A London businessman last night spoke of his desire to buy Bradford Bulls after the club was docked six points amid a fresh crisis which saw its prospective new owners walk out, sparking a bitter war of words with the Rugby Football League.
Richard Lamb saw his bid for the Super League outfit turned down by Leeds-based administrator David Wilson last Thursday night in favour of an offer by Bradford Bulls 2014 Ltd, led by club directors Mark Moore, Ian Watt, Andrew Calvert and Robbie Hunter-Paul.
But after the club was penalised for going into administration by the Rugby Football League yesterday, Bradford Bulls 2014 withdrew its offer to buy the club, leaving it back in the hands of the administrator.
Mr Moore issued a lengthy statement accusing the RFL of “poor leadership” that was “detrimental to the ownership of the club being agreed amicably”.
He also claimed the six-point penalty had made relegation “a certainty” for Francis Cummins’ team in a year in which the bottom two clubs will drop out of the top flight.
Mr Moore said: “This poor leadership by the RFL was, I believe, detrimental to the ownership of the club being agreed amicably, which then ultimately led to it then being forced into administration.
“Due to the error made by the governing body, the players, staff and supporters have now been asked to suffer a six-point deduction along with heavy financial restrictions.
“It feels like a real slap in the face to our team, our partners, the sport and, most importantly, our supporters, whom we have been working tirelessly for.”
But the RFL’s director of licensing and standards Blake Solly told the Telegraph & Argus last night that the ongoing ownership saga arose because Mr Moore and Ryan Whitcut, the club’s former general manager, failed to pay Omar Khan an agreed fee for the Bulls when he left the club last September.
Mr Solly said: “The root cause of this is Mark Moore’s decision to try to buy the club with its own season-ticket money and his failure to fulfil the obligations under the purchase agreement with Omar Khan.
“The RFL intervened to try to broker a solution at the request of Mr Khan and Mr Moore.
“Unfortunately attempts to resolve the dispute were unsuccessful with Omar Khan refusing to honour the terms of the agreement that was made on January 9.”
The failure of Bradford Bulls 2014 to buy the club has opened the door for Mr Lamb to make another offer for the Bulls and stave off the threat of liquidation.
The RFL say they are speaking to two interested parties and Mr Lamb last night he told the T&A: “I contacted David Wilson today and confirmed that while the process has undoubtedly changed, my position has not.
“When the process is confirmed I will look to make an offer to buy the club and would be delighted with the opportunity to take Bradford Bulls forward.
“I have no qualms with the points deduction because the governing body has been very clear about penalties related to the trading company entering into administration.
“While it is very hard on players, fans and sponsors who have not been involved in the commercial running of the club, the rules are the rules.
“I would not seek to challenge this position and would look to continue to build for the current season. As I have always said this season is going to be tough but everyone needs to stick together. If the season ends in relegation then as many clubs before have done, Bradford Bulls will need to rebuild and move forward.
“I hope the upcoming process is transparent and whoever is lucky enough to own this great club will support some of the game’s best fans.”
Mr Solly stressed that the club was hit with the points penalty yesterday because: “At no stage have we seen firm commitment from the club’s directors to meet the creditors.
“Indeed there is a liability to HMRC for £170,000 that will be unpaid as a result of the administration and the Council are also looking at a loss of £200,000.
“Given a number of other clubs in the league, including Wakefield and London, avoided administration in 2013 by restructuring their business by owners investing their own money and losing a number of players, allowing Bradford to enter administration to drop off debt without any points deduction would have seriously affected the integrity of the competition.
“On that basis there was no alternative but to deduct six points.”
Ralph Rimmer, the RFL’s chief operating officer, added that Mr Moore and his fellow directors had requested £500,000 to be advanced from the RFL on February 7 in order to continue to trade.
It was at that point the directors were told the Bulls would be placed in ‘special measures’, preventing the club from making any new signings, if Bradford Bulls 2014 had followed through its bid to buy the club.
Mr Rimmer said: “We have seen nothing further from the directors to suggest that situation has improved.
“Indeed their business plan revealed yet another attempt to buy the club with its own money.”
Yesterday’s developments threw the Bulls into chaos but Mr Hunter-Paul remained in situ as the club’s chief executive and said he expected Sunday’s home clash with London Broncos to go ahead as planned.