Bradford City rule out imminent groundshare with Bradford Bulls

Image by John Dewhirst (copyright Bradford City)

By Jason McKeown

The Bradford Bulls will not be groundsharing at Valley Parade next season, according to Bradford City’s Director of Communications Ryan Sparks.

Last week the Bulls owner Andrew Chalmers set an August 15 deadline to decide where the Rugby League club will play from September, arguing Odsal has “reached the term of its economic life” and needs significant investment. It has been claimed that unless the RFL or Bradford Council can provide assistance with maintenance, the Bulls will not continue to play at Odsal, where they currently pay £72,000 a year in rent to the RFL.

Valley Parade is one of three alternative options that has been mooted in the Telegraph & Argus, along with Bradford Park Avenue’s Horsfall Stadium and Dewsbury Rams’ Tetley’s Stadium, 13 miles outside of Bradford. But whilst City and the Bulls have held informal discussions, Ryan confirmed that no formal talks have taken place about the Bulls returning to Valley Parade.

Given Bradford City currently pay a significantly higher amount of rent to the Gordon Gibb family pension fund as part of the lease agreement at Valley Parade – plus other operating expenses, which added to the rent cost City a seven-figure amount annually – it would surely be significantly more expensive for the Bulls to move in with the Bantams and share these costs.

Chalmers has also written in the T&A arguing the council should look into developing a purpose-built stadium for both of the city’s major sporting clubs. But whilst the Bantams aren’t ruling out a long-term collaboration with the Bulls, they continue to see Valley Parade as their home.

Ryan confirmed that City’s Valley Parade lease is due to run out in 2028, at which point there is an option in City’s favour to take up a further 25-year lease. This is still almost a decade away, but at the moment it is an option the club would be likely to take up. If someone was to build a brand new stadium in Bradford, it would naturally be of interest. But City look set for to remain at Valley Parade for decades to come.

Ryan was speaking at the latest fans media group meeting, on Monday night, alongside City’s Relationship Manager/Player Liaison Laura Hutchinson. Joining myself in putting questions to the pair was Cathy Louise (Bradford City History Makers Facebook group), Rod Lawson (Bantams Talk) and Nick Kitchen (Bantams Small Talk). With the summer holiday season in full flow, many other regular fans media attendees couldn’t make it.

One of the biggest talking points amongst supporters over the past fortnight has been the financial windfall City have received as part of Oli McBurnie’s £17 million move from Swansea City to Sheffield United. If there were still some supporters who doubted City had a sell-on clause – following Sun journalist Alan Nixon claiming otherwise earlier this summer – Ryan and Laura confirmed that City have indeed received 15% of what Swansea have received so far.

Whilst it could mean there is some extra money for Gary Bowyer, the club will not be recklessly blowing this bonus money on big signings. There are FFP rules to consider, for one thing. And, besides, spending the best part of £2.5 million on extra players could backfire badly if the club failed to earn promotion this season.

Instead, the McBurnie monies will allow City to be on a much sounder financial footing, as the club continues to recover from the damaging over-spending of last season.

I asked Ryan and Laura if all of this meant Bowyer’s transfer plans were somewhat in limbo, until high-earning players can be moved on. They played this theory down, stressing that Bowyer is happy with his squad and was in full control to bring in and move out players as he wishes, within the agreed budgets. Time will tell if others leave.

They stressed there are still four weeks to go before the League Two transfer window closes. The shutting of the Premier League and Championship windows this week is likely to see the loan market pick up, as players not in the first team plans of clubs in the top two divisions inevitably to want to move somewhere else for regular football.

Laura, who midway through last season started to combine her relationship manager role with the player liaison position, commented on the contrast in the atmosphere amongst the players. Unlike last season, the training ground is now full of laughter – and the players are upbeat and excited about the season ahead.

Much of the questions on the evening came from Bantams Talk message board users, which Rod had coordinated to bring up. This included criticism over the fact the club’s iFollow commentary and highlights packages hadn’t worked over the weekend, which Ryan explained was not Radio Leeds’ fault, but due to some issues at the Football League end which will be rectified.

Another talking point was whether the club could look to sell half year season tickets at December time, which could entice back supporters who didn’t renew after last season. Ryan confirmed this is something that might be considered, but it all depends on how City are doing at the time. Laura added the club sold around 300 further season tickets (including flexi-cards) around the Liverpool game, such was the extra level of interest in the Bantams that the glamorous pre-season friendly attracted.

It was confirmed that City are now publishing accurate matchday attendances, with the 14,810 crowd against Cambridge a true reflection of how many tickets were sold. All season ticket sales are still included in the overall figure, regardless of how many season ticket holders attend each game. The total attendance incorporates total season ticket holders, matchday flexi-card sales, one-off matchday sales, and away fans.

There were questions about the total number of season ticket and flexi-cards sold for this season, and though Ryan and Laura did not have the exact figure to hand, they confirmed there are roughly 12,000 season ticket holders and around 1,500 flexi-card holders, bringing the overall total to just over 13,500.

Just short of 1,000 priority away cards have been sold for this season. Ryan confirmed that for every away fixture, priority card holders will have the first opportunity to buy a ticket, then it will be open to season ticket holders, and then go on general sale. Saturday’s trip to Grimsby is a 1,800 sell out, and the uptake was so strong the club never got to general sale stage.

One Bantams Talk user put forward a question about Stefan Rupp and how interested he really is in City. Ryan and Laura revealed Rupp was at the Cambridge game, and that even when he is not present he is in regular contact with Julian. Ryan added that Stefan has trust in his staff to do their jobs and doesn’t feel the need to be over in Bradford all the time, checking in.

Back on current matters, Ryan and Laura were quizzed about the Valley Parade big screen and if more could be done with it, such as goal replays, highlights of recent games, and more information about the opposition. This is something they will look into.

Then there were the toilets, with Cathy and Rod providing anecdotal stories on the run-down facilities in parts of the ground. Ryan and Laura took notes to investigate certain issues, but added there is now a matchday cleaner for each stand, who check and clean the toilets during the game. A lack of hot water is an ongoing issue, but the water tank at Valley Parade struggles to cope with large crowds and would cost a significant amount of money to replace.

It was another enjoyable meeting, and it is to the club’s credit that they are prepared to meet and engage with fans media groups. No question went unanswered, and this greater level of transparency is valued.

If you represent a Bradford City fans media group and would like to come along to a future meeting (the next one will be September) please get in touch so I can include you in the invite. And let me end with an open offer to one particular fans media group. The Cows Arse – you are 100% invited to the next meeting. The club confirmed they would love to hear and answer your questions.

Categories: News, Opinion


19 replies

  1. I’m fairness to Mr Rupp without his financial backing since Mr Rahic departure I fear the club would again be involved in financial struggles.
    I say let the 2.5million from the sale of Mcburnie go back to Mr Rupp. So long as the club is been run properly I’m very happy. The jury is still out on GB our manager … so far I’ve not been very impressed with the style of play and to say the team needs time to gel is very difficult to understand when most were brought in before pre-season started.

    • Completely agree regarding Stefan and the funds, he has guaranteed to fund the black hole left so it is only right that now we have this windfall he should get that back. The fact we will be well on our way to been on an even keel with the black hole gone in it’s self should still allow one or 2 new faces to arrive shortly I would imagine without going overboard.

      I think Stefan has demondstrated he is on honourable man (unlike the other unmentionable!) and genuinely believe he was hood-winked by a conman like the rest of us. Personally I hope he stays around for a long time.

      As regards GB, whilst I do tend to agree from a tactics perspective – I do think he is exactly the right man to help the rebuild of the club and has bought into the history and heritage of this club which is much needed. Not sure many other managers would have done this as well as GB has. In my view he should be given time to vomplete the squad transformatuon – at least 3 transfer windows to sort the team out (incuding the current window) – think we can only really start to judge the on field situation once he gets closer to having a starting 11 of his own.

    • I’m sorry, but have we learned nothing from letting owners palm us off? This McBurnie money comes because of contracts negotiated years before Rupp bought us! If it is not invested in the team then why should I bother wasting money on Rupp’s business?

      Rupp bought Bradford City with due diligence. Why should we bend over and spread ourselves to excuse him not bothering to spend money on improving the business?

      Yes, I want Bradford City to be secure; and I am willing to wait this season out, but if all the McBurnie money does is let Rupp be even richer, then I will really not be happy.

      We have potentially some of the best players in the division in some positions; who are playing in an amorphous mess of a team right now. A team that might gell; but just a little money on positions we all know we need, and we could have a team that will tear most teams we play a new one.

  2. I am fascinated by the ruling-out of Bulls moving to Valley Parade. The move seems to me to be the obvious answer to the Bulls’ ground problem.The field might be narrow, but it could be widened.
    The ground-shares in Rugby League (Hull, Wigan, Huddersfield) seem successful.
    Someone once told me (I cannot vouch for the truth of this ) that the City main stand was rebuilt with enough room underneath to put Rugby changing rooms.
    I can see the problem about rent, but surely that could be negotiated. Why consider throwing money at a new stadium when Valley Parade could be made perfectly adequate.
    It would be interesting to hear your views, Jason , and those of John Dewhirst, Richard Wardell and others because I cannot really see a downside to my argument. Maybe there is one, but I would love to read other views..

    • And how would our pitch cope? Drainage issue has not gone away, it merely gets a sticking plaster every 3-4 years to address the issue and we’ve been fortunate this last winter was so mild.

      We’d never have any summer break to re-lay the pitch or let it recover – it will be a complete mess inside 12 months!

    • Hi John

      I would say the maths don’t add up for the Bulls as much as anything. According to Chalmers in the T&A, the Bulls currently play £72k per year in rent at Odsal. They currently have an RFL championship central distribution fund revenue of £145k a year to cover this, which goes down to £75k a year if they go back down to League One. If they make the Super League, they receive millions.

      But at the moment, Chalmers is saying £72k is the rent they pay and that the upkeep of Odsal is too expensive, given the ground is not in good shape. We don’t know what the upkeep is, and it will clearly be a large amount, but if you’re going to say this is an unworkable status quo because financially the Bulls can’t afford it, they will clearly want to move for a better deal.

      At City, I believe we currently pay annual rent of around £370k to Gordon Gibb’s family pension fund. Last night, the club confirmed that our other VP operating costs means that overall we spent over £1 million a year to play at VP. In other words, our financial commitments at VP are significantly higher than what the Bulls face.

      Now if the Bulls were to move into VP, we would surely expect them to take on a portion of these costs. Let’s say 50-50, which would seem reasonable. That would mean the Bulls having to pay more than half a million a year to play at VP, although in reality probably higher as staging games at VP would threaten the pitch and we’d need to spend more money on it, plus Bradford Bulls would need offices for their own staff and operations. Either way, that’s a significantly higher amount of money than what they pay now.

      Would we, as a Bradford City community, allow the Bulls to move in but pay substantially less towards the rent and running costs? Well I think we all have our views on whether we would deem this acceptable. But if the Bulls moving in increases the operating costs for City at VP, I don’t think that would be a very good deal for us.

      It smacks to me that the Bulls publicly hinting they could move to VP – or indeed Dewsbury – is a bluff designed to shame Bradford Council or the RFL into giving them more support. Let’s face it, it would be monumentally embarrassing if the Bulls left the city. But it doesn’t seem realistic to suggest the Bulls can move to VP on the cheap, unless we have a desire to prop them up to our own financial detriment.

      Ultimately, it’s hard to see the Bulls moving to Horsfall or Dewsbury, because it would kill the club in terms of support. So I get the feeling they will stay at Odsal after all, potentially with better terms or support from RFL. I’m not personally convinced the council will do much – even though historically they have done more to financially support the Bulls compared to City.

  3. Thank you for this. I appreciate your thinking, My dream is therefore unworkable.

  4. In a Yorkshire Post interview with Julian Rhodes this past weekend, Rhodes implied that to date Rupp has not covered the two million deficit from last season. This contradicts what most fans have assumed.
    Interesting to note that City had a three million debt load going into last season which was 50% higher than when Rupp and Rahic bought the Club.
    I truly hope this windfall is used to pay down the Club’s debts.

    • Well the Mcburnie money will go some way to filling that hole.

    • In the interview Julian Rhodes said “before this went through, Stefan would have to cover the losses we have made and expect to make this season”…not sure what about that statement contradicts what most fans assumed? In fact it confirms what most fans assumed doesn’t it?

      • Paul, if Rupp has covered last year’s deficit, why would Rhodes not clearly state that?
        Obviously, this would be a good PR move to take advantage of.

    • well the money either goes back to Stefan or it goes straight to the bank to pay off the overdraft – same thing and either way it won’t be available to splash out on a new set of players!

      • Yes agreed – if an overdraft was used to fund the deficit you can bet your bottom dollar it needed a personal guarantee from Stefan as there are no assets to secure substantial borrowings on
        Like the poster above (not Woody!!!) I think Stefan deserves a bit of credit as he looks to be standing by the club

  5. All sounds positive with decent/capable people in the right positions. You only need to look across the pennines to see how badly things can go wrong if folk come into the game for the wrong reasons. We have had our fair share of that. Here is hoping for a sustainable future with a club which remains true to its core values and its supporters. It may be a bumpy ride but we will get there if we all stick together. Cheers for the summary JM appreciated

  6. Paul, the overdraft you talk about is actually a Debenture which Rupp and Rahic assumed when they purchased the Club.They have since maxed out the Debenture which “duped” Rupp must have known was likely to happen last Fall and likely triggered the departure of his partner. Both are very much at fault for the mismanagement of the Club.

  7. I cant understand why people assume things!
    A lot of whar went on with Edin has been well documented. In the end a clever campaign by WoaP and a group of fans led to Edibs antics being exposed to Stefan. One fan even went to Munich and met Rupp.
    Rupp feels that Edin duped him and also to his credit, feels ge is partly responsible for the mess we are still in, and the relegation.
    We are currently in to Rupp to the tune of around £10m this being the initial investment, buying a house for Edin and last seasons transfee activity plus the support he offered to the club in last Januarys window. Add to thar propping the club up witg wages and operational costs plus this summers wheeling andvdealing.

  8. Jason,

    What has actually changed re the match day attendance from last season?

    • It’s regarding how Flexicard sales are reported in the attendance. It’s now on how many flexi-card holders attend the particular game.

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