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Bradford Bulls insist current financial crisis does not stem from Iestyn Harris settlement
Stephen Coulby has ended the uncertainty surrounding the cost of Iestyn Harris’ move to Bradford by revealing that payments to Leeds amounted to £550,000.
The Rhinos, who allowed Harris to leave them in 2001 to pursue a career in rugby union with Cardiff Blues, returned to the 13-man code to join the Bulls in 2004.
In May 2008, Bradford paid compensation to the Rhinos in an out-of-court settlement, in addition to their legal costs, and also apologised for their part in the transfer saga.
By agreement with Leeds, Coulby has now revealed there was a compensation payment to the Rhinos of £550,000 – spread over three years, inclusive of interest and all of their costs.
Bulls director Coulby said: “Following the restructuring of the club’s board in May, it has been our intention if possible to reveal the true facts with regard to the settlement made with Leeds in May 2008 concerning Iestyn Harris.
“Discussions have taken place with representatives from Leeds and we are now able to reveal the actual detail.
The (Bulls) directors are grateful to Leeds for allowing the true facts to come out and to indicate that their stance in this matter and the resulting settlement have not ultimately led to the problems which face the club at the present timeStephen Coulby
“At the time of the settlement, both clubs were tied in to a confidentiality agreement. It was, however, made clear in 2008 that settlement had been reached and that chairman Peter Hood had also made an unreserved apology for comments which he had made relating to the Leeds club in January that year and to which they took exception.
“Both clubs now feel that at the present time the best interests of everyone are served by the full details being revealed, in the light of continued speculation since the actual time of the settlement.”
Harris signed for Bradford in July 2004 in the face of tremendous competition for his services from a number of top clubs both here and in Australia.
Having kicked off his career at Warrington, he spent four years with Leeds, during which time he became club captain at the age of 21.
He led the Rhinos to a Challenge Cup victory and a Grand Final appearance, in addition to winning the Man of Steel trophy, before switching codes to rugby union.
Coulby said: “Iestyn was signed by Bradford in full knowledge that Leeds had an option to secure his services but that the option could not be enforced unless Iestyn gave notice to terminate his contract with Cardiff RUFC.
“Bradford were told at the time by his solicitor and agent that Iestyn had not terminated his contract with Cardiff but that Cardiff had dismissed him – ie that the option could not therefore be enforced – and on that basis the player signed for Bradford, his chosen preference.
“It subsequently transpired that Iestyn’s agent had in fact given notice to Cardiff without Iestyn’s apparent knowledge, thus triggering the Leeds option.
“The point was reached by 2008 where it was in the interests of both clubs to settle the matter out of court and Bradford agreed, after a number of amicable meetings, to pay Leeds an amount of £550,000, such amount to cover all costs and interest.
“The agreement was for the money to be paid over a period of three years and was so arranged because a new Sky TV contract was about to deliver to the club an additional £200,000 per annum.
“The board at that time, under the guidance of the newly appointed finance director – who was not on the board at the time of the signing – was confident that this was affordable and the club were able to budget going forward without this settlement having any great impact on the business.
“The club’s books show that, over a period of three years from 2005-2008, legal costs of £79,032.13 were paid out in connection with this case, making the total cost to the club £629K.
“The costs to the club had, however, been absorbed by the business prior to the settlement being reached, leaving £550K to be covered going forward, and the budget for 2009 was prepared on a break-even position and full salary cap spend after allowing for the first payment to Leeds.”
Coulby stressed that Harris was a great ambassador for the club. He explained that the dual code international, who represented his country in the 2003 Rugby Union World Cup, undoubtedly helped the Bulls to gain considerable income from the sale of merchandise, procure sponsorship revenue and reach two Grand Finals in 2004 and 2005, with a World Club victory in 2006.
“Iestyn was a virtual ever-present during that period and, in scoring 17 tries in 2005, stood only behind Lesley Vainikolo in the try-scoring list,” said Coulby.
“At that time transfer fees were more common than perhaps now and the club would undoubtedly have paid a transfer fee for a player of Iestyn’s calibre.
“It should also be pointed out that in the region of £700K came into the club around that period from outgoing transfers and that the club continued, after signing Iestyn, to pay out additional transfer fees for players.
“The directors are grateful to Leeds for allowing the true facts to now come out and to indicate that their stance in this matter and the resulting settlement have not ultimately led to the problems which face the club at the present time.”
* Bulls joint-captain Heath L’Estrange could feature for the Exiles as they prepare to face England on Wednesday.