The most iconic stadium, massive names and huge entertainment. Bradford Bulls were the original rock ‘n’ roll Super League club and helped make the British game what it is today so what has ended up happening to the fallen West Yorkshire giants is a great shame for the sport and every other rugby league fan, no matter their allegiance, would agree – even Leeds Rhinos fans who, despite their geographical rivalry, most definitely miss those derby nights.
Mismanagement from both ownership and the RFL itself have seen the four time Super League champions plummet through the leagues and will play in the third tier in 2018 after losing the inaugural Million Pound Game in 2015. Back in 2012, the governing body granted a Super League licence to the troubled Bulls but only allowed them half of the money other clubs could spend – how on earth was this supposed to give the Bulls chance to recover? Yes, teams in other sports often get relegated, regroup and recover before getting back to the big time and challenging for success again. If that was the RFL’s goal, why give them a licence? The only real reason was selfishness where the powers that be, aware of Bradford Bulls’ standing in the game and draw for fans, wanted to keep one of the genuine giants of the game in Super League. The fact the club managed to stay in the top flight for three years from this point, after points deductions, was an achievement but, after relegation, more financial woes have followed.
The fact that even the most devout rugby league fans have grown confused surrounding the situation of ownership, new or old companies and points deductions over the last few years says it all about the state of the club – but that isn’t just the Bulls’ fault as there have been administrators and owners with the club’s best interests and long term future at heart. The RFL need to be held to account for some of the failings of the club who, now entering Kingstone Press League 1, will hopefully be able to completely recover. 2017 saw a club which, to all intents and purposes, were a new one. Yet, unlike Toronto Wolfpack who were placed in the third tier for that very reason, Bradford were put into the Championship with a 12 point deduction – a deficit they never managed to recover from, finishing the season on 0 points.
As bad as it has got for the Bulls, they may well feel that the 2018 season is their first chance for years to regroup and recover. Under Geoff Toovey, if he stays, Bradford will be under the stewardship of a highly rated coach who will hope to guide his charges back up the divisions in the correct manner after their regrouping and recovery, hoping to leave the sorry saga of the last few years behind.