In the past Bradford Bulls have been used to battling it out with Leeds Rhinos, Wigan Warriors and St Helens for Super League titles but now they have a different battle on their hands.
In many ways, Bradford Bulls have been in turmoil since 2012. On the eve of their traditional Good Friday clash with rivals Leeds Rhinos they were hit by financial strife with many unsure if this would be the last fixture of its kind or if the Bulls would still exist.
Fans collected donations around the ground as the Bulls showed the same resurgence on the field as they would be forced to show again and again over the next decade. They defeated the then Champions Leeds 12-4 and would come close to making the play-offs, but by 2014 their luck ran out.
They suffered relegation in 2014 and haven’t been back to Super League since losing the Million Pound Game to Wakefield Trinity in 2015, coming close to the final again in 2023 only to lose away to Toulouse Olympique at the semi-final stage of the play-offs.
Now though they have a very real route back to the Betfred Super League via IMG’s grading system. The Bulls finished 14th out of 35 meaning they were just two spaces away from the Super League standings.
They also finished above Super League side London Broncos who finished 24th. They are not far behind the likes of Castleford Tigers and Leigh Leopards and could have finished in the top 12 if not for one thing.
Over all but one pillar, the Bulls scored 90% of maximum points but Odsal Stadium let them down. The stadium is one of the proudest and most historic in the sport but perhaps requires touching up to meet the standards set by IMG.
Adding to their problems, the Council are reluctant to get involved at this stage and the RFL no longer hold the lease as confirmed recently by the club.
However, there is hope for the club with the Telegraph and Argus reporting that there is “encouraging” interest in buying the stadium lease which could begin to solve Bradford’s problems moving forward.
The stadium situation could make or break Bradford’s chances of becoming a Super League club again and the successful sale of the ground and the plans of the new owner will be pivotal to their short and long-term future.
Should the new owner decide to keep the Odsal, allow Bradford to play there and even potentially want to improve the facility, the Bulls chances of playing top-flight rugby and achieve a high grade through the IMG criteria could become very likely – whether that happens though remains to be seen.