Simon Parker comment: So where do the Bradford Bulls go from here?
Everyone feared it was coming but no matter how hard you tried to brace yourself, the effect of this week’s Odsal earthquake has shattered the Richter scale.
As Francis Cummins and what’s left of his playing squad pick through the rubble and try to prepare for action tomorrow as normal – whatever normal is – the blame game has begun.
None of the off-field players emerge from this crisis with any credit.
Tough questions need to be asked of those custodians of the club who had control when the wheels came off; of the Rugby Football League for allowing this mess to get out of hand so spectacularly; and of Bradford Council and the wisdom of that £200,000 loan of tax-payers’ money.
But now is not the time to be pointing fingers.
An in-depth review needs to take place to find out who and what went wrong, how it could have been avoided and what lessons can be learned to ensure that nobody else spirals down the chute in the same way in the future.
For now, the only focus has to be what happens next for one of the sport’s proudest names and flag-bearers of the Super League era.
The root and branch investigation is something for further down the line – providing, of course, there is a line of succession to continue.
Before anything else, the club have to get through this season. Given the current predicament, that cannot be a certainty.
The immediate aim is to find somebody, somewhere who is prepared to take on the giant-sized problem that presents itself under the Bradford Bulls banner. And whoever steps forward must have the financial wherewithal to actually make a difference.
It is no surprise to hear that several interested parties have already been in touch with the RFL. Owning a professional sporting organisation, especially one as closely tied in with the game as the Bulls, will always be an attractive proposition.
The administrators, as is their wont, will take the best offer on the table. Fingers crossed that it will be the best in the long-term for the club.
Sadly, the two are not always mutually exclusive.
As someone born and raised in Portsmouth, I know all too well the nightmare of admin and the long-standing after effects.
Portsmouth’s list of owners from the mid-2000s onwards reads like a who’s who of exotic chancers from all over the globe. There are still doubts whether one of them, a mysterious Arab called Ali Al Faraj, even existed – “Al Mirage” as he was renamed by the hard-bitten fans.
That club finally came out of the other side from years of misery when the Supporters’ Trust took charge ten months ago.
But the scars caused by swingeing cuts and points deductions remain deep as a team who were in the Premier League as recently as 2010 now fight to remain in the Football League at the wrong end of the bottom division.
Those who have stuck by the club during their darkest hours – namely, the supporters – have been hit the hardest. The meal-ticket brigade has long since departed.
The Odsal faithful must expect the same; sadly it is the innocents in all this mess who really suffer.
The job of the administrators is to get the highest return for those owed money by the club; the most pence in the pound for the companies, large and small, waiting to be paid back.
Hopefully that will be provided by sensible, sport-minded people capable of sorting out the mess on the field as much as off it.
But there are no guarantees.
As you can imagine, I’ve no particular faith in football’s scrutinising of potential buyers when it comes to the “fit and proper person’s test”.
The RFL, accused of sitting on their hands through all this, cannot afford to get it wrong with whoever they deem acceptable to rescue the Bulls from the abyss.
Mentions of a “mystery consortium” should be treated with scepticism.
So too those who like to announce their every move in the public eye.
Too many mistakes have already been made and there is no further margin for error.