Following a dismal on-field season for the Bradford Bulls, chief executive Jason Hirst has provided an update on where the club stands going into 2023.
The West Yorkshire club finished ninth in the Championship table – three places outside the play-off spots and now the assessment is being undertaken.
CEO Jason Hirst has provided a message to the supporters following the conclusion of the 2022 Betfred Championship season:
“The curtain has now come down on a frankly a very disappointing league campaign. Having watched every minute of every game, I know full well that our performances have been well below the standard we hoped for and we have paid a price for that by missing out on the Play-Offs. As you can imagine the post-mortems have already begun to understand what was not and is not good enough. Our Football Consultant Brian Noble has already been extremely helpful in this regard and we plan for a much stronger campaign next term. We can all theorise and make excuses, but the simple facts are that the first team squad was put together under one coach, who left the club shortly after Easter. New Coach Mark Dunning does need the opportunity to recruit his own team and hopefully the signings we have already announced demonstrate the scale of our commitment, to having a far more successful and enjoyable season next year. There are also many more signings in the pipeline and these will be announced as and when they are confirmed. There are still contracts up for grabs, but we know some of the current squad have made their own arrangements for next year. That is completely understood and acceptable. As I have said before, it does seem somewhat strange that the players can commit elsewhere before half of the fixtures are even played and sometimes, I think you can spot that, regrettably.
“Given the on-field performances, results (particularly at home) and final league position, it’s inevitable that a lot of players will be moving on. Everyone, including you, our loyal fans, recognises the need for that to happen. All those leaving, do so with the club’s sincere best wishes. It’s a short career and players need to do what’s best for themselves and their families. Likewise, every recruitment and retention decision we make is done in the best interests of the team and club. We need to reshape the squad and inject new blood, enthusiasm, and dynamics to build a team that’s capable of winning far more matches, especially at Odsal in 2023. 2022 recruitment didn’t go as well as we hoped and we’re determined that we’ll be more successful in that regard in 2023.
“The squad we’re assembling for next season will look drastically different to this year’s, so whilst respecting and empathising with fans’ frustrations, I ask you to come along once again and support your club.
“The unacceptable poor form has of course had a very direct and painful impact on the club’s finances and its supporters. We do understand this and we are extremely grateful for supporters, both individuals and local businesses for sticking with us during this time. Sponsorship and partnership deals, new and old, have and are being signed for next season. Details of which, will begin to be announced later this week. The same vote of thanks goes to all the volunteers who continue to toil resolutely on behalf of the club. We are all supporters at heart. We all feel the disappointments as painfully as everyone else, but we dust ourselves down and go again, until such time as our endeavours are no longer required. Additionally, we remain in ongoing talks with several potential new investors, as we look to strengthen our resources and management team, to support our quest for year-on-year sustainable improvement and growth.
“The next month or so will be very important for our club. The Levelling Up Bid application will be assessed, this is undoubtedly the single biggest issue facing the club. Securing a permanent, affordable home venue is essential if the club is to flourish. We know our civic and political leaders understand this and we are grateful that they have reacted so positively. Making an application is one thing, but it will count for nothing if it can’t be delivered. We expect to hear further details of the application in the next week or so, with a decision expected in quarter 4 this calendar year.
“Separate to this, we are told to expect the IMG report of the future of Rugby League in the next couple of weeks. Nobody knows what to expect or what the recommendations may contain. We have submitted our thoughts, as no doubt will all other clubs and stakeholders. It would be fair to say that the sport faces some challenges with some huge decisions. We have already heard of clubs holding back until they know “the size of the prize” with rumours of other clubs requiring their players to take pay cuts. With two senior RFL executives also announcing their imminent departures these are clearly an important and defining couple of months for our sport.
“We recognise that a lot needs and must change within the club if we are to improve. Strong working relationships and communication, at all levels, both internally and externally are some of the keys to this, as they are in any industry, and I’m determined that we continually assess and improve in these areas and many others. The best organisations seek and are collectively committed to new, improved ways of working, embrace new ideas and new people and that’s the phase the club is entering now.
“Finally, thank you, more than ever, for your loyal, vocal support in what’s been a hugely frustrating season. Despite that, we’ve already had good take-up on next year’s season tickets, following their release last Thursday. That’s the beauty of sport, after a disappointing season, you get the chance to support and go again, the following season. Our focus is now on making 2023 bigger and better, both on and off the field and despite the many challenges, I promise you that no stone is being left unturned in our mission to do just that.