BRADFORD (Park Avenue) owner Gareth Roberts was back in the city this week, and in a sit-down interview with the T&A, he admitted he wants the club to be at “Champions League” level in the community, if not on the pitch.

Avenue’s goal for now is to ensure they stay in National League North, but understandably, fans will want to see those goalposts shift in the coming years.

Asked if he could help take them to the next level and compete for promotion, Texas-based Roberts insisted: “There are big clubs down here, who are going professional, which we can’t yet afford to do.

“But I’m not sure that’s the right model either. I think some of these clubs are still following the model of trying to get promoted and be successful, but I’m a little sceptical about that.

“Even clubs that get to the Football League, they struggle with what their goal is and not everybody can be successful.

“We watch Bradford City carefully, and they’ve struggled with their model at times.

“What we’re trying to do is be in the Champions League of the community, not necessarily on the football field.

“The idea is to build a base which will always be something we can count on.

“We’ll try and build that fanbase, because some of these clubs in our league are getting well over 1,000 supporters at home games, sometimes more than that, so we need to be in that range before we can aspire to start spending the money that others do.”

Roberts confessed that the coronavirus pandemic had been a huge blow financially, saying: “It cost us a lot of money and about a year in terms of getting everything finished (ground developments), and that is money.

“We were anticipating all our new facilities being in and then benefitting from the revenue they’d generate.

“We’ve still spent that money but not got the revenue. It’s a big number (that we’ve lost) and to be honest I’d rather not talk about it.”

Despite that, Roberts is confident Avenue will be on sure footing in the coming years, even if he would like other investors to share the burden.

He said: “I’d like to see crowds of over 1,000, and the ground being run on a sustainable basis.

“That would be so it makes a surplus, that allows money to be put aside for a rainy day, to replace the pitch or other investments that make sense around the ground.

“I can’t keep supporting it for much longer. I need it to become sustaining, and after that we’ll see where it takes us.

“I want to keep going with the club, but it would be nice to have other people in Bradford who are interested in this model to join us in some way.

“We originally started out with a model that was very similar to FC United of Manchester, but that doesn’t work, as ultimately you need somebody who can put their hand in their pocket when things don’t go right.

“We’ve been able to attract funding to improve the ground, but you have to have matching funds and someone who is willing to help out with some of the capital improvements that will be needed 20 years from now.

“We’ve still got the athletics track and runners, and we’d like the athletics to grow, with runners coming in and using it during the day, then have running clubs and athletics twice a week for example.

“There are a lot of physical improvements to be made in the future and I think they can all be achieved.

“Once people see the facility, they’ll realise what a benefit it is. With us having created it, I hope it’ll inspire others.”

And he called on volunteers to come and help out, saying: “It’s very difficult to run the club from so far away, so we’ve tried to get the right people in place to run the club on a daily basis.

“We’ve made a lot of progress there, but it’s still difficult and we are going to have to depend on more volunteers to help the club from time to time.

“We just can’t afford to hire people for every role, as it’s not like a Premier League organisation.”

Thanking those who have helped out to date, Roberts said: “I must point out how helpful Bradford Council have been, as well as the Football Stadium Improvement Fund and Sport England.

“But there have been almost too many people to mention have been involved to get this project over the line.

“It’s been very difficult, but if you look back at the history of Bradford sport, there haven’t been a lot of occasions where something has been delivered that was promised.

“We see a lot of disappointment and ideas thrown about, with a lot of articles in the T&A that were just hope, but didn’t come to anything.

“But we’ve got something here, and we can continue to attract funding for what is a great community project.”

Part two of the Roberts interview will be published online tomorrow.