By Steve Hamilton
I am sure that for however long you have supported Bradford City, you can honestly pick out moments where it truly has been a rollercoaster of emotions. An old friend of mine describes it as the ultimate in torture, jerking from ecstasy to deep lows, extreme joy to ultimate sadness. I have come to accept this as being part and parcel of supporting the Bantams.
However, in all the years of supporting Bradford City, be it through administrations or the highs of being promoted to the Premier League, I have never experienced this level of discontent from our supporter base. You only have to take to Twitter or Facebook to see the term, “Toxic” being used more noticeably than it has ever been used before.
I have thought long and hard about writing this piece, and for a while I decided to reserve judgement on the Rahic / Rupp ownership. They arrived with little being known about them. They pledged to not “change much” whilst seeming to understand the background of what Bradford City were all about. They commented on the working class nature of Bradford, and the importance of keeping a connection to the supporter base. The loss of Phil Parkinson did generate some mumblings amongst our fanbase, but these were soon quashed with the arrival of Stuart McCall. Progression seemed to continue, and Wembley beckoned on our horizon again, and we all know what happened there? We jump to February 2018, and six straight defeats including a 4-0 loss to Wimbledon and McCall’s last game at Oldham, in which we lost 2-1. This was also on the back of that defeat at Yeovil.
We are now in October 2018, and have seen Simon Grayson, a man with a very good record of success in this league, and the “sacrificial lamb” that was Michael Collins, depart from our club, with Simon Grayson allegedly refusing the job. The whole Michael Collins saga, in my opinion, was extremely embarrassing for the club. We can be described as a lot of things as a club, but we do not ruin the careers of young managers. If you fill a man’s head with dreams of what could be, who does not have the experience to fulfil those dreams, then you get the end result we saw for Collins.
Keep in mind that the Collins saga was on the back of supposed interviews with a number of managers, some of good reputation. Signings were made during the summer, and a significant proportion of fans seemed to be pleased with the level of recruitment. Payne, Scannell came with good backgrounds, with Riley hailing from Manchester United. However, the start we have made this season does not represent what we see on paper, and discontent has risen to levels not seen before.
It is only when you reflect and realise that the exits from the club, including James Mason, have all come inside the last eight months…just eight months to bring about the levels of despondency we are now seeing. So where has this all gone wrong?
Edin Rahic has held various interviews with the media, and also Dom and Tom from Bantams Banter. In these he has made various statements, made promises, which have not been delivered on. It is hard to disagree that the progress made by Bradford City has been dismantled. The bond between supporters and the club, for me, has been stopped. If there was one thing we could rely upon, it was a voice from the club in James Mason. His subsequent “ban” from engagement with the fans was met with anger by most fans. This conduit was one of the reasons for the closeness of fans to the club. They knew that rumours could be put forward, and providing the club could answer without affecting a negotiation / deal, and it was legal to answer, generally they would.
You cut off communication with your biggest revenue supplier then surely it does not turn out so good. We are already seeing fans coming out with terms such as, “I feel isolated from the club”, “I used to be excited about going, but now I can’t be bothered”, “the club don’t want to listen to us”. In business, you stop listening to your customers, and the end is nigh!
Then we move onto Stefan Rupp, the other owner, and one who doesn’t really speak or give a view. Our fans have to get real where he is concerned. For avoidance of any doubt, he knows what is going on, and I can tell you now, he is not interested. He loves motor sport and that is his passion. The sum he supplied is insignificant in terms of his fortune. He is not going to ride in on a white charger and save the day. Rumours circulating recently suggest he is not prepared to bankroll any further money, and I have seen various comments that suggest administration beckons for our club. Whether this is true or not, time will tell. Most of our fans remember our administrations and would not want to go through this again.
The time for a body of fans to question the clubs motives is now. The recently published report of a meeting held by the Bradford City Supporters Trust with Edin Rahic and other representatives of Bradford City Football Club was disappointing. The questioning did not seem forceful enough, and the responses were regurgitated sound bites from other interviews and Q & A sessions. I believe that a body that represents the supporters of this club should be in tune with the supporters of this club. Communication from this trust does seem to be sparse, and many supporters, following the release of the report from the Rahic meeting, are stating that the trust does not represent them.
This is a serious situation where a body that is supposed to represent the views of the supporters is alleged to not be doing so. The trust should now be pushing the club for an emergency open meeting between the club and its supporters. This should be a mandatory attendance for the board of Bradford City, and for them to take questions from the supporters. A significant amount of problems stem from rumour and speculation, and the club does not do anything to dispel these murmurings. That is the role of the trust, and that is representing the supporters and its interests. I would urge members of the trust, should they be reading this, to pursue this recommendation as a matter of urgency.
It is clear that Edin Rahic has made some severe mistakes during his tenure. However it is becoming clearer by the day that Edin Rahic only seems to care about Edin Rahic. As I write, we have identified that Rahic is not even in the country, and seems to be making no attempt to resolve the issues plaguing the club at the moment. He does not seem to want to engage in conversations, despite promising Bantams Banter that he would be happy to regularly do a video to answer fans questions, and which he now seems to have forgotten, or is ignoring.
As he conveniently hides, the chorus of #Rahicout gathers momentum and their case grows ever more compelling to our fans as each day goes by. One cannot help feel a little sorry for David Hopkin at the moment. However, Hopkin has to make do with a squad that is clearly lacking confidence and the stomach for a fight. One has to question what is happening on the training ground, and my worry is that Hopkin will walk sooner rather than later. He strikes me as a proud individual whom would rather walk away with his head held high, and would you blame him right now?
As for us as fans, where do we go? Managers and players, boards come and go but the fans are the stalwarts, bound by heritage and loyalty. Claret and Amber runs through the blood, and it is not easy for us to just up sticks and walk away. We are tied to the club, it is in our hearts, and we cannot just stand by and watch it fail. The current ownership is not Bradford born; it is not in their hearts. Our job is to send that message. If money is what Rahic and Rupp desire, starve them of it. Do not buy their scarves or shirts, do not buy their food, do not spend one penny in their interests. Join the supporters trust and represent the views of the many fans we have. Do not sit on social media channels and moan but then do nothing.
The latest approach from the club is to lay the blame for the poor performance of our players at the fans door. Our job as fans is to support any player who walks out in OUR shirt. Cheer our players on and create a wall of sound so that no blame can be laid at our door. It is quite clear that our players and Hopkin need us right now.
Despite rumours to the contrary, the fans still do have the power to make a difference. However, the threat of the Bantams becoming the new Coventry, Charlton, or Blackpool is very real. My belief is that Rahic et al need to be brought to task and we need answers. It is not clear whether we will get them, but we do need to try. The club has gone from being a progressive club with momentum, a fanbase that is the envy of many, to a club that is fragmented with owners who have dismantled a solid side, and who do not seem to have a plan. All this has happened in two years.
Winter is coming – let’s hope it’s a short winter and that the sun shines on the Bantams again.