Quite a stir has been caused today with the news that local businessman and current Guiseley FC director, Steve Parkin, has submitted and had a takeover bid for Bradford City rejected by Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes. The Yorkshire Post article, in which it indicates Parkin would bring City and the Bradford Bulls together under one company, states that discussions are ongoing with the club and that both Lawn and Rhodes want to see Parkin’s business plan. In the four years that the club has had joint ownership, both parties have stated they would move over if they received an offer which was in the best interests of the club – so we must assume so far that the current offer was not satisfactory.
The proposal from Parkin, for what is essentially just a name at the moment considering Bradford City have few tangible assets, seems to be relatively impressive at face-value. Lawn would receive his £1 million loan back, and Parkin would offer £750,000 for their shares with a further £750,000 based on performance. As part of the deal, the two owners would also maintain 25% of the clubs shares, but without any voting power. However, when broken down, the offer would see Lawn and Rhodes pocket just £375,000 each, with a 12.5% share of any future profits. When you consider what almost £3 million could buy in terms of other clubs, it is a relatively high offer, but it is an offer which I would presume they are unlikely to accept, considering their financial input into the club - said to be around the £5.5 million mark. Selfish of them you may say, but considering that neither of them are multi multi millionaires, it would be an enormous loss for both of them.
Looking at Parkin’s physical proposals makes for an interesting read. He would plan to buy both clubs and place them in the ownership of ‘Bradford Sporting Company’, whilst maintaining autonomy. The long run would see the clubs sharing, in theory, a new purpose built stadium, fit for the 21st century. This could be called wasteful, considering City’s current residency of Valley Parade is more than fit for purpose, and with a few tweaks would be more than adequate for the Bulls as well. However, Parkin’s ideas would more than likely consist of providing the stadium, alongside new training facilities and rentable retail units. A stadium which would be used 24/7, 365 days a year. The stadium would likely be a catalyst for the revival of both clubs, who have both been struggling for a number of years now. Looking at the wider picture as well, it could also be the catalyst to provide Bradford with a more prosperous future itself, providing optimism, jobs and economic activity.
With news of this coming out now, it heightens pressure on the club to succeed this year. If City struggle again badly this year, many fans will begin to turn on the owners –a s happened in recent months with the Valley Parade saga - as questions over the bid rejection will begin to surface. Considering the success of similar schemes in Wigan and Hull particularly, the current owners will have to show some significant progress in the near future.
However, the news coming out today leaves this reader feeling somewhat uneasy. The idea that both clubs will play at the same ground for the next decade before moving into a purpose built stadium is unnerving. If Parkin wishes to move City into Odsal for the next decade, we will see the issue of the Valley Parade lease rear its head again, but it would be equally difficult to move the Bulls into Valley Parade long term as the pitch does not meet rugby league regulations. A move away from Valley Parade would also be heart-wrenching for any City fan. Obviously the place is steeped in history, much more history than most grounds, and while a move away in the long run may enable the club to have a more secure and prosperous future, it would never be an easy decision. And the thought of leaving it for Odsal, is horrible.
I would expect a press release from the club’s point of view very soon, from which we may be able to establish more. All we can know for certain is that the next few weeks and months will prove to be very interesting.