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Last-ditch offer aims to secure club and sell it on later in year
The dramatic attempt by the Super League to buy the Bradford Bulls was made because the club was in the “last chance saloon”, the new bidders said last night.
Yesterday Super League (Europe) Ltd made the shock announcement that it had tabled an offer to purchase the club from the administrators on behalf of the Super League clubs.
The bold bid was formally submitted to the administrator Brendan Guilfoyle on Wednesday night.
Super League chief executive Nigel Wood and the Super League clubs said that they wanted to secure the short-term future of the club and have guaranteed that it will stay in the Super League until the end of the season in October.
As part of the plan, the SLE hopes to sell the club on to buyers with the club’s interests at heart at a later date.
But the offer has led to MPs and rival bidders questioning whether there is a conflict of interest.
Mr Wood said that the the offer represented the best solution to a problem that threatened the survival of one of rugby league’s most celebrated clubs and which remained the source of considerable uncertainty and disquiet across the whole sport.
He said: “This saga has gone on for far too long and we are of the view that direct positive action is required to safeguard the future of Bradford Bulls.
“The club has been in administration for five weeks now and during that time not one offer without strings attached has been submitted to the administrator.
“This situation is clearly unacceptable and raises the tangible prospect that we could lose one of our most famous clubs, which would be a tragedy of significant proportions, not just to the sport and the city of Bradford but to the remaining staff, players and volunteers who all deserve some stability after the turmoil of recent events.”
A spokesman for the Rugby Football League (RFL), which is a shareholder in SLE, along with the 14 Super League clubs, said that the idea had been discussed at length for weeks and it decided to step in on Wednesday after no other acceptable offer had been found.
“This was seen as the last chance saloon,” the spokesman said.
“The clubs have watched and waited for a buyer. Our intention is not to buy it as a long-term proposition but to buy it to provide security and stability in the short term.
“The offer provides stability and assurance for them.”
Bradford Council leader David Green said: “Clearly this is an interesting development. I haven’t seen any details of the bid, but my priority would be to see a sustainable offer made for the club that would secure its future and the future of the Super League in Bradford for years to come.”
Asked if he was concerned about a potential conflict of interest, Coun Green replied: “That’s a fear, but before we can make any comment we would have to see the details. If the Super League is putting together a bid we would need to speak to them to see how we can support them.
“I can understand why people would be concerned about a potential conflict, but the devil will always be in the detail.”
The spokesman also confirmed the RFL had not received a written formal offer from Bradford restaurateur Omar Khan regarding the club.
It has also turned down the two conditional offers from the ABC Consortium, comprised of a group of Asian businessmen in Bradford.
Asked whether he was confident a buyer would eventually be found for the club, the spokesman said: “The Bulls have got such a rich history and real heritage and have so much rich potential for the future.
“I am absolutely confident people out there would want to be part of the success story in the future.”
On conflict of interest concerns, he added: “There is no intention from Super League clubs to own the Bulls as a long-term proposition.
“We want to take it out of administration and offer a safety net of new ownership and we are taking steps to find new owners who can take the club forward independently.”
Mr Guilfoyle said that he was considering the offer.
“It was totally unexpected and is completely unprecedented, but a brilliant development,” he said.
“If the deal goes ahead then the Bradford Bulls will become the first club ever to be owned by the Super League clubs themselves.
“The administrators are considering the offer and will be working closely with SLE and the RFL to reach a speedy conclusion. SLE and the RFL would continue to run the club as a going concern.”
A source close to the ABC Consortium, whose two conditional bids were rejected by the RFL, said that he found the Super League deal a bit “strange” and believed it to be a conflict of interest. He said that he felt the RFL had not been interested in talking to the ABC Consortium about its offer.