (I think) have access to the four wealthy individuals I referred to at the start of this article.

If he had, I have no doubt that he would persuade at least one of them, if not all of them, to investigate buying the Bulls.

The Bulls’ timeline since 2012 presents an incredibly sad story, with three administrations and one liquidation.

If the club can genuinely turn the corner under Nigel Wood’s majority ownership, he will deserve our thanks and admiration.

This article was first published in League Express, Mon 28th Oct 2019

Click here to read Bradford Bulls supporter Andrew Foster’s response.