Bradford Bulls to suffer the same fate as Portsmouth FC?

In a situation that would bring back bad memories to fans of the dramatic fall of Portsmouth FC from the Premiership to League 2, the Rugby Football League club ‘The Bradford Bulls’ had a spanner thrown in the works of their plan for financial recovery on Tuesday, when the directors quit just minutes after the club were docked six Super League points for going into administration

Fans will recall that Portsmouth suffered equally harsh points deductions, as the club entered successive administrations and this compounded their financial problems, as they fell down the leagues.

The sanction against the Bulls was imposed by the Rugby Football League, as a result a second breach of the game’s insolvency regulations in 12 months.

Bradford Bulls administration

Bid to purchase withdrawn

Bulls chairman, Mark Moore, confirmed that Bradford Bulls 2014 Ltd, the holding company which had a bid to purchase the club from the administrator accepted last week, has withdrawn its offer.

In a statement, Moore said: ‘It is with great sadness and frustration that we have been led to this point.

‘I believe that we have been forced into making this decision, due to the Rugby Football League’s proposed sanction of a six-point deduction, making relegation almost a certainty.’

Moore, heavily criticised the RFL for what he described as ‘poor leadership’.

He claimed the Rugby League governing body had badly advised the directors during their takeover talks and wanted to place the club’s licence into special measures, which he argued would ‘likely taint our personal dealings, while embarrassing us all professionally’.

Claims of business plan being ignored

The new company looking to acquire the business from the administrators, after having their offer accepted by the administrator, still needed to go through the process of ratification from the RFL, but Moore said the governing body had ignored their proposed business plan and described the points deduction as a ‘slap in the face’ for the club and its fans.

Rise and fall of a top league side

The Bulls have consistently been in the top league since the switch to summer rugby and were crowned Super League champions four times in the first 10 years.

They have also been three times World Club champions.

Their financial problems first came to a head in 2012, when without a major benefactor they entered administration for the first time. The club was rescued by a local restaurant owner and the former sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe.

Their woes have continued since 2012 and this latest twist throws more doubt on their ability to find a sustainable financial model.

Strong financial model could be the key to success and create level playing field

With the number of high profile sports teams still appearing to be reliant on external ‘investors’ willing to bankroll success and those investors becoming harder to find, will we ever get to a level playing field, where results on the pitch are down to having a sustainable financial model rather than being subject to the whim of the super wealthy?

Deducting points from a financially failed club seems to be nothing more than putting another hole in a sinking boat?

Once the ‘investors’ run out of money, loose interest of in some cases get arrested, they have usually long since disappeared by the time the sanction is applied and it is the loyal fans left behind that suffer.

Is the tactic of ‘after the event’ sanction good for professional sport, or just punishing the innocent fans in an attempt by the governing bodies to look tough whilst sweeping the real issue of requiring a sustainable financial model under the carpet?