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Five Drives... and a Kick

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While a forthcoming administrator’s report into a calamitous 2012 is likely to shed light on the financial blame for the Odsal fiasco, also thrown into sharp relief was the extent to which Bradford Bulls lost touch with their own supporters.

A feelgood vibe built equally on playing success and community involvement during Super League’s early summer days and good times was allowed to lapse alarmingly.

As is now being seen at Salford, though, in the light of little or mis-information, those loyalists on the terraces took matters into their own hands, initially raising an astonishing £500,000 or so - and what happened to that money will perhaps be the most interesting chapter of the report. A group - the ‘Fat Dogs’ - was also formed, whose support encouraged players and voluntary staff to inspired heights as they strived to make the play-offs.

That those ambitions fell short thanks to a points deduction for entering administration could not sour an optimistic end to the season as local MP Gerry Sutcliffe and restaurateur, hotelier and student digs owner Omar Khan completed their ‘OKBulls’ takeover. The pair acknowledged from the off that they grasped little of the mechanics of rugby league; that aspect will principally be left to head coach Francis Cummins and football factotum Stuart Duffy. Instead, in the dying embers of the year, the new management concentrated its efforts on making the most of Odsal’s facilites, especially the Coral Stand.

With the Trevor Foster bar adorned with the great man’s memorabilia thanks to help from RL Cares - and commemorative gates to follow, all being well - it has been possible for the most fanatical Bull to spend nearly every day in and around the bowl at a range of occasions. A comedy night, Fans Forum and Quiz, Twitterers Meet-up, Children’s Christmas party, Race Day, Bulls Factor and

Sweating the asset: The Provident Stadium’s Coral Stand is being put to work

New Year’s Eve Chairman’s Party were among the events staged in the ultimate example of ‘sweating the asset’.

The Christmas Fayre was a case in point. Arranged at less than four weeks’ notice by Katie Stirk, who has gone from agitator-inchief to Omar Khan’s PA such has been her infectious influence, it was very much calling in favours, hitting and hoping and using the power of social networking to draw stall holders and a crowd - and it worked. Baking, fragrances, handbags, cider suppliers and even book and magazine publishers vied with the ‘guess Bullman’s birthday’ tombola and Foundation tables in the sun-enriched lounge overlooking the pitch. As the stalls began to set up some two hours or so before the doors officially opened, despite the commercial overlay, it felt like a cooperative.

Among the most visited tables over the four hours that followed were those housing the ‘We Are Taurus’

clothing line of Tshirts and hoodies aka ‘beast mode’

established by Jamie Langley, pictured below left, Wayne Godwin and Duane Straugheir. The co-founders brought in stock, posed and chatted with fans and all-but sold out of the striking, single colour garments.

Also drawing a crowd was Brian Noble, signing copies of his book, Building Winning Teams. The one-time Bradford coach had doubts about the reception he might receive, having been supposedly linked to parties who unsettled rather than took over the club in its hour of need, but he need not have worried. Rekindling old acquaintances and renewing friendships, he was overwhelmed by the love.

Omar Khan arrived to meet and greet, accompanied by Bulls’ Commercial Director Simon Kenny, who is at the forefront of the regeneration. “We want to get Bullmania back how it used to be in the club’s heyday,” he said, despite man flu. “There’s no doubt the club lost its place in the heart of not just the fans but within the city landscape. It’s as if success took the place of everything else, including the essential community-based ingredients that had helped to establish it.

“We are not only looking to re-create but to build real links with the fans - not just on matchdays. It’s up to us to make this stadium a ‘must be at’ destination with a whole range of appealing activities, be it a quiet drink

January 2013 Forty-20 7

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