Bradford decision the ‘least worse option’

The Rugby Football League has defended its decision to place a reformed Bradford club into the Championship.

A new Bradford club, under the ownership of New Zealand businessmen Andrew Chalmers and Graham Lowe, will start the 2017 season on minus 12 points in the second-tier.

The decision to put Bradford in the Championship rather than League 1 has been criticised in some quarters, but the RFL has rejected that notion, insisting that the decision to keep Bradford in the division below Super League was the “least worst option” at their disposal.

“Anybody who trivialises insolvency completely misses the point,” said the RFL chief executive, Nigel Wood. “It causes a lot of real distress, a lot of pain, uncertainty and there is always a butcher’s bill to pay.

“I don’t think that a decision, however controversial, to leave the club in the Championship, will cause a race to administration. The really easy decision would be to say: ‘Right, you’re gone and we’ll phone up Whitehaven to see if they want to fulfil the fixture list.’ We could say: ‘We know you haven’t prepared for that and haven’t signed the players but you are the team that’s prepared for League One and has to play in the Championship.’

“It could have disenfranchised 1,000 season ticket holders at Bradford] that had put money into the sport, and if they could restart after a 12-month hiatus they’d have to try to pump life into it. That would have been the simplest thing to do but not the best.”

Meanwhile, Ralph Rimmer, the RFL chief operating officer, stated that the experience of Chalmers and Lowe in the sport made them the best candidates to take the new club forward.

“Rugby league experience was a big part of the decision,” he said. “They also bring capital investment but that’s for them to discuss. Their vision was also a part of it, they’ve got a big philosophy surrounding local talent and they’ve got their own ideas how to do that.” Chalmers will relocate to England and Lowe is expected to be a frequent visitor.

“I’ve been contacted by three parties who are interested in working alongside the new owners,

“There was a collection of players and staff who want to stay [at Bradford] and we had to take into account the 1,000 season ticket holders.

“The board has absolute discretion but took all these factors into account and had to make a decision quickly. This was the least worst option.

“We think we’ve taken a pragmatic view in the best interests of the game. You might call it a compromise but it was taken in the wider interests of the sport.”