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Strategic review needs completing before RFL can help map out Bradford Bulls future
As Bulls fans anxiously await the outcome of the strategic review currently being undertaken at Odsal, the Rugby Football League similarly wait with bated breath.
Stephen Coulby and Rowland Agar agreed to rejoin the board of directors last week, effectively replacing Peter Hood and Andrew Bennett, and the club’s accounts are currently being scrutinised by a chartered accountant.
This is part of a major strategic review by Chris Caisley and other leading shareholders to ascertain the depth of the Bulls’ woes as they battle to avoid administration and attract the investment needed to save the club.
It is understood the Bulls’ financial position is considerably worse than was originally thought.
Blake Solly, the RFL’s director of standards and licensing, said the game’s governing body would meet with the Bulls’ majority shareholders once the review had been completed.
“What the club need is a full picture of the financial position before they can start telling us what the plan is for the coming months and years,” said Solly.
The potential investors that are being lined up probably want to know the full and accurate picture of the financial situation before they commit to investingBlake Solly
“The new directors are currently undertaking their review and we’re offering them any support they want. Until they’ve completed the review, it’s too early to say what they believe they can do.
“Any decision over whether the club remains a going concern is one for the directors. They need time and in some ways a bit of space from us to complete the review and work out what they think the future holds for the club.”
An announcement on the outcome of the review and the Bulls’ subsequent next move is expected early next week.
Although the salaries of players and staff were paid this month, the pressure to attract further investment is mounting. Solly is hopeful the Bulls can avoid entering administration.
“At the moment it’s far too early to speculate on what might happen because all the noises from Ryan Duckett, Chris Caisley and others have been that they will do everything they can to avoid an administration,” he said.
“At the end of the day, the shareholders have shareholdings that they want to protect. If it goes into administration, that could be wiped out straight away.
“Administration then becomes a matter for the RFL board as to what happens with the club’s Super League licence. If there is to be a sporting sanction, such as a points deduction, the RFL board will look at that too and see what needs to happen.
“The potential investors that are being lined up probably want to know the full and accurate picture of the financial situation before they commit to investing.
“Once the review has been concluded, and the board feel they have an accurate picture of what the numbers actually are, they can match that to the means of investors.
“Clearly if the investors have billions of pounds at their disposal, it won’t be an issue, but if they have more limited resources they may baulk at the financial input they need to make.”
In the meantime, the club remain in ‘special measures’, which prohibits them from registering players’ contracts.
Solly explained: “Like I say, before anything else we need a full picture of the financial position of the club and a way forward. Once the club have provided that, they will be out of special measures and be able to start registering contracts again.
“The Bulls have had no problem with that and realised that when you’re having to ask supporters for £500,000, it’s very difficult to be signing long-term contracts with players.”
Solly also said the RFL would have no issue with Caisley, a player agent and practising solicitor, returning to play a pivotal role at Odsal.
“Chris has worked as an agent in rugby league since he stepped down as Bradford chairman in 2006,” he said.
“There’s nothing stopping him returning to club management and, as the club’s major shareholder, he’s going to be playing a pivotal role whether he’s on the board of directors or not.
“He’s assisting with the review that is being carried out and is probably determining himself whether he has the energy or the resource to step in as a director and drive the business back into health.
“In the meantime, the RFL – like all Bradford fans – await the outcome of the review to see where the club goes from here.”