The Bradford Bulls Are The Canary In The Coal Mine, And They Are About To Die

Bradford Bulls fans have woken up to the news this morning that their club could be dead and buried within a fortnight.

The Bulls released a statement today pleading with fans to donate £100 each to save the club. They claimed they need to raise around £1,000,000 to survive and £500,000 just to survive through April.

There have been suggestions that the Bradford Bulls have 2 and a half weeks before they will go bust.

Bradford have traditionally been seen as one of the “Big Four” clubs in Super League. It wasn’t that long ago that Bradford were unstoppable, winning multiple Super League titles. The club now is claiming that the lack of playoff success in recent season is one of the reasons why they now find themselves in such a perilous position. The fact is that this is an issue that runs much deeper than Bradford.

Last year the Wakfield Wildcats went bust mid season. A few months later the Wrexham Crusaders claimed they could no longer sustain a Super League club and effectively went bust themselves.

Bradford is now the third club within a team in the 14 team Super League competition that has gone bust, with many more clubs in lower grades suffering the same fate.

Rugby League in Great Britain is running on borrowed time. The financial model clubs are run on, and competitions at ever level are run along, are all completely unsustainable. There are no exceptions either.

If we woke up tomorrow and found that the wealthy backers of Wigan, St Helens, Leeds or Warrington could no longer pour money into their clubs, those clubs would find themselves in the same position Bradford are in right now.

Rugby League in Great Britain simply does not generate enough money to sustain the current financial model.

The television deal the RFL signed was inadequate and the major naming rights sponsorship of the competition was given away for free. The lack of a national footprint means that clubs can not gain sponsors with a national profile and deep pockets and this all happens while crowd figure’s continues to be poor.

This has been a slow rot that the Rugby Football League has overseen. While clubs die, crowds are poor, broadcasting deals are terrible, sponsorship deals are even worse, results at test level are non existent and general playing numbers fall, not a single person at the Rugby Football League has been held accountable.

The Chairman of the RFL is Richard Lewis. The CEO is Nigel Wood.

Both should resign immediately.

Keep in mind that only a few weeks ago the Rugby Football league purchased a dilapidated Odsal Stadium in an effort to help the Bulls financial position. Millions of dollars were spent, money that could have been spent on grass root football, to buy the stadium.

How could the RFL buy a stadium for a club that was weeks away from going bust? In any property purchase, the buyer must go through due diligence. Obviously that did not happen, because if it did, the Rugby Football League would not have brought an old, broken down stadium for a club that had just weeks to live anyway.

If that isn’t enough to see Lewis and Wood resign from the RFL, then maybe the fact that they have watched three clubs die in a year will. Maybe they can look at the naming rights sponsorship they gave away to a trucking company for no money at all, and that will be enough.

How much are a few vinyl stickers on trucks worth to the Bradford Bulls right now?

Richard Lewis and Nigel Wood must be accountable for this. The buck stops with them.

For Bradford, they need to be saved.

This is one of those moments where the self interests of clubs must be put aside. As a Hull FC fan, I hope that the RFL step forward and help bail out the Bradford Bulls, because the health of the Bradford Bulls has a direct impact on my club and the game in general.

The Bradford Bulls must not be allowed to die, but at the same time we need to take on board what has happens and change the sustainable financial structure the game in Great Britain now uses.

There needs to be a meeting between all 14 Super League clubs. They need to come to an agreement on many difficult issues for the good of the game.

The salary cap needs to be halved. I understand the dramatic effect that will have. I understand that players will leave Super League in droves. Some will head to Rugby Union, others will head to the NRL. When it comes down to it though, players are being paid above and beyond what they currently generate for Super League clubs. That needs to change, right now!

The Rugby Football League, with new leadership, needs to get on the phone to the Australian Rugby League Commission and plead with them to send over an administrative team that can do a review of their finances and operations and come up with recommendations to save Rugby League in Great Britain.

We have lost 3 of the 14 clubs in 12 months. In a few years time, how many clubs will we actually have left if nothing is done?

The Rugby Football League need to plead with the ARLC to set up some sort of club competitions that will generate money for the RFL. Whether that see’s non NRL playoff teams heading to the UK in September to play exhibition games, whether we see Super League clubs coming to Australia in the pre season to play games….what ever it is, the RFL needs to tap into the Rugby Leaguye market outside of northern England just to try and sustain itself.

The idea that things can be sorted out in house should be thrown out the window. This is a crisis that is not just going to effect Bradford, this is going to effect Rugby League across Great Britain.

Costs need to be brought down to a sustainable level. It is going to hurt. Players will leave. The alternative though is that you sit down with your kids in 20 years time and tell them about a sport you used to watch called Rugby League. One that just doesn’t exist any more.

When the likes of PSG, Gatehead and the Crusaders went bust, people tended to write them off as failed experiments. Now, we have seen two clubs in Rugby League heartland go bust.

The system is broken. It needs fixed.

I hope that Bradford get the support they need. I hope that we never lose the Bulls from Super League. I hope that in a few years time we look back on today and we are proud of the way the game had honest self reflection and as one made the brave changes it needed to make to turn things around.

Super League is rating well on television. It is not like there isn’t a market out there. However, with the current media deals in place, the game is spending beyond its means. We need to be realistic as a game about what we can actually afford to do.

When new Hull FC owner, Adam Pearson, come out recently and revealed that Hull FC will make a massive financial loss this season, and that numbers had been fiddled with to make it look like the club was in a healthy financial position when that clearly wasn’t the case, that said it all about how Super League clubs are run.

You will find few clubs in a better position to break even than Hull FC. They are the biggest sporting team in Hull, they have use of a modern stadium that is easy to get to. They get great support from the local media. If they are losing hundreds of thousands of pounds, its shows that in reality, no one is making a real profit.

It can’t go on. If it does, Rugby League in Great Britain will die and it will happen within the next couple of years.

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