2018 has been Bradford City’s annus horribilis, and it may yet get worse

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

By Jason McKeown

This promises to be a very interesting few days for Bradford City, and it’s not just events on the field that will be in focus.

In-between the Bantams’ back-to-back home matches against Rochdale and Coventry City, there’s the not insignificant matter of the FA Cup first round draw on Monday evening. The implications could be huge for Bradford City’s season – and, for that matter, the ownership tenure of Stefan Rupp and Edin Rahic.

For all the talk of supporters and David Hopkin that the January transfer window can fix the club’s dismal campaign, the worry is just what level of financial war-chest, if any, the head coach will actually have at his disposal. The club’s plight is serious, and the poorly constructed 2018/19 squad is badly in need of reinforcements; but is the club going to be in a position to provide the finances Hopkin needs?

And that’s where the FA Cup comes in, because the competition represents the final opportunity to bring in serious revenue this season.

The early exit from the League Cup to League Two Macclesfield – who still haven’t won a league match by the way – was a costly moment. City are still in the CheckaTrade trophy, but with one group game left and only two points gained so far, their fate hangs in the balance. And anyway, you can only get serious money from the CheckaTrade if you get to the semi finals.

So getting through the first couple of rounds of the FA Cup, and landing a money-spinning third round tie, could be absolutely crucial. And without realising this aim, it’s tempting to ask where the club goes, and what it means for Edin Rahic and Stefan Rupp.

Last January, Rahic told a gathering of 25-year season ticket holders that City were on course to record a loss of £700-£800k for the 2017/18 season. This all came before the sacking of Stuart McCall and the major fall out that followed, culminating in a major drop in attendances, a fall in season ticket renewals and, apparently, a steep decline in sponsorship and commercial revenue. In other words, the loss was probably greater than that forecasted at the mid-point of the season. And unlike in 2016/17, there was no play offs and Wembley ending to bring in a late financial windfall.

With the club having subsequently embarked on an extensive pitch relay work and a revamp of the squad that probably didn’t come cheap, it’s not unrealistic to believe the finances have become further stretched. The sale of Charlie Wyke helped matters, but ultimately that will only have recouped some of the transfer fees that were spent in the summer on the likes of Sean Scannell and Eoin Doyle. And though it was rumoured Michael Collins was underpaid, giving the 32-year-old a three-year contract to be head coach and sacking him after only six league games will have involved a financial hit too. And crowds this season are unlikely to be including many floating punters.

In short, if the club was on track to make a loss of £700-800k for the 2017/18 season last January, just how much worse will the financial picture be right now? How much revenue is the club as a business actually making that can be used as a January transfer budget? There are no more saleable assets other than perhaps Shay McCartan. And so the club is probably running out of money.

Stefan Rupp is reportedly worth £100 million. He has the personal wealth to inject capital that can be used to strengthen the squad. But the question is would he really want to do that? Rupp is supposed to be a silent partner, or an angel investor. The person who puts up the cash, and who presumably at some stage is expecting a decent return on his investment.

He is not really a football fan. His first ever live football match was Bradford City’s 0-0 draw with Coventry in November 2015, when he and Rahic were in advanced talks to buy the club from Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes. And he continues to live in Germany, flying over only occasionally to watch games and to make decisions.

All of which is not to criticise Rupp – and those who seek to lump him in with Rahic’s errant ways should probably remember that the footballing strategy is being implemented by one man and one man only. Rupp is unlikely to relish the idea that it will probably have to fall on his shoulders to provide a sizeable January transfer budget, and why should he? It is because of the incompetency of others that the club is in such a bad position and the squad needs yet another overhaul. At this stage of the pair’s two-and-a-half-year reign, he would not expect to have to be propping up a business that his partner would have sold the idea of investing into as a way of making money.

Throw in the toxic unpopularity of Rahic amongst supporters, which looks utterly beyond repair now, and just how much motivation will Rupp have for continuing this venture? If he could turn the clock back to May 2016, when he was just about to complete the deal and buy 80% of the club, would he now wish he’d not have bothered? It’s hard to see what, if any, enjoyment he is getting out of this. At least when it comes to this calendar year.

The worst-performing club in League One

And if Rupp is fed up, he’s not alone. As a calendar year, 2018 has been utterly, utterly dire. Just seven wins all year long – Fleetwood on New Year’s Day, under Stuart McCall, Gillingham, Portsmouth and MK Dons, under Simon Grayson, Shrewsbury and Burton, under Collins, and Wimbledon, under Hopkin – seven draws and 21 defeats. An utterly dismal record of just 28 points from 36 matches.

How badly does this stack up? For comparison WOAP looked at the 2018 league records of all 31 clubs who have played in League One this year. That includes clubs promoted from or into the division last season, and those relegated from or into it too.

I won’t keep you in suspense. City’s 2018 league record is the worst of every League One club. We trail Oxford United by five points, and are well behind other under-performers Burton, Northampton, Sunderland, Bury and Oldham – who were all relegated last season. If 2018 was a league season, City would be going down to League Two.

The bottom of the 2018 League One table is below.

Team Points
24. Gillingham 39
25. Oldham 39
26. Bury 38
27. Sunderland 38
28. Northampton 36
29. Burton Albion 34
30. Oxford United 33
31. Bradford City 28

In the match report of the Accrington Stanley defeat last week, I asked the question of whether any set of Premier League or Football League fans were having a worse time than ourselves. Well, the answer is yes, probably.

Discounting the Premier League, who play less games, I’ve looked at the league record of all 72 members of the Football League in 2017/18, from 1 January 2018 to the present day. This includes Chesterfield and Barnet, who were relegated to the Conference last season, and whose records in the National League so far this campaign I’ve added on. I’ve not included the teams relegated from the Premier League last season, or promoted from the Conference.

And the results? Bradford City have the 71st-best record of the 72 members of the 2017/18 EFL. They have a better record than one team – Reading. Amazingly, like City, the Royals were defeated in the 2017 play off final and suffered an almighty hangover in 2017/18. narrowly avoiding relegation. They’ve been equally dismal this season. Unlike City, they’ve only gone through two managers this year. Although similar to the Bantams, fans are unhappy at the direction of the club and the owners – they were bought by Chinese pair Dai Yongge and Dai Xiu Li in May 2017.

For what it’s worth, Reading’s points haul of 25 over 2018 is only three fewer than City’s, and they have played one less game. So there are few crumb of comforts for us. When it comes to 2018, Bradford City fans have suffered badly. Here’s the bottom of the 2018 EFL.

Team Points
63. Burton 34
64. Morecambe 34
65. Oxford United 33
66. Ipswich Town 33
67. Hull City 33
68. Chesterfield 31
69. Port Vale 30
70. Cheltenham 29
71. Bradford City 28
72. Reading 25

What a contrast to how things were just 13 months ago, when for two years Bradford City had the best record in the entire country. And it is that complete and utter collapse that leaves the mood incredibly dark going into this week’s Valley Parade double-header.

If Rahic was hoping the corner was being turned over recent weeks, Saturday’s dismal defeat at Accrington – which he departed from at half time, having curiously sat alongside Dougie Freedman – has shattered the fragile mood once more. And though the talk of protests has so far failed to generate into meaningful action, the angry scenes in the away end at the Wham Stadium will only be intensified if City fall behind on Saturday. For the past six weeks since Collins’ exit, the club has been perched on the edge of a cliff, trying to crawl away from danger. But we might be about to go over the edge. The point of no return.

The pressure is huge. On the players, who were on the receiving end of sharp words from Hopkin after the Stanley defeat that will have most of the squad sweating on their place in the side. On the head coach, who for the first time received some hostility from fans and appeared rattled by it. And most certainly on the chairman, who is in big trouble. Rahic is understood to have chosen to head back to Germany for a two-week break and so will not be at the game tomorrow. He has a lot to reflect on, and the time away may give him the opportunity to question himself and whether this is ever going to work.

And though Rupp is cushioned from the sharp rawness of what is happening at Valley Parade, this week’s piece in the leading German newspaper Zeit brings the spotlight closer to home. Journalist Kit Holden wrote, “The German fairy tale has become an English nightmare.”

Holden unearths a quote from Rahic 11 months ago that says much about his misguided belief in his own abilities. “I’m not just an owner, but also a kind of sports director. It’s very unusual in England because, unlike in Germany, the sports director’s job is usually done by the coach, but the German model is better because the coach can only focus on football.” You won’t find many City fans who would agree the German model is better, or at least Rahic’s interpretation of it.

The next 100 days seem absolutely pivotal in the ownership of Rupp and Rahic. If the team can somehow win some games, it might take some of the edge off the darkening mood, but if the club are knocked out of the FA Cup early, Rupp is going to inevitably face some major decisions.

Things cannot continue as they are. It is all coming to a head. You have to believe that the future soul of Bradford City can somehow be saved before further damage is done, but it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better.

After all, there’s still another two-and-a-half months to go of this miserable year for Bradford City.



There’s less than two weeks to go until the Stephen Darby apprectiation night at Valley Parade – and there are now only limited tickets left.

As part of the activity in and around to raise funds for the Motor Neurone Disease Association, James Mason’s Five Nine Agency are auctioning off a very special prize – a private dining experience with Stephen Darby, Gary Jones, Peter Jackson and others. To bid for this amazing opportunity, simply visit this Tweet and either submit your bid by DM or by tweeting.

The Who We Are Stephen Darby appreciation evening is being held at Valley Parade on Tuesday 30 October; tickets £10, with all money going to MND Association.

Already advertised to appear on the night are James Mason, Paul Jewell, Gary Jones, Rory McArdle, James Hanson, Filipe Morais, Billy Clarke, Jon Stead, Simon Parker, Bantams Banter, Katie Whyatt and John Dewhirst.

I’m pleased to announce the following have also been added to the bill: David Baldwin, Mark Ellis, Terry Dolan and Lee Duxbury. The current City squad, including head coach David Hopkin, will also be there.

To buy your ticket visit here.

Categories: Opinion

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16 replies

  1. Well said, Jason, but I wish you hadn’t needed to say it. Sadly, you are correct. I simply hope Saturday is better.

  2. There will be NO January window for us unless we can shift players first…..and I bet McCarthorse ends up going on a ‘free’ transfer!!

    • McCartan is earning glowing reports at Lincoln. He is probably in a role/system which suits him. A petty insult at a player who clearly has quality. Comments from him indicate that he did not feel right at City – but we all know about that.

    • To be fair Simon I saw McCartan a few weeks ago at Cheltenham. He was by far the best player on the pitch – I was very impressed. Just shows what the right position, management and confidence can do for a player – and remember the Imps are only a few places below us in the football prymid.

      • fair play to him then, looks like we’ll let him go to Lincoln full time then. Still can’t see us recovering anything for him. He just looked a very average lazy player to me.

      • The Mcarthorse characterisation is way of the mark. Technically gifted with great vision. Attitude and motivation questionable. There is a great player in there for a decent man manager to nuture

  3. Best we can all do is start trying the Euromillions!! There’s better odds on there of winning than RAHIC turning this around!!

  4. Just to add to my previous comment, I do not understand why decent players become bad players when they join City. I do not understand why previously fit players like Reeves, Jones, Akpan, Chicksen become injury prone. The writing was on the wall against Plymouth and Peterborough last year, but I do not understand why McCall, Grayson, Collins, Hopkin (to date) can’t even begin to turn it round. Yet, as I have said before, failure is almost always the fault of those at the top, so it must be the Rahic-inspired culture to blame. Therefore, he and he alone, is responsible for our ills.
    But the diagnosis is far easier than the cure.
    I truly do not begin to know what can be done by the likes of us.

  5. We were in Australia over Xmas and just before our return, I recall City needed to win their next game to go 2nd in the table. Since then it has been total and utter misery.

    I said at the time that if we had even reasonable home form we would go up because our away form was superb. Unfortunately the home form has stayed and the away form is a distant memory. I do think that the writing was on the wall before McCall was sacked. Whose fault that was, I think the vast majority are on the same page!

    Team spirit ripped apart, best and experienced players departed – it’s going to take a while to recover. My worry now is that Rahic will sack Hopkin and we have to start again. He MUST stick with Hopkin and let him rebuild. He has got no squad and if he could perform miracles he wouldn’t be at Valley Parade.

    It’s interesting about the newspaper article because Mr Rupp may well see that and it won’t be good for his reputation.

    (By the way if anyone would like to blame us for flying back and causing the slump and thus want to pay for us to move back to Melbourne then please feel free to contribute!)

  6. “The pressure is huge. On the players, who were on the receiving end of sharp words from Hopkin after the Stanley defeat that will have most of the squad sweating on their place in the side”.

    True, but my hunch is that they are sweating on hoping they aren’t gonna be picked. I know it is beyond a limit ever to question a player’s professionalism, so to be clear I do not mean that those who are picked will deliberately try to be awful.

    But I just don’t see that we have a dressing room full of players, characters, leaders, bursting forth and chomping at the bit to get in that first eleven and starting to right wrongs. With a few notable exceptions (pick your, what, three maximum?) most of them look like they’d rather be anywhere else than out there in front of the crowd at VP.

    We’re a unique, colourful and brilliant set of fans that have inspired countless other players to reach unthinkable heights.

    This lot just look terrified of us.

    • Absolutely spot on – and it’s always been the case at City. That’s why Parkinson always prized character above all else. We need fearless players now who can step up and be counted.

      Sadly with so few experienced players in the squad the chances of that happening is slim. I do feel sorry for some of the youngsters. Their career in football may be over before it’s started.

  7. We had an apology, of sorts, from Rahic several weeks ago, for getting things wrong. Actually, it only specifically referred to the ill fated appointment of Michael Collins. The question I ask is, does Edin Rahic really understand just how badly he has performed? As he’s so quickly turned a successful football club into a laughing stock, he should surely realise he’s completely out of his depth. The worrying signs are that he doesn’t and, unchecked, the real fear is he’ll run Bradford City into the ground.

    We’ve seen the consequences of the wholesale change in playing staff and hiring and firing of Head Coaches. That is nothing compared to the chopping and changing of managerial and office staff. Recent reports suggest Mrs Rahic has now been appointed Accountant. Is that the fourth during the Rahic/Rupp regime? How can any business hope to survive with such a revolving door policy?

    I still contend that the only tangible way fans can display their displeasure at the way the club is being run, is to boycott home games. l know it hasn’t worked at other clubs with problem owners, but it may just fire a warning shot across Rupp and Rahic’s bows, with 2019/20season ticket sales in mind. Let’s face it, if the club continues on it’s downward spiral, there might not even be a club to support anyway. There’s certainly no point in chanting ” We want Rahic out” when the guy’s not even at the game to hear it.

  8. Its clear to see that Rahic has turned a winning, vibrant and upwardly mobile club into the uneviable position of 2nd worse club in the league in relation to results and progess on the pitch within the blink of an eye or slow car crash depwndant how you see it.

    All this has been achieved in a little over 9 months and I have to pintch myself to believe the precarious position the club finds itself in given the hard earned progess and respect bcafc has and was achieving post 2013.

    If the club had won promotion at Wembley it may have been papering over the cracks however it would have have added a further 2k on the 19k ST sales and virtually given us a a guarenteed 24k home gate and the opportunity with the extra revenue the championship offers a great opportunity to establish ourselves at this level and build further on our year on year progession.

    In my time following city there is a cycle of around 10 years of progression followed by 5/6 years of regression/ relegation then a turn around in fortunes. Unfortunately since 2013 5 years of progess has been halted in its tracks and regression has set in unecessarily early due to the half baked ideology implemented by 1 man and his self proclaimed “I know football” statement. He has only suceeded in tearing apart, dividing the club and reinventing bcafc with young untried players, substandard German imports and a mismash of loanees and expensively assembled expirenced yet not the finished aritcle players from L1&2. Not a recipe or blueprint for the running of a sucessful football club is it?

    This model has included 4 managers in a 9 month period reaping a total number of wins to less than 10 and certain relegation candidates. Lets not kid ourselves progression has ended prematurely and will end in relegation come May. For me I have chosen to boycott of Valley Parade and away games thus voting with my feet.

    In the meantime Rahic now has form and an established pattern of behaviour. Hire manager, buy players, sack/lose manager, go incognito, apologise, repeat.

    Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest? The cry of every subordinate involved with our great club. What a cowardly and ungreatful man Rahic has shown himself to be.

  9. Naive and hubristic rather than cowardly. Buy a football club with no relevant experience with a disinterested business partner in another country. Fail to take advice from those who have been round the block. Failure is pretty inevitable. As Jason says we have probably not bottomed yet but most of us will still be here in ten years when Rahic has gone and the journey back will be enjoyable. It is us that provides the soul of BCFC never forget it

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