Headline: "Bradford in dire distress"|
Article contents: "News
reached yesterday that Bradford will probably have to disband in
the next few weeks because of financial difficulties."
Newspaper asks: "Is Rugby League at death's door?"
Sorry times at Bradford. Trouble is, these above headlines are
not from this year, but from the Guardian Newspaper back in
December 1963! This isn't the first time financial problems have
hit the Odsal club.
It was a similar story back then as well. Falling attendances
had led to a debt that the club couldn't pay off. ?10,000 (approx
?168,000 today) was needed back then, but they couldn't find it and
went into liquidation after playing just 13 matches of the
However "with the help of other Rugby League clubs,
and the RFL", a sum of ?5,000 (approx ?84,000 today) was raised to
help form a new Bradford club which restarted playing in 1964-1965
and is the same club that is now in trouble today.
All reads like complete deja vu 49 years on doesn't it? It is
exactly the same scenario.
Now first of all, you have to have sympathy for the die hard
supporters at Odsal, the innocent victims in all this. I commented
last week how, having not been to France, a 24 day break between
fixtures to attend was difficult for me, so I dread to think how
having no games at all would be like.
But the crux of the problem in 1963 was falling attendances and
that seems to be like it has been the problem this time as well. Yes their were other
factors, like the Iestyn Harris court case, but bottom line was
Bradford's average attendance fell by over 5,000 between 2005 and
2010 and that must have been a huge financial hole to fill.
Granted the average attendance rose by 5,702 back up to 13,967
in 2011 but we all that was due to the "pledge 10,000" scheme they
did. The scheme basically was that if 10,000 fans "pledged" to
buy a season ticket, they'd all get them for just ?60! The more
pledges that got made, the cheaper it became.
Baring a mind the 2010 price was ?160, that was a saving of 63%
off. Great for the fans but looking back now in hindsight, whilst
boosting the crowd figure was great, it had zero impact on the
field and barely made Odsal the "fortress again" that the
marketing for the scheme was focusing on. It also to me seems like
it was a
completely mad idea from a income point of view? Especially now in
I know seats are more expensive that terraces and away fans
paid full whack but basic maths here. For example you have 13,967
(their 2011 average) paying ?60 each. That offers a return of
?838,020. Or you have 8,265 (their 2010 average) paying ?160 each,
that returns ?1,322,400. So they cut their gate income by roughly
37%. I can't claim to know full stories here, and these figures I
know are very rough, but cutting your game income like that seems
totally mad and perhaps goes a hell of a long way to explaining
how Bradford can have such a huge shortfall at the moment?
This year they did a "Pledge 12,000" with ?75 terrace season
tickets on offer. Considering I paid ?216 for my Wigan one its a
brilliant price for the supporter, but from a business point of
view it's looks clear suicide to me, especially if you don't (and Bradford
clearly don't) have a rich owner to soak up the losses.
Again I'm no business man here but for all that, I still don't
get where the money is going. I mean how can the ?500,000 desperately raised in April have
disappeared so quickly? I could understand them getting into a
mess if they had the team of 1996-2005 ish with a ton of star
assets on huge wages but, lets be honest, the Bradford squad has
been pretty garbage since about 2008.
I'm sat here writing this looking at Bradford's 19 man
squad (see below) and wondering if they have any playing assets at all? Talk
of John Bateman being signed up elsewhere, but he's 18 and has
played just 15 Super League matches for them. Might well be a
quality youngster for all I know but If that's their best asset
then it says an awful lot for their squad and backs up my comment
about their squad being pretty garbage I think.
I mean, I'll be brutally honest gere, I think that's a squad that is over
achieving this season in currently being around the play off spots.
I say that because their last five away games see them visit
Wigan, Warrington, Leeds, Huddersfield and Catalan (five of the
current top six). In total 7 of their last 9 games are against
teams in play off positions and I'd expect the majority of those results to see
them bottom out well short of the top 8, with or without a
potential points deduction.
Now they might well make a mug of me and come here and rally to
an almighty upset in these difficult circumstances but it won't
change anything. I expect we'll end up with a new Bradford club
taking over like we did in 1963/64, but to me it might just well
paper over the cracks. I mean the fans clearly voted with their
feet between 2008 and 2010, so what's the optimism that they will
stick around when the squad is ripped apart at the end of this
season and costs are cut across the board whilst surely season
ticket prices have to rise again? Also, Odsal is becoming more and more depressing and dilapidated
by the season. That's probably the biggest thing really. The new
stadium expected in 2000/2001ish never materialised and the club
never recovered from that and I think it'll be donkey years before
they rise again to be blunt. The days of "Bull Mania" and going to
Odsal in massive fear of being barrelled over into defeat are
long, long gone.
I really do wish those die hard Bradford supporters well though. Like I said, they
are the innocent victims and it's always been a friendly club to
visit. I really hope they travel over here in great
numbers for what could be the clubs last game. I don't think it
will be because
even if the current "Bulls" fold, they will return like in 1964 but
whether that's in Super League or not, only time will tell.
What this whole mess does confirm is that the RFL's licence system is
totally discredited, especially with them becoming the third club
in less than two years to enter administration. In fairness the
current recession doesn't help but the crux of the problem is that
a 14 team Super League isn't working.
Daniel Anderson talked about his feeling that Super League had
declined in standards since he left St Helens at the end of 2008
and he is spot on. Again this year the bottom end of the Super
League offers teams that aren't competing. Widnes came here on
Monday and were well beaten by a Wigan side that were in training
mode to my eyes.
Again simple facts - In 2008 (the last year we had a 12 team
league) Castleford were bottom of the table with a points
difference of minus 276. Second Bottom Hull with -161. Last year
we had points differences at the bottom of -330 (Crusaders), -427
(Harlequins) and -504 (Wakefield). This years will be just as bad
or worse. We clearly have to go back to at least a 12 team league,
sooner rather than later.
Anyway, what will be at Odsal will
be, for now we have a game to consider as Wigan look to go 14 wins
in a row. This is now our best run of wins since we won 20 in a row
between 2nd April and 24th September in 1995. The last time we
won 14 in a row within one season though was back in 1986-1987 when we
won the last 18 games of that season to take out the league title
and Premiership Trophy.
I obviously expect a Wigan win again but if Bradford fire on
emotion, and Josh has an off day with conversions, you just never
know! It's the only way I can see us losing at the moment to be
honest. We are now in tick over mode I think ahead of the Cup Semi
Final and I expect us to tick over with another professional job
here. We shall see.