SIX feet under! Points deduction stands but relegation would not mean the death of Bradford Bulls (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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SIX feet under! Points deduction stands but relegation would not mean the death of Bradford Bulls
The prognosis is not good.
Quite simply, the Bulls now need a small miracle to survive relegation from Super League.
The thought that such a famous sporting institution could even find themselves in this predicament would have seemed implausible in the not-too-distant past.
As the news emerged shortly before 6pm last night that Bradford’s points appeal had failed, an air of resignation prevailed.
It felt like a step closer to the end.
Not the end of the Bulls, but certainly the end of the club in the top flight.
Owner and chairman Marc Green was forced to digest that grim prospect at a club barbeque at Odsal last night.
The event was organised as an informal social gathering for Francis Cummins’ players, staff and directors.
Only there was no celebration. Far from it.
How could there be when all that hope of winning back points had been ended?
Green, who by his own admission oversaw the club’s move into administration earlier this year, is now in danger of taking them into the Championship.
It would be quite some legacy for a man who became involved with the Bulls when he lent the club money to help pay wages last autumn.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of why and how the administration occurred, and you sense the blame game is far from over, there is no denying it has proved hugely damaging.
For a start, it led to the club’s best prop (Nick Scruton), most creative force (Jarrod Sammut) and marquee signing (Garreth Carvell) all departing.
The six-point penalty has hung heavy around Cummins’ players since it was confirmed on February 25, prompting a trio of former directors to walk away from their bid to buy the club.
That gave Green an opportunity to buy it himself and he took it.
Some supporters believe Green has not invested the necessary money in Cummins’ squad; that he did not go out and show his intention by buying players.
The club say it is difficult to sign players during the season, so the bulk of the signings have been loans, a number of whom made an impact before being recalled to their parent club.
With twelve matches remaining, the Bulls are not dead and buried yet but you do have to wonder what effect the failed points appeal will have on Cummins’ players.
The Bulls coach himself was typically upbeat last night, taking calls from journalists and talking about staying up.
Such positivity is to be applauded but perhaps relegation need not be so disastrous anyway.
Teams such as Harlequins and Northampton were demoted from rugby union’s top flight, rebuilt from the bottom and came back immediately and, crucially, stronger.
In 2005, Harlequins went down after finishing at the bottom of the Premiership.
A year later, they were back in the top flight after winning 25 of their 26 league matches.
Northampton were even more formidable in bouncing straight back – and look at these two clubs now.
Harlequins were champions in 2012 and Northampton claimed that crown when beating Saracens in last month’s Premiership final at Twickenham.
It shows what can be done from rebuilding a club from the wreckage of a relegation.
It is also worth noting that if the Bulls are relegated, it will get £780,000 in central distribution next season.
That is more than the £600,000 it has received this season and last after agreeing to forgo half of their £1.2million for two years when Omar Khan bought the club out of administration in September 2012.
Many Bulls fans are already bracing themselves for life in the Championship next season and potential trips to Leigh, Featherstone, Dewsbury and Whitehaven plus a derby at Cougar Park.
Encouragingly, Green says he is in it for the long haul and seems to have developed a taste for life as rugby league club owner, standing with fans in front of the television cameras on Sunday.
Whether he is willing or able to rebuild the club in the Championship and return it to the top flight remains to be seen.
If Cummins and his men cannot avoid a bottom-two finish, and the odds are stacked heavily against them, that could soon be the challenge facing the Bulls chairman.
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