John Bateman described Bradford Bulls being liquidated as the “saddest day in rugby league.”
Bradford will be allowed to continue in the 2017 Kingstone Press Championship despite going into liquidation, the Rugby Football League has announced.
The Bulls officially ceased trading roday and the club’s players were told they are now free agents after the administrators failed to find a new buyer.
Wigan forward John Bateman, who moved from Bradford ahead of the 2014 campaign, posted on social media: “Gutted!!! This must be the saddest day in rugby league.
“To have achieved my dream to play for my home town club in front of my loved ones and the amazing fans then now to be saying they have been liquidated, lost for words!”
The four-time Super League champions will be given the go-ahead to compete in the Championship, which kicks off in a month’s time, under new owners, albeit with a 12-point deduction as punishment for breaching the game’s insolvency regulations.
A statement the RFL said: “While a number of alternatives were considered the board were most mindful of the planning already undertaken by all other clubs in the competition structure, the season tickets already purchased and the players and staff who will now be seeking employment in and around the sport in 2017.
“Accordingly the board has agreed that the wider interests of the sport is best satisfied if it offers a place in the Kingstone Press Championship to any new club in Bradford and that such a club start the 2017 season on minus 12 points.”
Joint administrator Gary Pettit, of Northampton-based PBC Business Recovery, spoke before last weekend of his hopes for a positive outcome to last-ditch talks, but it is thought the one remaining bidder withdrew his interest on Monday night after discovering the true extent of the club’s financial woes.
The administrators reported interest from a dozen sources as they sought new buyers and it is thought a number of them are waiting in the wings to help form a new company.
“The RFL is aware of significant interest shown in the club by a number of potential bidders and one bid for the company emerged shortly before Christmas,” said the spokesman.
“This was rejected by the administrator and subsequently the further late interest shown to the administrator by another party was withdrawn yesterday evening.
“Any interested parties should contact the RFL directly.
“The RFL believes that rugby league needs Bradford and that Bradford deserves a strong and stable professional club and will work with all interested parties to deliver that outcome.”
It is not the first time the Bradford club have gone out of business - they folded in December 1963 but re-formed in time to play again seven months later and went on to enjoy successful spells at the top of the game.
They reached the Challenge Cup final at Wembley in 1973, won back-to-back championships in the early 1980s and went on to dominate the early years of Super League from 1996.
Their fortunes slumped after appearing in a fifth successive Grand Final in 2005 and the club were forced to sell the lease on their Odsal ground to the RFL for a reported £1.25m five years ago after experiencing financial difficulties.
Some commentators have criticised the decision to let a new Bradford club remain in the Championship, rather than start afresh in League One.