Exclusive: Stuart Fielden believes IMG proposals are ‘positive’ and could help former club Bradford

Legendary Bradford Bulls forward Stuart Fielden says the IMG proposals could turn out to be a major positive for his former club.

Fielden had a trophy-laden spell at Odsal in the late nineties and early noughties as ‘Bullmania’ took Super League by storm with Bradford becoming the competition’s dominant team.

But that all unravelled quickly and as players such as Fielden moved on, the Bulls were relegated from Super League in 2014 less than eight years after they were World Club Champions.

Financial difficulties then saw the club go into liquidation in 2017, before being resurrected, and now the Bulls find themselves struggling around the middle of the Championship.

However, IMG’s recent proposals to overhaul rugby league and scrap promotion and relegation in favour of a grading system could offer a lifeline to the former Super League champions.

A new 25,000-capacity stadium has been proposed by Bradford Council on the Odsal site, to underline the club’s intent, and former great Fielden believes Super League needs Bradford to return.

“Super League is at its strongest when there is a Bradford team in it,” Fielden told Serious About Rugby League. “You need cities in Super League and Bradford is a big one with a historical team.

“There is a massive fan base there and a strong Super League needs a strong Bradford team. If the IMG proposals help them get back up there then that can only be positive.”

Despite highlighting the positives for the proposed changes could mean for Bradford, Fielden is also cautious about the financial improvements the club needs to make to start mixing it with the big boys again.

“There is still a gulf there though,” said Fielden. “Those teams in the bottom half of Super League would probably still give Bradford a hiding so there is work to do.

“They have to make up that gap in money and build up financially too to close that and make up that difference to become a top team again.

“The honest part is that if you want the best players you have to be able to pay them. The big teams have the best players in Super League and Bradford have to try get back to that.“

Speaking on IMG’s overall proposals for the sport, having signed a 10-year agreement with the Rugby Football League, Fielden believes they could help transform rugby league and give it a much-needed boost.

“If I’m honest I don’t know too much about it (the IMG proposals) but from what I’m hearing I think it sounds promising because licensing is something that was tried before and wasn’t given a fair run.

“The game needs to improve because the RFL have done their best at putting money in and trying to grow, but the sport just isn’t on most people’s radar because of football, cricket, rugby union – there is just too much compeition.

“I think they need to focus on raising the profile and bringing money into the sport because we need to start attracting the best players to Super League instead of losing them to the NRL.

“If you look back to when I played we had superstars over here in their prime, like Andrew Johns and Jamie Lyon, but we don’t see that now. We need to get back to that and hopefully we can with this new structure.”

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