Bradford Bulls co-chairman Gerry Sutcliffe backs Brian Barwick to breathe new life into RFL

Gerry Sutcliffe with the Rugby League World Cup trophy outside Westminster

Gerry Sutcliffe with the Rugby League World Cup trophy outside Westminster

First published in Sport
Last updated
Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Photograph of the Author by , Bradford Bulls Reporter

Monday night’s Inside Out programme led to plenty of wailing and gnashing of teeth in the world of rugby league.

The BBC television documentary included a suggestion from a sports finance specialist that the game is on the edge of a “financial abyss”.

Rob Wilson, of Sheffield Hallam University, claimed that 11 of the 14 Super League clubs have combined debts of £68.5million.

The programme’s revelations – or rather lack of them – sent rugby league fans into meltdown on Twitter.

But there can be no denying that the sport has endured some tough times in recent months, with the financial problems experienced by Crusaders, Wakefield and the Bulls being followed by a similar crisis at Salford.

The Super League season will begin tomorrow without a title sponsor.

For a sport that commands Sky viewing figures second only to Premier League football, that is damning.

Yet Bulls co-chairman Gerry Sutcliffe believes that yesterday’s appointment of Brian Barwick as the RFL’s new non-executive chairman can breath new life into the way the sport is governed and driven forward.

The Bradford South MP and former Sports Minister said: “Brian Barwick’s appointment is an opportunity to kick-start the progress of the game.

“It’s a new season and a new start, so everybody should be pulling together.

“Let’s look at best practice, let’s look at other sports and let’s make sure we give this wonderful game the opportunity to prosper that it deserves.

“I’ve always been a supporter of widening the game to more people but there is also an issue for the governing body to look at what it can do to grow.

“Super League, as the professional part of the game, is the shop window.

“It’s just worrying to me that the major projects coming up – Super League starts tomorrow and the World Cup is on the horizon – have no sponsorship in place.

“But I don’t think we should be defensive about the game. We should go out on the attack and we’ve proved it here by the fact that we’ve pushed people and not only secured the Provident sponsorship deal but others too.

“I wouldn’t say we’re perfect, by a long shot, but you can feel the momentum around the club. You can feel things moving, so if we can do it, why can’t they do it at the top?

“The question is – and as a former Sports Minister, this applies to every sport – what can be done better to improve our sport?”

Sutcliffe feels the success of cycling can provide the blueprint for rugby league to start punching its weight.

He said: “Cycling went right to the bottom and back to basics. British Cycling and local authorities worked together to improve cycle lanes and cycle runs to get more people cycling.

“Dave Brailsford came in and turned the sport around. He looked for every little inch of improvement so now we’re world leaders in terms of cycling.

“Getting the Tour de France to Yorkshire is just fantastic and it showed it can be done. Rugby league has to show that same ambition.”

Sutcliffe is working hard alongside owner Omar Khan as the Bulls continue to rebuild from the wreckage of administration last year.

“We felt a bit aggrieved because of what happened to us in terms of trying to lead the club out of administration,” said Sutcliffe.

“But we’re just putting all that to one side and dealing with it now, as proved by getting Provident on board as sponsors.

“I actually think that puts us in a good place with the RFL where we can say ‘we’re doing it, why can’t other clubs do it as well?’

“I hope Brian Barwick can work with the clubs and the fans to really drive the sport forward in this World Cup year.”

Comments (5)

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10:41am Thu 31 Jan 13

bullybullman says...

Until the RFL stops its ad hock methods of running Super league we will still face the same old problems. If clubs break the rules then they should be punished but punish all clubs equally. If you are Saint Helens you should not be exempt from punishment along with Wigan examples which we have seen over the years.
Clubs should be made accountable on stability but if the RFL in financially unstable how can it possibly judge others. The fact we have no major sponsor is a disgrace how has the incompetent management allowed our major sport to enter a season unsponsored?
Our club was helped by the RFL when in administration for them only to penalise & hinder the club after is was rescued by Omar Khan & co ! thank god we have business men running our great club that can guide us this season into a better future one which Red hall should be assisting with not put walls up against.
Leeds as a club were unwavering in the support of the Bulls & have shown their support to us & finally buried the hatched over the Harris affair Warrington,Widnes, Wigan & Staints also showed overwhelming support to us but the RFL have allowed the likes of Huddersfield,Wakefie
ld, Cas & Hull to try & profit & gain from our downfall where is the punishment here.
Become professional & straight at Red Hall & the integrity of Rugby League will be assured & sponsorship & success will follow.
Until the RFL stops its ad hock methods of running Super league we will still face the same old problems. If clubs break the rules then they should be punished but punish all clubs equally. If you are Saint Helens you should not be exempt from punishment along with Wigan examples which we have seen over the years. Clubs should be made accountable on stability but if the RFL in financially unstable how can it possibly judge others. The fact we have no major sponsor is a disgrace how has the incompetent management allowed our major sport to enter a season unsponsored? Our club was helped by the RFL when in administration for them only to penalise & hinder the club after is was rescued by Omar Khan & co ! thank god we have business men running our great club that can guide us this season into a better future one which Red hall should be assisting with not put walls up against. Leeds as a club were unwavering in the support of the Bulls & have shown their support to us & finally buried the hatched over the Harris affair Warrington,Widnes, Wigan & Staints also showed overwhelming support to us but the RFL have allowed the likes of Huddersfield,Wakefie ld, Cas & Hull to try & profit & gain from our downfall where is the punishment here. Become professional & straight at Red Hall & the integrity of Rugby League will be assured & sponsorship & success will follow. bullybullman
  • Score: 0

11:45am Thu 31 Jan 13

Will, Huddersfield says...

Well said. Your last paragraph in particular, is crucial for the future of our game and I believe that the appointment of Brian Barwick is an overdue step in the right direction. There are some dedicated people at Red Hall and if they can be galvanised
and work together and sort out some of
the anomalies in the game, the sport will be all the better for it. Barwick comes with a top CV from the FA
and as non-executive Chairman he will be in a pivotal position to make his mark.
Well said. Your last paragraph in particular, is crucial for the future of our game and I believe that the appointment of Brian Barwick is an overdue step in the right direction. There are some dedicated people at Red Hall and if they can be galvanised and work together and sort out some of the anomalies in the game, the sport will be all the better for it. Barwick comes with a top CV from the FA and as non-executive Chairman he will be in a pivotal position to make his mark. Will, Huddersfield
  • Score: 0

2:32pm Thu 31 Jan 13

wembley bound says...

So nice to see the new Salford owner say he has taken over to take the club somewhere not just to save them , A very refreshing bloke who has not changed any names and paid off all creditors. Some people could learn a lot.
So nice to see the new Salford owner say he has taken over to take the club somewhere not just to save them , A very refreshing bloke who has not changed any names and paid off all creditors. Some people could learn a lot. wembley bound
  • Score: 0

5:10pm Thu 31 Jan 13

Bone_idle18 says...

wembley bound wrote:
So nice to see the new Salford owner say he has taken over to take the club somewhere not just to save them , A very refreshing bloke who has not changed any names and paid off all creditors. Some people could learn a lot.
That is because he took over a going concern.

By the way, how much of the £13 million did Bradford city repay after going into administration?
[quote][p][bold]wembley bound[/bold] wrote: So nice to see the new Salford owner say he has taken over to take the club somewhere not just to save them , A very refreshing bloke who has not changed any names and paid off all creditors. Some people could learn a lot.[/p][/quote]That is because he took over a going concern. By the way, how much of the £13 million did Bradford city repay after going into administration? Bone_idle18
  • Score: 0

7:38pm Thu 31 Jan 13

wembley bound says...

He was good enough NOT to let fans chip in 1st then go belly up before sneaking in on the quiet and getting them cheap.
NEXT
He was good enough NOT to let fans chip in 1st then go belly up before sneaking in on the quiet and getting them cheap. NEXT wembley bound
  • Score: 0

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