WELL, that was a shock wasn’t it?
Just a few short weeks after the Rugby Football League’s mysterious ‘purchase’ of Odsal seemed to slip under everyone’s radar, Bradford Bulls announce they are about to go bust.
Actually, I say I’m shocked. I’m not.
There were rumours, from what I’ve always found to be reliable sources, circulating when the governing body added to its real estate portfolio that the iconic Super League club was pretty close to going belly up.
And judging by Tuesday’s plea for half a million quid in 10 days, they were bang on.
Right now, I don’t know whether the Bulls will survive. I don’t think anyone does. Personally, I don’t wish them any malice.
Bradford’s problems are of their own making: The ill-judged decision to take on Leeds over Iestyn Harris all those years ago and a huge wage bill leading to a mountain of historic debt.
But the background to this very public sporting farce, which is a thoroughly comprehensive indictment of the depths to which the game’s governance has sunk, is the real disgrace.
Last summer, Bradford were awarded a Grade B licence. That’s B. The middle one. Between A and C. Not Leeds or Wigan, but not a basketcase either.
Yet a little over six months later, they’re passing the collection buckets round despite getting that backdoor bail-out a few short weeks ago.
So much for the success of the RFL’s stringent financial examinations that supposedly take place on these occasions.
I say supposedly, because what else are we meant to think?
We’ve had two rounds of licensing now, which, lest we forget, was meant to usher in a new era of security, fiscal responsibility and long term planning.
Since then, one club - Harlequins - has effectively gone bust immediately after being given a licence. Another - Wakefield - has gone bust in mid-season. And a third - Celtic - has gone bust on the very eve of, in all likelihood, being given another three-year ticket to the game’s top table despite the RFL apparently knowing they were on their last legs and struggling to pay their bills.
And now the Bulls.
It’s no secret that I dislike the concept of licensing.
Sporting success and failure should be decided on the field, not by faceless officials in smoke filled rooms.
But even if we take a leap of faith and assume it’s a jolly good idea, then at the very least it should be administered with competence.
The events of the last four years demonstrate that has not been the case.
In any other sport, media scrutiny would mean the upper echelons of Red Hall officialdom would be considering their own positions right now.
But in an era where the game’s national profile is lower than a very low thing, the TV rights holder has no interest in scratching the veneer of its product and cutbacks in the national and regional Press mean journalistic critique has hit rock bottom, that just won’t happen.