Club must be built on trust and transparency, Khan tells Bradford Bulls fans (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Omar Khan holds court at packed forum and Bradford Bulls fans like what they hear
During the first fans forum since the Bulls’ change of ownership on Tuesday night, Gerry Sutcliffe paused for a moment of reflection at the top table.
“You could write a book about what’s happened here,” mused the Bradford South MP about the goings on at Odsal during 2012.
“There have been more twists and turns than an Agatha Christie novel.”
That cannot be denied, but there were more than enough signs to suggest the club has not only stabilised but is ready to start moving forward.
There was no bold rhetoric about what the Bulls will achieve in 2013 as they gradually recover from their most turbulent period since the club’s reformation under the legendary Trevor Foster in 1964.
Instead, there was an impassioned address from Sutcliffe and Omar Khan to a packed Coral Stand and plenty of light-hearted moments along the way as questions flew forth.
During the forum, which lasted almost two hours, the feelgood factor was palpable.
Khan, quite literally, took centre stage, charming supporters with his sense of humour and passion for the club.
With Sutcliffe to his right and Francis Cummins to his left, the restaurant and hotel owner was in his element.
“I’m delighted to be here and to have made the brave decision to save the Bulls,” said Khan, revealed as the club’s sole shareholder.
“What’s important is the here and now. We need to get season tickets sold and get the sponsorship in to ensure that the club grows.
“That will help Francis to build the squad he wants but we need support from you guys.
“We will have regular meetings like this and make sure that we explain what’s going on.
“The majority of people here know me quite well and my values are based on transparency, accountability and trust. This club needs to build trust.”
Cue a thunderous round of applause from the floor.
The new structure of the club was explained to supporters as Khan’s lieutenants, Simon Kenny and Ryan Whitcut, took their place on the top table.
“Can I just ask who these guys are and what they actually do?” queried one supporter rather bluntly, much to the amusement of many.
Khan spoke how the pair will head up the administration department at Odsal, with Stuart Duffy taking a wide-ranging role as head of the football department.
All manner of topics were discussed, with Duffy talking up the Bulls’ Academy and explaining that Dewsbury Rams were being considered as a feeder club, while Sutcliffe revealed his frustration at his dealings with the RFL over buying the club, haggling over next year’s television money and the uncertainty that a one-year probationary licence has created.
On Odsal itself, he was unequivocal.
“We want to buy the lease back from the RFL and, while we can’t do that immediately, it’s a long-term aim,” said Sutcliffe.
“We want to use the Odsal site 365 days a year and that’s what we’re working towards.”
Eyebrows were raised when Sutcliffe insisted the club would be spending up to the salary cap next season.
He spoke of general discussions with Bradford City but said there had been no talks with Bradford Park Avenue as yet.
The possibility of bringing speedway back to Odsal is under consideration and supporters made clear their feelings about keeping home games on a Sunday.
Khan, who hailed the inspirational contribution of Trevor Foster to Bradford Northern, stated his desire to improve the gameday experience at Odsal.
Sutcliffe spoke of strengthening links with BullBuilder and other supporters, putting a roof on the Popular Side terrace, while Cummins spoke optimistically about the prospect of John Bateman signing a new deal.
Khan paid a rich tribute to Megan Potter for her work in the administration department and Sutcliffe did likewise about Gary Tasker following his spell as interim chief executive.
At the back of the room stood joint-captains Heath L’Estrange and Matt Diskin selling season tickets.
Khan then delivered the coup de grace.
“Anyone who buys a season ticket will get a discount in my restaurants!” he declared.
Few announcements at forums of this sort have ever been more rapturously received.
After the formalities ended, Khan, Sutcliffe, Cummins and his two skippers mingled with supporters and spoke to them at length.
The scenes told a story.
Of unity, passion, trust; the description of a rugby league institution ready to start believing in itself again.