The Bradford Bulls have recently been purchased by a new ownership group. This ownership group includes Dewsbury Rams chairman Mark Sawyer, former chief executive of the RFL Nigel Wood, and Ottawa Stags president Eric Perez.
Who are the Bulls?
The Bradford Bulls are a historic English rugby league team. They have won six championships, including four in Super League. They have won five challenge cups, and are three-time world club champs.
The troubles however, started in 2012, where money became short for the Bradford Bulls. In 2014, the Bulls were deducted six points before the 2014 Super League season began. Furthermore, the RFL introduced the promotion-relegation system in 2014 with its top three tiers.
Also, the number of Super League teams in 2014 went from 14 to 12 teams. The Bulls lost their license that year in second to last place.
It has not been a smooth ride ever since; the Bulls came close to Super League in 2015 before losing to the Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in the Million Pound Game. Since then, they almost disappeared in 2017.
How the Transaction Happened?
Andrew Chalmers, who was owning the team for two years, was looking to sell the team to somebody.
Chalmers tried to save the Bradford Bulls two years ago. Unfortunately, he was not able to save the team and they dissolved. Chalmers was able to revive the Bulls though by getting a new Bradford Bulls expansion franchise in 2017.
They played in the Championship but were deducted 12 points for liquidation, which played a huge part for them getting relegated in 2017.
Bradford Bulls 2019
The Bradford Bulls were promoted to the Championship season in 2019 as the runner up in the third tier League One 2018 season. They finished respectably in sixth place in 2019.
This was just one place below the playoff teams which included the Featherstone Rovers. The Featherstone Rovers were the Cinderella team of the Championship playoffs defeating the Leigh Centurions, York City Knights, and Toulouse Olympique XIII all on the road before bowing out to the Wolfpack in the Championship Grand Final.
This transaction prevented the Bulls from being deducted points or going into liquidation just like it did in 2017.
It also meant the team can sign players freely now as they have been in special measures since August.
Andrew Chalmers Legacy with the Bradford Bulls
Chalmers’ legacy with Bradford can be described in Eric Perez’s words:
“Brought it back from the brink, people should thank Chalmers right now for saving the club.”
Chalmers did a lot for the Bradford Bulls club. People like Eric Perez, Nigel Wood, and Mark Sawyer are looking at continuing his legacy of reviving the Bulls. In regards to both Mark Sawyer and Eric Perez, the former will be owning two teams in Championship while the latter is trying to bring a team to the RFL.
Ottawa and Dewsbury
Eric Perez assured everyone that the Ottawa team will not be affected Nothing will happen with the Ottawa rugby league team.He describes his role with the Bradford team in the quote below:
“I am here on an interim basis to facilitate the transition between the new ownership and the old regime.”
He also describes his role as part of the new Bradford Bulls ownership group:
“I have been given special dispensation from the RFL to take on the interim chairmanship as Hemel is dormant for the 2020 season, and this in no way undermines the Ottawa club that is slated to enter League One in 2021.”
Eric Perez said that he will be with the team only for a matter of months rather than years as interim chairman of the Bradford Bulls. He states that the Ottawa team will most likely come to fruition in 2021.
Eric Perez will only be in Bradford for “months” as he must return to his Ottawa ownership group and while the Bulls find a permanent chairman.
Eric Perez said that his ownership is ready, but there are still some issues that he has to resolve with the Rugby Football League as stated below:
“Just a couple of issues to work on this side. Not on our side, some negotiations need to be done, and when that is done, we will be hitting the ground running.”
According to Love Rugby League, one of the issues revolves around central funding. The Ottawa team wants to keep their central funding from the RFL. Their reason is that the relocation of the Hemel Stags to Ottawa should not mean they should waive their central distribution to the RFL.
Rugby League fans might be more concerned with Dewsbury though. Mark Sawyer will be part of the ownership of two rugby league teams in the 2020 Championship season
The problem with the Dewsbury Rams and the Bradford Bulls is that Mark Sawyer is part of the ownership group of both teams. This could cause a conflict of interest. However, Mark Sawyer promises there will be no conflict of interest in the following quote from the Yorkshire Post:
Mark Sawyer said that there was no ulterior motive to being part of the Bradford Bulls ownership group stating that:
“All Dewsbury fans concerned I might be stepping away from them, that won’t be the case.”
Mark Sawyer is also committed to the Bradford Bulls saying that he will focus on getting Bradford back to Bradford at Odsal Stadium. Nigel Wood of the Rugby Football League echoed Mark Sawyer’s sentiments. He is determined to bring rugby league back to Bradford.
Nigel Wood’s Family
Nigel Wood was the former RFL president that presided over the ownership change to Chalmers in 2017. He grew up as Bradford Bulls fan, so owning this team means a lot to him.
He, his family, and wife’s family are life-long Bradford Bulls fans who have decided to take ownership of the Bradford Bulls.
It read: “As some people know my family and wife’s family are lifelong Bradford supporters through Northern and the Bulls and we have watched closely and sadly recent events unfold.”
The letter goes on by saying:
“We’ve been asked if we would assist and while it would be much easier and, frankly, much simpler to leave it to others to try to sort things out we have concluded that we can not stand by without doing so.”
Nigel Wood, Mark Sawyer, and Eric Perez seems committed to helping the Bradford Bulls become financially stable. Hopefully, this means a team that fans can enjoy without all the off-field drama.
Bradford Bulls Future
The Bradford Bulls have a lot to look forward to on the field. The players can now focus on improving their sixth-place finish at the Championship next season.
Furthermore, financially Sawyer believes he can maintain the budget of the last few years.
Also, Sawyer talked about creating an academy and youth system in Bradford. This would help bring in more depth to the Bradford squad.
Most importantly, according to The Yorkshire Post, they had been in special measures since August. With this ownership change the Bulls can finally sign players to the Bradford Bulls organization.
On the flip side, the Bulls will not be playing at Odsal Stadium. One of the last moves Chalmer made was move the team to Bradford because of crippling costs to Dewsbury. The Bradford Bulls have a debt of over £750,000.
However, this may only be temporary. According to RFL chairman Simon Johnson in the The Yorkshire Post, the RFL will maintain Odsal Stadium in 2020 to make sure the Bulls return to Odsal Stadium in 2021.
In summary, this new ownership group is a sigh of relief to Bradford fans. They will not have points deducted against them before the start of the 2020 Championship season. Everyone can now look forward to next year and see where the Bulls fare in their next Championship season.
“Main photo credit”