COUNCIL chiefs say "unprecedented financial pressures" mean they cannot transform Odsal Stadium - amid calls to "improve, if not completely replace" the Bradford Bulls' home.

Following the release of rankings this week from sports firm IMG, the Bulls said the "single biggest impediment to getting our club back to the Super League is the absence of an appropriate 21st century facility" - and Bulls' bosses issued an impassioned plea to Bradford Council to breathe new life into Odsal Stadium.

Last month, it emerged the lease on Odsal Stadium had been put up for sale.

The Rugby Football League (RFL) currently leases Odsal Stadium on a 150-year term from Bradford Council, which owns the land.

Bulls' chiefs have now urged Bradford Council to "reacquire the lease from the RFL and deliver a community stadium for the sport in Bradford".

But Bradford Council told the Telegraph & Argus it was "not in a position" to progress schemes for the site's future. 

A spokesperson for the Bulls said: "The RFL, as leaseholders of Odsal Stadium, by putting the lease up for sale, have signalled very clearly that they aren't prepared to make the investment required to bring Odsal up to the required standard.

"They have, however, helpfully and steadfastly insisted that professional Rugby League in Bradford must be protected, as part of any sale.

"The club's clear preference is for the council, who are in fact the actual owners of the land, to reacquire the lease from the RFL and deliver a community stadium for the sport in Bradford, of the required quality to meet the Super League criteria and serve the recreational needs and wants of the local community.

"Failing that, we would ask that the council collaborates with the club and allows us to approach sponsors to develop around Odsal, such that the stadium can become financially sustainable, which it most certainly isn't at present."

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Odsal Stadium from aboveOdsal Stadium from above (Image: Knight Frank)

Tong ward Councillor Matt Edwards, leader of the Green Party on Bradford Council, described the Bulls as an "integral part of Bradford".

He added: "The new IMG grading shows that there is serious work that needs to be done to improve, if not completely replace, Odsal Stadium.

"My only caution is that we have to accept the financial situation facing Bradford Council.

"Nevertheless, the contribution the Bulls make to our city's economy and sporting reputation means the council needs to treat this as a priority and looks at ways to make this happen. 

"That might require some outside of the box thinking."

A Bradford Council spokesperson said: "Rugby league is a key element of our future vision for sport in the Bradford district and the protection of rugby league activity at Odsal is important.

"The RFL had advised us that it is considering selling its long lease of the stadium and is now testing the market to ascertain interest.

"We have noted that it is the intention that any bidder for the RFL interest will enter into a new lease arrangement for the Bradford Bulls.

"We have explored schemes previously to look at the site's future but we're not in a position to progress these in our own right as, like most other local authorities, Bradford Council is facing unprecedented financial pressures.

"We continue to engage with both the RFL and the Bradford Bulls.

"Should a purchaser of the RFL lease be found we will be delighted to learn of their proposals to move matters forward."

In the IMG rankings, Bradford Bulls' stadium score was only 30 per cent of what was possible, ranking at just 0.89 out of a maximum of three.

Some key aspects hold the Bulls back at Odsal, notably a chronically low utilisation score - an average attendance of just over 3,000 in a 26,000-capacity stadium - and a lack of digital features.

However, the Bulls achieved excellent scores on the community (90 per cent) and fandom (79 per cent) aspects of the grading.

Their total of 12.02 puts them 14th in the IMG table.

When it emerged the lease on Odsal had gone up for sale, bosses at the Bulls said they did not believe the move posed "any immediate threat to the club's occupancy" of the stadium and they fully expected to play all home fixtures there in 2024.