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Fans well down food chain as Bradford Bulls plead for a saviour
Simon Parker column
“We have to do something,” pleaded the lady at the other end of the phone.
Not a huge rallying call as such but a heart-felt request from someone frustrated and scared by the confusion.
Life is not much fun right now for anyone with a connection to Bradford Bulls.
Whether you are the coach doing the job tomorrow as an unpaid favour; those staff who find themselves suddenly out on their ear; the players who feel they have been misled from day one; or, of course, the fans.
Those who often find themselves at the bottom of the food chain but care just as deeply as the club employees – and in many cases much, much more.
These are people whose support of the city’s rugby league side has been passed down the generations. From Northern to Bulls, you were born to follow your club.
Now they wake up each morning with a new sense of dread, scanning the latest updates for any hint of light through the storm clouds brewing over Odsal.
The club’s demise has not come as a shock. Most could foresee big trouble ahead despite soothing words to the contrary from those in charge.
When the RFL took over the stadium lease in January, it was a sure sign that something was afoot.
Still, when everything kicked off, it did not lessen the impact. Redundancies and talk of liquidation are no easier to swallow just because many saw this coming.
It is impossible to envisage Super League carrying on without a Bradford presence. The game will move heaven and earth to keep one of their most famous franchises afloat. It just doesn’t seem that way at the moment.
Administrator Brendan Guilfoyle is seen in the eyes of the fans as the baddie – but he has a job to do, however unpalatable that may appear.
By law, he has to reduce costs by any means necessary. Very hard and very unpopular decisions have to be made to ease the numbers on the balance sheet.
But the perception of some kind of conspiracy theory lingers – fuelled by the axing of so many key positions at once – and Guilfoyle had to shoot it down at Monday’s public meeting.
His presence at the Guide Post tried to ease the concerns of supporters but Guilfoyle did himself few favours the following morning when he failed to appear at a planned get-together with the players.
Professional sportsmen are always told to focus on matters on the pitch and leave the rest to others. But the absence of the administrator left the team with an impression that they were being ignored.
The supply of information during the week has been sketchy; not surprising considering much-respected PR manager Stuart Duffy was among those to lose their jobs in the cull.
He will still be back at Odsal tomorrow for the London game, alongside Mick Potter, his coaches and even the kitman; loyal employees working without pay for a company that has ruthlessly disposed of their services.
They are prepared to go above and beyond the call of duty even if it may be no more than a short-term fix. Until somebody steps in to bale out the Bulls, that is how it will be.
Guilfoyle is talking with prospective interested parties but, as yet, there are no offers on the table. “We’re dancing but nobody’s kissing,” was how he described the negotiations.
The Bulls are in need of some mouth-to-mouth pretty urgently. While the visit of the Broncos goes ahead, the question marks remain about the following match and the one after that.
At every level, people try to do their bit; something, anything to keep the club on life support. They all deserve a winning outcome but it’s going to be a close call.