Talking RL: Bradford’s ‘punishment’ doesn’t feel right

Bradford Bulls flag flying outside Odsal
Bradford Bulls flag flying outside Odsal

Here’s the thing.

I’m glad there are potential buyers queuing up try and keep a professional club in Bradford.

And I’m happy for all involved – employees to fans. They have been blameless victims in this entire episode.

I, too, have an admiration for what the Bulls have achieved in the past and I, too, want them to be a success in the future.

But it just doesn’t seem right that a club can get into so much trouble, and be given a fresh slate in the same league.

Regardless of what those in the bottom-tier think about it – whether there is uproar or not, whether another ‘new’ club, Toronto, feel there are double-standards or not – where is the deterrent to stop other clubs getting themselves into so much debt?

Why not be reckless, if the only punishment is a 12-point penalty?

I understand that, logistically, it was easier to keep a place open for a new Bradford club in the Championship. But that doesn’t make it right.

A few years ago, I imagine it would have been better for all involved – certainly financially – to keep Rangers in the Scottish Premiership, rather than make them start afresh from the bottom of the pile.

But a stance was made, however tough it was.

Yes, I know, this is not without precedent in rugby league. A similar thing happened with London a decade earlier.

And I also know the RFL bosses have done nothing wrong. Under the RFL’s policy covering liquidation (give it a read, next time you can’t sleep), the board “at its absolute discretion shall have the right to readmit the member – or admit a new member in its place – on such terms as it sees fit which may include (imposing) sporting sanctions.”

Like the 12-point deduction the new Bradford club will be hit with.

But other than an asterix next to their name on the league table, there may be little evidence of Bradford’s turmoil by the time the new Championship season starts next month. Players who haven’t moved on will, I imagine, be offered new deals.

Whether they are able to retain the Bulls name is yet to be seen, but presumably they will ‘absorb’ the old club’s history and records.

The new outfit will even have a charity-arm ready to go – the Bulls Foundation has been unaffected by the club’s collapse, and is “lookingg forward to working with the potential new Bradford.”

And, of course, they will play at the same ground. Odsal.

A word which, strangely, was not mentioned once by the RFL in its 300-word statement announcing Bradford would retain a Championship place – despite the fact the ground is owned by the game’s governing body.

The RFL’s statement says that in making their decision, board members were “mindful” of the others clubs, season ticket holders, players and staff – but gave no mention as to whether their ownership of Odsal influenced their decision or not. The lack of transparency on the issue is disappointing.

The way it has been handled doesn’t sit comfortably with me.