The Fall Of The Bradford Bulls


It's strange to think that it has almost been 5 years since Bradford played a Super League fixture, but just how did one of the biggest clubs in the world, end up in the basement of English Rugby League?

For the answer to this question, we have to go back to 2001, where Bradford's success story began, Brian Noble at the helm of this northern powerhouse would get Bradford their first Super League trophy and World Club Challenge. Bradford would only get better from there.

Jimmy Lowes was running rampant, Jamie Peacock was emerging on the scene and Paul Deacon was masterminding it all with his halves partner Henry Paul, they were one of the toughest teams to beat. Bradford would continue to add yet more quality to their squad in coming years; Lesley Vainikolo, Shontayne Hape and Karl Pratt to name a few.

Bradford had established themselves as one of the teams to beat in Super League by the early 2000's, 2 Grand Final wins, 1 World Club Challenge and a Challenge Cup, all in the space of 2 years, Bradford had truly entered their golden era.

By the end of 2005, Bradford had beaten bitter rivals, Leeds, in a thrilling low scoring contest at Old Trafford in the Grand Final, nobody could have anticipated that would be the last time Bradford would lift the Super League trophy. While they were still a prominent figure in Super League, the sense that the wheels were starting to come off would set in around 2009.

Big name players had left the club, but not many recognisable new faces came in, Vainikolo had answered the call of Rugby Union, Hape headed to New Zealand to play in the NRL, Paul Deacon would retire and many other players would leave too. Bradford never replaced their stars with big names, it was beginning to become clearer that the club weren't financially able to coax in the stars of the game.

2009 would be the first season in Super League's history, that the play offs wouldn't feature the Bradford Bulls, after they failed to qualify, as the Bulls suffered the worst season in the clubs Super League history. In the next 5 years, Bradford would fail to finish in the 8 to give them a play off spot, resulting in crowd figures plummeting  from 12,000 to 6,000, causing the club to begin hemorrhaging money.

2012 would be the year the writing was on the wall for the famous club, they revealed that in excess of £1 million would be required to keep the club afloat, nevermind thrive, a supporters trust would pump funding desperately into the club, it wouldn't be enough as Bradford were hit with a winding up order due to unpaid taxes, this would force the club into administration.

2013 would see local businessman, Omar Khan, buy the struggling club and see Bradford enter a team for the 2013 season, it would be enough to see them through the season, but ultimately the club would go back into administration, causing them to be docked 6 points for the 2014 season, the season that reintroduced relegation.

Bradford would make a good push for re-entry to Super League over the next few years, but money issues would still plague this former Rugby League giant, and 2016 would see them enter administration for a 3rd time in 4 years. In early 2017, the club was then liquidated, forcing the RFL to revoke the Bradford Bulls licence and seeing the club close it's doors.

The RFL realised that losing the Bulls would be a massive blow to the history of the game, so invited new bidders to apply to take ownership of the troubled club, who would start in the Championship on -12 points in 2017. A new buyer was found and the Bulls valiantly played on, unfortunately  the 12 points deficit would prove to be too much, and Bradford were relegated to the Championship 1 for 2018, nailing the coffin on a 5 year fall from grace, firmly shut.

Pom




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