Bradford Bulls will apply to become Super League’s twelfth team as the club’s hopes of returning to Odsal continue to grow.
CEO Mark Sawyer confirmed the club would throw their hat in the ring after Super League confirmed they would replace Toronto Wolfpack, following the decision to reject their reapplication to the competition.
The Bulls, one of only four clubs to win Super League in its 25-year history, haven’t been in the top flight since 2014.
A gruesome demise has seen the club liquidated, relegated all the way down to League 1 and now forced to leave their spiritual Odsal home as a result of unaffordable cost.
Key to their bid will be returning to the city, with the club currently lodging at Dewsbury Rams’ Tetley’s Stadium.
But Sawyer is growing increasingly confident that a return to Odsal next year is achievable as talks with the RFL and Bradford City Council advance, while the club continues to work towards discovering the costs of renovating the facility.
“I think the Bulls would have something to offer to Super League and we’ll follow the processes of applying,” he said.
“I think it’s important that for us to consider applying for Super League, we have to get the Bulls back in Bradford.
“We’re in the process at the moment of talking about getting back to Odsal and we’re getting more confident by the day we can deliver something acceptable for the local authorities, the council and the Bulls. If we were to be considered for Super League it’s so important that we’re there.
“We’re as confident as we can be that we can be in around Easter time to do the work required. We’re pricing up what needs doing to get back in. We’ve got some very good sponsors in the building trade and they’re looking and pricing things up. What we can’t be doing is saying we’re going back in there and not know what terms we’re talking about. But in the last few weeks, we’ve gathered the facts and figures of what it’s going to cost.
“It’s important to note that the aim is to get back in Odsal, whether we’re a Super League or Championship club. The chance of going back to Super League is irrelevant in that. But a lot of spadework has been put in and it’s started rolling along again. At the minute, all signs are indicating that there’s a deal to be done to get us back in there and it would be nice if the panel considers that.”
Sawyer admits the club’s awful financial turmoil in recent years will leave many sceptical of the club’s ability to operate at the top level.
The club has undergone four administrations, one liquidation and even as recently as last year found itself financially challenged, with unpaid pension payments among their misdemeanours during the ownership of Andrew Chalmers.
The majority stake of the club is now owned by the family of former RFL chief executive Nigel Wood, who, along with Sawyer, took on the club after its latest troubles.
But Sawyer believes it would be unfair to write off the Bulls’ case purely based on a decade of turbulence off the field.
“There’s no doubt that you’ve got to look at it but at some point in time, every club has found themselves in financial strife.
“The issue with Bradford is there have been repeated failures. But as I said when I got involved, all I can offer is to be judged on our actions as we move forward.
“Obviously, I would imagine, part of the submission will be stability and liquidity and we’ll be judged on that. But if it’s a case of being judged on previous failings it would be disappointing. It’s clear to see we struggled for a number of years and answers over how we can operate compared to other operators would be fair questions to be asked.
“But it’s not a case of us going in and not thinking we’ll be able to fight our corner and we’re more than happy for them to look into our proposals.”
Meanwhile, the Bulls have handed former England Youth International Reece Hamlett a chance to shine at first team level after agreeing a one-year deal.
19-year-old Hamlett initially joined Wigan Warriors’ Scholarship system and worked his way up through the club before featuring for Warrington Wolves Reserves last year.
The three-quarter will add competition to John Kear’s back-line for the 2021.
They have also confirmed Billy Jowitt as the latest member of the Reserves squad that will stay with the club next year.
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