Sports lawyer on why Bradford Bulls will struggle to bolster squad with genuine quality (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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‘Worst possible time to be trying to sign players' – Sports lawyer on why Bradford Bulls will struggle to bolster squad with genuine quality
As supporters vented their frustrations on message boards and social media following Monday’s club-record defeat at Wigan, one question kept cropping up.
When might the reinforcements that Bradford so desperately require materialise?
This is a squad decimated by injuries and alarmingly short of numbers, with Cummins forced to name four teenagers on the bench at the DW Stadium.
Since Marc Green took control of the club, only Jamal Fakir has arrived, while three loan players have gone back to their parent clubs in less than a month and the Bulls remain unable to sign overseas players as they await clearance from the RFL and the Border Agency.
Leading sports lawyer and agent Richard Cramer, of Leeds-based Front Row Legal, believes that recruitment is more difficult than ever due to the return of relegation.
“This is probably the worst time of the year now to sign players,” said Cramer.
“The big problem is that there isn’t a well of players that you can dig into over here.
“Super League squads are depleted anyway and a lot of kids are thrown in over the Easter period because of injuries and two games in four days.
“You’re then looking at the Australian market but NRL clubs aren’t going to let their best players go.
“If you’re going to pick up players from the NRL, you would probably have to question the quality of the players being released at this stage.”
Cummins has looked outside of Super League in the search for potential new faces.
Cramer said: “The problem in the Championship is that you are asking players to give up their full-time jobs.
“Take Liam Finn, who I represented for a number of years.
“It was important to Liam to become a full-time electrician and that took him two or three years.
“He was better off financially working as an electrician and playing part-time in the Championship.
“He’s now playing Super League but can go back to being an electrician.
“Most players in the Championship have got full-time jobs but every now and then you can pick up players."
Cramer says France is an emerging market for new players from clubs such as Toulouse.
He explained: “The French market is an interesting one because their competition is coming to an end. I believe it’s possible to tap into some good Antipodean players currently plying their trade there.”
Other options include loans, buying players and acquiring players who have been dual registered with a Championship club.
Cramer said: “Chris Green at Hull FC has just come back from injury and played for Doncaster against Sheffield at the weekend.
“Stuart Haworth played very well for Salford and was playing on dual reg for Barrow the week before.
“But the big problem you have also got now is that teams in the lower half of the table will be reluctant to let players go.
“Why would they potentially weaken their own position and strengthen another team around them when there is a period of relegation?
“I think relegation has been brought in a year too early. Another year would have allowed clubs to adjust.”
There is, of course, the prospect of the Bulls making an offer to buy a player.
“Money talks and I would imagine there is a fair bit of space on Bradford’s salary cap,” said Cramer.
“You could say to a player ‘look, we will put you on a two or three-year deal and pay you the same money whether we are in the Championship or Super League.’
“Danny Brough stuck with Castleford when they were outside of Super League because his contract was protected.
“At the same time, why would Bradford want to find themselves paying substantial wages to players if they are in the Championship?
“They don’t know what their income streams are going to be.
“Furthermore, any quality player is not going to put himself at risk of jeopardising his career to sign for a team who might well get relegated.
“All in all, it’s a very difficult situation and the dynamics of relegation are going to have a big impact. Players are only now beginning to realise it.”
So far, Bradford have focused on loan signings but Liam Sutcliffe, Anthony Mullally and Danny Bridge were all recalled by their parent clubs.
Cramer said: “Loan signings are no more than stop-gaps unless it’s on a fixed one-year deal with no recall.”
As a keen advocate of rugby league, Cramer is hoping the Bulls can win their fight against the drop.
He adds: “There are still enough points to fight for, but they need to reverse their performances and luck very quickly to turn this season around.”
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