IT’S fair to say that in all my dealings with the Rugby Football League (RFL), I’ve not been known for my diplomacy.

In fact I recall my first introduction to the RFL was in 2004 when I met Nigel Wood – the then chief financial officer and mover and shaker in the British game.

At the time I was the newly-appointed NZ Rugby League director for sorting out problems, and the NZRL chairman Selwyn Pearson had asked me to travel to the UK, to resolve an impasse that had arisen as part of the commercial negotiations between the Australian Rugby League (ARL), the RFL and the NZRL.

It involved the negotiation of media rights for the international game, and the proposed structure and format of the Tri-nations competition, its cycle and how this must all work, if the game was to have a credible world cup format for all stakeholders, players and fans.

The first attempt at this concept had been in 1999, and despite its popularity, lacked a credible format, and fell down on the commercial stakes.

It was an interesting experience, and after flying to Sydney to meet my counterpart in the NRL 'Mr Fixit and money man' Edwin Farish, director of finance, and agreeing what we felt was a sensible position for the world game as a whole, we jointly made the 12,000 mile trip to Leeds to meet 'big Nigel Wood'.

What was abundantly clear to me at the time was that the RFL was being completely unreasonable, unrealistic and uncommercial in its approach.

I was sitting in Red Hall looking at two blokes who combined, outweighed the Kiwis front row, and had the majority of the world's rugby league resources and empire at their disposal. I thought to myself as the discussion, got progressively heated, if this turns ugly I’ll be stuffed in the hold of a slow boat back to New Zealand.

So I leaned over and whispered in Nigel Wood’s ear 'Listen pal, I’m here for 48 hours. If we don’t reach a deal before then, the NZRL are pulling out of the Tri-nations'.

To be fair, both Farish and Wood looked stunned. I jumped up from the meeting room, with my heart racing and asked the receptionist to call a taxi back to my hotel in Leeds. Before she could put the phone down, I was being ushered back into the room, and a very different more conciliatory Wood, was beaming expressing to me the misunderstanding that has occurred and that we could work it out.

Of course we managed to iron out all the details between the three leading nations in rugby league, over the next two hours, and signed a deal which ushered in the expanded tri-nations format, and a better financial share of the revenues.

That deal laid the foundations for the expanded four nations rotating format and locked the rugby league world cup in to a four-year cycle commencing in 2008. It was certainly fulfilling being involved in the world game, and I enjoyed my time on the International Federation, including meeting many true legends of rugby league in the UK.

It was an experience I shall never forget so when I got a surprise call in late 2012 from the RFL to ask if I’d help then with a problem club Salford, curiosity definitely got the better of me, as fortunately I was busy travelling to visit three of my sons, who were all at school in Manchester.

I arrived on Christmas Eve at Manchester Airport, for only seven days, in what felt like ten feet of snow.

The club's owner had moved the Salford club to a new stadium facility at Eccles built by Salford Council and Peel Group costing around £22 million and, what struck me, was the unaffordability of the deal on the stadium's only tenant.

Great stadium, but the tenant couldn’t afford to be there.

I leaned over the table and had a quiet word in the ear of none other than Martin Vickers, the special advisor to the Mayor of Salford Ian Stewart at the time.

I said 'Listen mate, unless you make the tenancy arrangements affordable, it won’t be possible to complete a deal and preserve the club'.

Common sense prevailed, a deal was struck ushering in Marwan Koukash to the rugby league landscape. Despite the rollercoaster that followed, and the inevitable difficulties the Red Devils faced, it was an interesting challenge which saw me serve as a director with the club until 2017, when once again the RFL came knocking.

This time Ralph Rimmer, the fixer for the RFL, asked if I would consider being involved in the Bradford Bulls. Completely different set of circumstances.

At the time, an administrator had been appointed, information was unreliable, and a big club looked set to be destroyed.

Odsal Stadium was under a lease to the RFL, and quite frankly it looked old, tired and I had great uncertainty as to the true costs to operate the ageing facility. I refused to sign a sub-lease because of my concerns.

To make it a real challenge for Graham Lowe and I, the club kicked off with no players, no staff, no sponsors, no training ground, but the best bit was a 12-point penalty and the financial burden of honouring season tickets and a £50,000 donation to RL Cares. Worse was we only had 10 days to put a team together. Of course the circumstances got far worse as we were relegated in 2017, following a TUPE claim by various players against the administrator, the RFL, and unbelievably the new licence holder, following a run of 14 losses from 15 games.

But we survived, and got promoted thanks to the efforts of John Kear, and a tough resilient group of players in 2018, with the support of sponsors, fans, and a dedicated management team.

At the end of 2017, what had become increasingly concerning was the true financial burden of being based at Odsal.

Despite extensive efforts over 18 months, to resolve the position, the fact was the RFL and the Bradford Council were unable or unwilling to support the sale of Odsal Stadium, couldn’t fund an extensive refurbishment at the ground, and wouldn’t provide any additional relief from the cost burden of occupancy.

I said to Ralph Rimmer and the Bradford Council senior executives, 'Unless we reach an agreement to make occupancy affordable, we will be forced to vacate Odsal after our last home game'. Our Bexit – No-deal scenario.

Our ability to stay on an excessively-expensive ground was at an end.

I understand clearly the limits and constraints on the Bradford Council and the RFL. I can’t change that, but what would be needed was a relocation to either Horsfall Stadium or Valley Parade, if that was indeed even possible. Or Dewsbury as a temporary measure.

As has been well documented, Valley Parade was not an option, and neither was Horsfall Stadium possible.

A back-up deal was struck with the Dewsbury Rams, a boutique rugby league ground on favourable terms 10 miles down the road.

Despite the RFL Board’s expressed negativity to the move they have agreed that the Bradford Bulls can relocate to Dewsbury – for 12 months.

Is it possible to move back to Bradford in 12 months? Impossible without significant sums being spent by the venue owners.

What is possible within 12 months, is to work with the Bradford Council to identify and evaluate available land suitable for an affordable boutique community stadium development in Bradford, in conjunction with our stadium development partner.

The adjacent Richard Dunn site, for example, represents a strong opportunity.

Providing the desire and will exists among Bradford’s political elite.

Elected members of Council need to declare their unequivocal support for this type of strategy, and be accountable for it. It’s time for our city’s leaders to front up and be counted.

The fact is anything is possible if you have the right people having the conversation.

As far as the RFL executive and board are concerned and the Bradford Council, I understand they are angry at my decision to shift the club.

It’s not a decision I ever expected to have forced upon me. It impacts everyone.

The club will work with the RFL to have our new budget and funding approved and to demonstrate why this Dewsbury shift is a rational economic decision.

Fundamentally that means season ticket sales. This is the final piece in a complex jig-saw that will then allow the completion of our new signings for 2020.

The game needs a vibrant successful club in Bradford. It’s strategic for the game as a whole. But it also needs it to be economically sustainable.

I understand I will be unpopular, among some, perhaps many, but we have to accept the undeniable facts.

Old Lady Odsal has served the city of Bradford well, but her time has come. Nothing lasts forever. I’ve said many times before that the Bradford Bulls exists because the fans want it to. The club's time will come, its opportunity to complete redemption and return to the Super League will follow.

It won’t be easy, and I’m sure there will be many twists and turns on the journey back to Bradford.

In the meantime, play-off stakes are on the table, and we must defeat Sheffield to climb to sixth place on the ladder, and keep our play-off hopes alive.

A Batley Bulldogs win against Featherstone Rovers would be a play-off changer. Please support your Bulls team in its last-ever game at Odsal Stadium. #COYB.