Bradford Bulls, one of the UK’s leading rugby league clubs, has ceased to operate with all staff and players made redundant, following the collapse of attempts by administrators from PBC Business Recovery to negotiate with potential buyers for the financially troubled club
Gary Pettit of PBC Business Recovery, Northampton was appointed one of the joint administrators to Bradford Bulls (Northern) Ltd (BBNL) in mid-November. BBNL operates the Bradford Bulls Rugby League Club, which won four Super League Grand Finals before being relegated to the Championship in 2014.
Pettit said: ‘Several parties engaged in a process to acquire the Bradford Bulls, but that has ultimately proven to be an unsuccessful exercise. Due to non-disclosure agreements, what can be divulged is strictly limited.’
Up until the weekend, there were hopes that a consortium would take over the club, which has entered administration three times in the past five years. The Rugby Football League (RFL) has also been involved in attempts to save the club, which has gained iconic status after rugby league matches switched to a summer season.
Pettit said: ‘As I have said throughout, the situation is much more complex and complicated than any of the parties, including the RFL and the administrators, envisaged when this process commenced. There was fundamental uncertainty over a series of topics, including the quality of the management information available.’
Pettit described the biggest challenge for any purchaser of the Bulls as generating additional revenue to meet the operating costs of the club. He said the club’s situation was ‘not unique’, saying that ‘the days where a sports club operates at a loss and is underwritten by a patron should be gone.’
‘I am very disappointed to say that the last potential purchaser confirmed last night that it will not be acquiring the Bradford Bulls. This is largely because time does not allow the complex issues to be resolved. The administrators are under statutory constraints as to how they must proceed.
‘Given the inability to secure a sale of the business, the administrators have been left with no alternative but to make all staff redundant and cease trading,’ Pettit stated.
For its part, the RFL said: ‘While this is terribly disappointing and sad, it is not an entirely surprising development given the scale of debt incurred by the previous management of the club and the debilitating level of financial commitment already entered into for 2017.’
The RFL has also indicated that it wants to see the rugby league tradition continue in Bradford, and says it is mindful of the planning already undertaken by all other clubs in the competition structure, the season tickets already purchased and the players and staff who will now be seeking employment in and around the sport in 2017. Accordingly the RFL’s board has agreed if a new club is set up in Bradford, then it will be offered a place in the Kingstone Press Championship, although it would start the 2017 season on minus twelve points, opening the way for a revived club to operate.
In a statement the board said: ‘The RFL believes that rugby league needs Bradford and that Bradford deserves a strong and stable professional club and will work with all interested parties to deliver that outcome.’