The administrators of the Championship side, who were relegated from the top division for the first time in 2014, failed to finalise a deal to save them after the club entered administration for the third time in four years in November.
The administrators rejected an offer last week from a consortium led by the former New Zealand Rugby League chairman Andrew Chalmers, despite approval from the Rugby Football League. Another consortium subsequently expressed an interest but that bid fell through late on Monday after the unnamed party withdrew their interest. The club are reported to have debts of £1m and further funding shortfall of another £1m. Several parties have already expressed an interest in reforming the four-times Super League champions.
The RFL is hopeful of a club being put together within the next seven days, with the hope they could begin the season as planned in the Championship. Bradford were due to begin their campaign against Hull Kingston Rovers on 5 February.
“The board recognises the need to balance competition integrity while protecting the reputation of the sport and acknowledges that all other clubs in the league have prepared for the competition in 2017 on the presumption that Bradford would be competing in the Championship,” said the RFL’s chief executive, Nigel Wood. He called the situation at Bradford “as acute as any experienced” but confirmed that any reformed Bradford side would be invited to assume the former team’s membership slot but with a 12-point penalty.
“We found out on Tuesday afternoon,” the club’s interim general manager, Stuart Duffy, said. “We were looking forward to good news and had heard nothing to the contrary over the holiday period. Everyone is in total and utter shock.”
It is thought the RFL was hesitant to place a newly reformed Bradford into the bottom professional tier, League 1, owing to the problems arising from asking a side in that division to make the step up at such short notice, only weeks from the beginning of the season.
Bradford’s squad – some of whom took to social media on Tuesday to confirm the news – are now free agents. Super League sides who have already spent their salary cap for the 2017 season will be given dispensation from the RFL to sign players outside of the cap on a case-by-case basis.
The Bulls were scheduled to play their first pre-season friendly next Sunday, against Batley: it is unclear whether the game will go ahead.
The former Great Britain and England player Leon Pryce, who began his career at Bradford and rejoined them for the 2017 season, tweeted: “Sorry for players staff fans – everyone involved @BradfordBullsRL we have been liquidated. For the first time in my life I’m lost for words.”
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