Bulls continue to fight off the financial matador
Sunday the 8th of July. A nation crowds around their TVs to take in the first Wimbledon men’s final to include a Brit in 74 years, petrolheads turn their attention to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix and 10, 132 Bradford Bulls fans (plus a smattering of masochistic London Broncos supporters) at Odsal make up the highest attendance of the five Super League fixtures being fulfilled on the day.
Updates from Andy Murray’s doomed efforts against a resurgent Roger Federer were announced over the tannoy system at regular intervals and Internet connections were tested to their limit as spectators moved to ensure that they could deliver news from the Wimbledon final before anyone else. A cluster of supporters sat nearby berated Karl Pryce for his perceived laziness in the Bradford ranks with remarks ranging from the outrageous (“I’ve got more talent in my little toe than he’s got”) to the sensible (“The players don’t want to pass it to him”) to the personal (“You’re useless, Pryce!”). And the Bulls romped to an impressive 44-12 win over bottom side, London Broncos, to take them up to sixth in the Super League table.
To the uninitiated, it would appear that everything is rosy at Odsal but tell-tale signs that something is afoot in Bradford littered the scene of one of rugby league’s most atmospheric venues. Notices declaring the club would only accept cash met arrivals to the stadium, programme stands were left unmanned and bereft of stock, and the stadium announcer bid an emotional farewell to the fans at half-time. Following the game, all the players and coaching staff did a lap of honour, heartily applauding their loyal fans with head coach, Mick Potter, nearly turning on the waterworks a few hours before a Scot in SW19 had his very own ‘Gazza’s tears’ moment.
At times during the afternoon, a large grey cloud threatened to turn the ‘Bradford Bowl’ into a swamp but, somehow, the rain didn’t come and this state of affairs could be easily used as a metaphor for the impending doom facing the Bulls. For months, the Yorkshire club had been struggling to stay financially solvent and only last week they fell into administration. One of the first cost-cutting measures made by the administrators was to sack the entire coaching staff, including Potter, and the possibility of the club folding or dropping out of Super League looked certain. But, after discussions with the RFL, Bradford have been told that they will play out their remaining fixtures until the end of the season. Chaos reigns and the Bulls are still expected to be handed a points deduction yet the fans have six games left to savour before a decision is made on the club’s future.
Despite having no money the Bulls are dancing to the red flag of existence being brandished by their penniless matador. The RFL have yet to step into the ring and deliver the fatal blow but, for now, Bradford fans are just happy to watch the charade play out in their amphitheatre-like surroundings. And the Bulls are putting up a remarkable fight. Potter moved to step into the breach that was left by his removal by returning to his role unpaid and the players have given their all to maintain a Play-Off push that is likely to be taken away from them due to circumstances out of their control.
The devotion of the club’s fans was there for all to see yesterday and Bradford Bulls responded with an excellent team performance that belied the state of their current crisis. Brett Kearney ran in four tries, Luke Gale pulled the strings, Shaun Ainscough utilised a seemingly-endless supply of energy and Ben Jeffries and Tom Burgess powerfully drove the team forward from the back. With the possible exception of the aforementioned Pryce, everyone made notable contributions on an almost-perfect 80-minute display and restored some pride into a wounded home support.
There are rumours of further announcements to be made about the state of the club on Tuesday but, for now, there are no desperate pleas and the Bulls fans are behaving commendably as they carry on making the endeavours of the dedicated playing staff worthwhile. Bradford supporters will follow their team wherever they go because they know it is the efforts of the coaches and players wearing the shirt that really matter. Super League would be worse off without the presence of the Bulls but, whatever decision the RFL come to, it is hoped that, for once, the long-term future of the club is catered for with the loyal fans in mind.
Author: Andrew Belt