Dewsbury Rams chairman Mark Sawyer hopes to allay suspicions over Bradford Bulls takeover
DEWSBURY Rams chairman Mark Sawyer admits he understands why fellow chairmen may find his new involvement with Bradford Bulls as “suspicious” and warned Nigel Wood that he would face fire, too.
The unlikely duo are now the two main shareholders of Bradford after taking over the cash-strapped club from Andrew Chalmers.
Sawyer, who has just under 25 per cent of the shares, has reiterated to Dewsbury fans the deal will not diminish his commitment to the Rams who are Bulls’ Championship rivals.
Wood, meanwhile, is the former RFL chief executive who was at the helm of the governing body as Bulls lurched from one financial disaster to another, giving the go-ahead to various new owners who each failed to turn them around.
He left the RFL last year and is now the International Rugby League chief executive so will be leaving the day-to-day running of the club to others with Sawyer looking to assist in setting up a new board with help from interim chairman Eric Perez.
Bradford, of course, are due to play at Dewsbury’s Tetley’s Stadium in 2020 as one of Chalmers’ last acts as Bulls owner was to make the decision to leave their Odsal home.
“We’re not on a wing and a prayer here; the club’s in debt but we’re not dreamboats,” said Sawyer, with Bulls thought to owe creditors over £750,000.
“We’re looking forward, we think we can sort it out. It will be a tough, tough 12 months but we have resolve. To those Dewsbury fans worried, I know I can take this on as well as my other interests. There’s no issue there.
“I’ll only be helping in two or three key areas.
“I admit I probably didn’t want to be involved in another club. There was the initial interest due to Bulls playing here but the more I looked at it, the more I thought I could play a part in getting Bradford back going again.
“I realise some other chairmen might be saying ‘what’s going on’ and they might be suspicious but I’m quite willing to say there isn’t anything of the sort.
“There’s no ulterior motive for me to be involved. I just love the game and I’m willing to put my neck on the line to keep this club (Bulls) going. There will be no conflict of interest whatsoever.”
Sawyer defended Wood, too, and said: “He’s been very brave sticking his head up like this especially given the way people perceive him.
“He won’t win any popularity contests and I told him that but he knows it anyway.
“I know Nigel. I know he’s a generous person and it’s unfair the criticism he gets; people who took over Bradford before all passed the Fit and Proper Persons test.
“He’s a Bradford lad who wants to get the Bulls back playing in Bradford.”
Chalmers had failed to pay players and staff pension payments, something Sawyer described as “incompetence” and an “embarrassment” at Tuesday’s fans forum where the takeover was announced.
But he says the pensions regulator is happy with their own moves to correct the issue.
Sawyer added: “If Andrew was trying to achieve perfection, he came up short.
“He’s made mistakes. There’s some bills outstanding but he’s done a lot of good things. He’s the biggest creditor and he won’t pursue any of that.”
Meanwhile, Sawyer says he expects “two or three” Bulls fans to be added to an advisory board once it is set up.