IT IS “essential” a new club rises from the ashes of Bradford Bulls, Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington says.
The four-time Super League winners ceased trading yesterday following the collapse of a last-gasp attempt to buy the cash-strapped club.
The Rugby Football League are hopeful a reformed club will be up and running in time for the new season next month and have confirmed any new Bradford outfit would take a place in the Kingstone Press Championship, beginning with a 12-point deduction.
Rhinos and Bulls were fierce rivals – meeting twice in summer era Challenge Cup finals and two Grand Finals – until Bradford’s relegation in 2014.
Responding to news Bulls had been liquidated, Hetherington said: “One can only hope the club finds new owners who have got the ability and vision to restore it to preeminence as a leading club in the game.
“That’s essential for the game as a whole, not only in Bradford. The game wants to see a vibrant and successful club in Bradford.”
Bulls were placed in administration, for the third time in five years, two months ago.
“It is clearly a very sad end to what has been a really traumatic period in Bradford Bulls’ history, Hetherington added.
“That extends now to probably the last five or maybe six years. The club’s had a succession of different owners and each one has ended up in difficulty.
“It’s a sad reflection of what’s gone on at Bradford and sad that a once-great club can find itself in such difficulty.
“One feels particularly for the club’s army of supporters and volunteers.”
Castleford Tigers have confirmed their support for Bradford.
In a statement issued before liquidation was announced, Tigers chief executive Steve Gill said: “Our position must be made clear on this issue.
“We are in full support of the Bradford Bulls club and sincerely hope that they continue to be part of the RFL and although we have been offered players who are still contracted to Bradford Bulls, we have declined them, as it doesn’t fit in with the integrity we have as a club.”
Defending the decision to offer any new club a place in the Championship, rather than League One, an RFL statement said: “While a number of alternatives were considered the board were most mindful of the planning already undertaken by all other clubs in the competition structure, the season tickets already purchased and the players and staff who will now be seeking employment in and around the sport in 2017.
“Accordingly the board has agreed that the wider interests of the sport is best satisfied if it offers a place in the Kingstone Press Championship to any new club in Bradford and that such a club start the 2017 season on minus 12 points.”
The administrator turned down a bid to buy the club before Christmas. Another consortium withdrew their interest yesterday, prompting the decision to cease trading and make staff redundant.