Bradford Bulls fans are waking up this morning to news they must have never thought imaginable. Relegation from the second-tier is now a reality.
From World Champions to the third division in just over ten years tells only the start of one of the most depressing stories Rugby League has seen in the modern era.
The Bulls, once world-conquering, trend-setting and trail-blazing, now have nothing more than the memories of the past to live by.
Sadly, most of the memories from the last decade are best left forgotten. As explained in the timeline below, the Bulls have been in the headlines for anything other than matters on the field.
July In response to a winding-up petition, the Bulls pay £47,538 to former Chairman Chris Caisley in interest accumulated on a six-figure sum lent to the club, which had been repaid in full. Debts against the club were written off by Colin Tordoff (£28,253), Rowland Agar (£14,189) and Jack Bates (£20,808). Tordoff also wrote off a £60,000 loan.
January 24: The Rugby Football League announces it has bought Odsal from Bradford for an undisclosed sum, later revealed to be £1.25 million, and will lease the ground back to the club for a monthly rent of £6,000. A figure of £750,000 in loans advanced to the club was returned to the governing body.
March 27: Bradford Chairman Peter Hood unveils an appeal for £1 million after the club’s banker, the Royal Bank of Scotland, cuts the Bulls’ overdraft facility. Hood claimed £500,000 was required within a matter of weeks.
April 5: Former Chairman Chris Caisley calls an extraordinary general meeting.
April 10: The club announces it has reached its initial target of £500,000 in ‘pledges’, securing its short-term future.
May 3: Andrew Bennett resigns as a director.
May 4: Peter Hood resigns as Chairman and as a director.
May 11: Former directors Stephen Coulby and Rowland Agar rejoin the Bradford board.
June 2: Coulby claims the club’s debts are worse than first thought, claiming more than an additional £1 million was required to save the club.
June 13: Club officials file notice of intention to appoint administrators after HMRC threaten to issue a winding-up petition over an unpaid tax bill.
June 26: The Bulls are placed into administration and joint administrator Brendan Guilfoyle says they have ten days to find a buyer.
July 2: Guilfoyle says the Bulls are losing over £100,000 per month and makes 16 members of staff, including head coach Mick Potter, redundant.
July 3: Former general manager Gary Tasker is appointed as chief executive, on a temporary basis, as a volunteer.
July 10: Guilfoyle extends deadline to find a buyer until July 27 as the Rugby Football League agree to provide funds to cover staff wages.
August 2: Super League (Europe) announces it has submitted an offer to buy Bradford on behalf of the other Super League clubs.
August 31: The Bulls’ future is secured after the administrator confirmed the club has been sold to a consortium fronted by Bradford businessman Omar Khan – for £150,000.
September 12: Khan’s takeover of the club is confirmed and ratified by the Rugby Football League. The Bulls agree to forfeit half of their central monies from the RFL for 2013 and 2014, with the money (£1.2million) shared out between the other top-flight clubs.
September 14: The Bulls are granted a probationary 12-month licence to stay in Super League.
September 17: Francis Cummins is unveiled as the Bulls’ new head coach, signing a three-year deal after Mick Potter opts to return to Australia.
March 7: Bradford businesswoman Jay Willey announces she is to join the board of directors at the Bulls after agreeing to pump a “six-figure fee” into the club.
June 21: Elliott Whitehead leaves the Bulls and joins Catalan Dragons after handing in a transfer request.
September 25: Omar Khan cites “ill health” as he steps down as owner of the Bulls.
October 11: Ian Watt buys a stake in the club to become a co-owner alongside Mark Moore and Ryan Whitcut.
October 17: Andrew Calvert, another local businessman, becomes the fourth new shareholder to join the club.
November 1: Bradford-born John Bateman is sold to champions Wigan for a fee of around £80,000.
November 12: Ryan Whitcut quits the club after failing the Rugby Football League’s fit and proper person test.
November 30: The Bulls deny its holding company, OK Bulls Limited, is on the brink of administration after Bradford Bulls 2014 Limited, a new holding company, was incorporated.
December 5: Mark Moore, Ian Watt and Andrew Calvert claim £400,000 must be cut from the club’s operating budget.
December 9: Omar Khan reveals he is taking legal action against Mark Moore and Ryan Whitcut as the club’s ownership saga continues.
December 24: Mark Moore, Ian Watt and Andrew Calvert announce they are stepping down as directors after no agreement could be reached with Omar Khan over buying his shareholding.
December 30: Talks aimed at resolving the ownership of the Bulls are described as “constructive” as it was revealed that Moore, Watt and Calvert were back running the club.
January 31: OK Bulls Ltd is placed into administration after no agreement could be reached to transfer the ownership of the club from majority shareholder Omar Khan into the hands of Bradford Bulls 2014 Ltd.
February 10: Richard Lamb reveals his plans to make an offer to buy the Bulls.
February 20: It is announced Bradford Bulls 2014 Ltd have beaten off competition to have their bid for the club accepted by the joint administrator.
February 25: The Bulls are docked six points as punishment for entering administration, resulting in another dramatic walk-out by Calvert, Watt and Moore.
March 1: Nick Scruton becomes the third player to leave the Bulls since the club entered administration, following Garreth Carvell and Jarrod Sammut out of Odsal.
March 13: Marwan Koukash, the Salford Red Devils owner, believes his wife, Mandy will have her bid for the Bulls accepted after the deadline for offers passes.
March 21: Richard Lamb appears a clear favourite to take control of the club after his bid was accepted by the administrator.
March 24: Lamb’s consortium fails to provide proof of funds to the Rugby Football League and is effectively ruled out of the running to buy the Bulls.
March 26: Marc Green is announced as the new owner and Chairman of the Bulls. Steve Ferres is appointed as managing director.
April 14: The Bulls announce plans to appeal their six-point deduction, which came as a result of entering administration.
June 16: Francis Cummins is sacked as head coach, along with assistant Lee St Hilaire, just 24 hours after a crushing defeat by Salford, which left Bradford eight points from Super League safety with 11 games remaining.
June 11: An independent Sporting Sanctions Appeal Panel upholds the six-point deduction handed down by the Rugby Football League’s Board of Directors, as a penalty for entering into administration.
June 17: Club captain Matt Diskin reluctantly takes over as player-coach in a temporary capacity.
June 24: Former Bradford star James Lowes is unveiled as the Bulls’ new head coach, taking over the reins with immediate effect.
June 26: Bulls Chairman Marc Green announced he will take the club’s points-deduction appeal to the High Court.
July 20: The club is relegated from Super League, following a heavy defeat at the hands of Huddersfield Giants, after the club announces it will not be pursuing further legal action over its points deduction.
February 15: Bradford begin life as a Championship club, losing to promotion rivals Leigh on the opening day of the season.
July 21: The Bulls’ chances of sealing a first-placed finish in the sport’s second tier fades as the Centurions clinch the League Leaders’ Shield ahead of the Qualifiers.
October 3: Bradford fail to secure3 a much-desired return to Super League after being defeated by Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in the inaugural Million Pound Game.
October 30: Chairman Marc Green claims a winding-up petition is “incorrectly” lodged against the club.
April 19 James Lowes speaks of “personal reasons” as he resigns from his role as head coach. Matt Diskin, Lowes’ assistant, is placed in temporary charge.
May 5: Rohan Smith, the son of former Bulls boss Brian, signs a three-year deal to become the club’s new head coach.
July 24: Bradford miss out on a top-four finish in the Championship after losing 20-0 to Featherstone Rovers, meaning the Bulls would not feature in the Qualifiers. Hopes of a second Million Pound Game appearance were shattered.
July 28: Chairman Marc Green plays down the significance of another winding-up petition, claiming an appeal was “ongoing” with HMRC, who in the Bulls’ view had acted “unfairly” in respect of a VAT assessment and the issuing of the petition. Green was told the club must appear in the High Court on September 5.
August 1: Managing director Steve Ferres announces his resignation from the club and his retirement after 45 years’ service to Rugby League as a player, coach and administrator.
August 29: Chief Executive Robbie Hunter-Paul becomes the latest to quit the club, revealing his resignation with immediate effect.
October 31: Club bosses insists tens of thousands of pounds owed to the taxman will be repaid after HMRC ask for the club to be wound up at a hearing in a Bankruptcy & Companies Court in London. Judge Registrar Nicholas Briggs said he would review the case on November 14 after a lawyer representing the club said money would be paid. The judge heard there was a disagreement over how much the taxman was owed. Tax officials say the club owes around £350,000 – club bosses say the debt is around £133,000. Barrister Rowena Page told the judge that more than £100,000 had already been paid. Green said: “It is not a comfortable position to be in.”
November 14: Chairman Marc Green claims “pressure” from HMRC “forced” the club to be put into administration to “save its future”. Green said a dispute between the club and HMRC was ongoing, despite two adjournments from the courts to “resolve the matter”. He revealed his intentions to remain at the helm, stating: “It is my intention to regain this club from them (the administrators) in the shortest practicable time frame”.
November 15: Gary Pettit and Gavin Bates, Directors of PBC Business Recovery and Insolvency, are revealed to have been appointed joint administrators of the ailing club.
November 16: The Rugby Football League terminates Bradford Bulls Northern Limited of its official governing body membership.
November 18: Gary Pettit, acting on behalf of the club as its administrator says he is “excited” by the interest shown in acquiring Bradford Bulls, revealing PBC Business Recovery and Insolvency has received expressions of interest from at least six different parties.
December 19: Andrew Chalmers emerges as the frontrunner to take over the new club.
January 3: After years of financial turmoil, the Bulls are liquidated after the club’s administrator rejected a bid to save the club. It’s also confirmed if a new club is set up they will start in the Championship with a 12 point deduction.
January 17: Andrew Chalmers, alongside Graham Lowe are confirmed as the new owners of a Bradford club set up to replace the Bulls.
January 22: Bradford play their first game since the resurrection, losing in a pre-season friendly to Huddersfield Giants.
February 19: Bradford win their first match since the reformation, defeating Swinton Lions.
June 25: After almost two months without win, Bradford make it to zero points with a win over Oldham, however they remain 10 points adrift of safety.
August 6: Bradford are officially relegated to League 1 after defeat to Toulouse.