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RFL seeks buyer for troubled Bulls
The Rugby Football League is working to find new buyers for embattled Super League club Bradford Bulls after coming in for hostile criticism following a dramatic walk-out by the club's current directors.
Mark Moore, chairman of Bradford Bulls 2014 Ltd, announced his company was pulling out after the club were docked six points by the RFL for going into administration for the second time in two years.
Moore claimed the sanctions meant almost certain relegation and launched a scathing attack on the game's governing body for its part in the collapse of the takeover, comments which brought a stinging response from the RFL.
"It is with great sadness and frustration that we have been led to this point," Moore said.
"I believe that we have been forced into making this decision due to the Rugby Football League's proposed sanction of a six-point deduction, making relegation almost a certainty."
Moore said the governing body wanted to place the club into special measures, which would prevent them signing any more players in the immediate future, and had badly advised the directors during recent talks to save the club.
Moore said: "It feels like a real slap in the face to our team, our partners, the sport and, most importantly, our supporters, of whom we have been working tirelessly for."
He added: "The restrictions and penalties, placed on the club, leaves it all but impossible to grow the business in this relegation season.
"As such we were left with no other option than to withdraw the offer to the administrator, based on what we believe is an immoral position from the sport's governing body due to their involvement in this whole affair."
Moore's company agreed a deal with the administrator last week but still needed ratification from the RFL, who discovered a £500,000 "black hole" in the business plan.
Tuesday's events leave the club back in the hands of Leeds-based administrator David Wilson, who was not available for comment, but there is no suggestion Sunday's home game against London Broncos is under threat.
The administrative staff at Odsal remain in place and chief executive Robbie Paul is expected to represent Bradford at Wednesday's meeting of Super League clubs in Hull.
The RFL was on Tuesday night speaking to London-based businessman Richard Lamb, one of four parties to show an interest in buying Bradford ahead of last Friday's deadline, and remain confident the club will remain in Super League, at least for the rest of 2014.
Bradford have never been out of the top flight since the switch to summer rugby in 1996 and were Super League champions four times in the first 10 years.
Without a major benefactor, however,simmering financial worries erupted in the summer of 2012 when they entered administration despite raising more than £500,000 through a public appeal.
Local restaurant owner Omar Khan and former sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe rescued the club but only after agreeing to accept a 50 per cent cut in central funding for two years, and the club were docked six competition points, a sanction that ultimately cost them a place in the end-of-season play-offs.
When Khan and Sutcliffe stood down last September, Moore stepped into the breach but the club continued to struggle to make ends meet. Coach Francis Cummins was forced to operate on a shoestring budget after a black hole of £400,000 was discovered in projections for 2014.
The club lost two players, Garreth Carvell and Jarrod Sammut, during the change of ownership and also lost their opening match of the season, before bouncing back with victory at Wakefield last Thursday.
Moore, one of three directors running the club alongside Paul, added: "Our desire was just to compete on a level playing field with the rest of the Super League."
RFL chief operating officer Ralph Rimmer hit back at Moore's criticism, revealing the club had made no guarantees to pay off creditors and that HM Revenue and Customs are still owed £170,000.
"It is disappointing and disingenuous for Bradford Bulls to suggest that the RFL has acted in any manner other than fairly and properly throughout a crisis which is entirely of the club's own making," Rimmer said in a statement.
"The root cause of the current situation is the failed attempt by Mark Moore and Ryan Whitcut to use the club's own money to purchase Bradford Bulls from Omar Khan, who had left the club in a parlous state.
"Had Mr Moore not refused to honour the agreement he signed to buy the club from Mr Khan, Bradford Bulls would not be where they are today.
"Throughout our dealings with them, the club's directors were unable to provide any evidence of new capital investment into Bradford Bulls and consequently, the RFL executive had no confidence in the business plan that was presented.
"At no stage was there a firm written commitment from the directors to meet the liabilities: in particular, HMRC would have been left with an unpaid liability of almost £170,000."
Rimmer contrasted Bradford's actions with those of London Broncos and Wakefield, who both virtually rebuilt their squads in the close season after going close to financial collapse.
And he added: "For Bradford to effectively drop off debt as a result of the administration without a points deduction would have significantly impaired the integrity of the competition."