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New Bradford Bulls owner Omar Khan ‘is no Abramovich’
Former Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe last night warned that Bradford Bulls’ new owner is “no Roman Abramovich” and would need the support of businesses in the city to return the rugby league club to former glory.
The Bradford South MP and honorary chairman of Omar Khan’s OK Bulls Limited said it would take about 30 months to bring the troubled side to financial stability, with the amount of time it takes dependant on help from investors to transform Odsal Stadium into the “Wembley of the North”.
Speaking to the Telegraph & Argus at the club’s ground yesterday, Mr Sutcliffe said: “This is no Roman Abramovich. There’s not an endless pot of money. This is someone who’s prepared to invest what he has, but we hope that the positive gesture Omar has made is reciprocated by people in Bradford.”
Mr Sutcliffe and Mr Khan, who have been in charge for little more than a week since saving the club from the brink of liquidation, said they had been contacted by “lots of people with lots of ideas” for Odsal but were unable to plan for the future until the Bulls’ Super League status is secured.
They say they have also been unable to make announcements about the club’s new management structure, coaching staff or the team for next season, with the Rugby Football League yet to ratify their takeover.
Mr Sutcliffe said: “We have two business plans, one for Super League and one for the Championship. We have indicated to people what our thoughts are and are waiting for them to respond.”
Mr Khan, who travelled to Perpignan, where he watched as Bulls’ play-off hopes were dashed by Catalan Dragons, said: “We are just waiting for the RFL to come back to us.
“We can’t do anything at the moment, but we’re putting a structure in place and trying to get things in order.”
But the pair have vowed to learn lessons from the past and say their vision is for the four-time Super League champions to return to their “glory days”.
Mr Khan added: “We were at the top at one point and we would love to be back up there. This has to be one of the biggest clubs – it is one of the biggest clubs – and it has to be one of the best.
“We want to do that. We want to bring it back to its normal glory days.”
But Mr Sutcliffe cautioned: “I think the difficulty for fans will be that they will see changes because we have to run the club on a sound financial basis which has been one of the reasons that the club had problems in the past. I hope and I’m sure fans will accept the need to do that to ensure a long-term future for the rugby club.”
The pair revealed their non-footballing plans for Odsal include promoting it as a Christmas and New Year party venue and to “open it up every day”, with a cafe or bar.
Mr Sutcliffe said they had also been contacted about staging concerts and had been in talks with Bradford College and Bradford University about creating a sports village.
Mr Khan said they hoped to be able to make announcements in the coming days but would be unable to set ticket prices until they know in what league the Bulls will be playing.
Asked if he was confident the Bulls’ Super League status would be secured, Mr Sutcliffe said: “What we have learnt is not to feel confident about anything. It’s about taking each day as it comes, but we feel that we have proved in the case we put to the rugby league and the size of the fan base that this is a Super League city.”