Issue Steve Parkin looks to form Bradford Sporting Club

As told by Jason Mckeown

The Yorkshire Post has this morning revealed that millionaire Steve Parkin – Chief Executive of the company Clipper Group – is looking to buy both Bradford City and the Bradford Bulls to form a joint sporting club.

An initial offer has been rejected by the Bantams, but Julian Rhodes has disclosed that talks are ongoing. Parkin’s plan would eventually include building a new stadium for both clubs, though in the shorter-term both would share one venue – either Valley Parade or Odsal.

Parkin also told the Yorkshire Post:

Under the plans, the day-to-day running of both Bradford City and Bradford Bulls would be done by two hand-picked management teams. They would be run independently but both be divisions of Bradford Sporting Club.

“People have tried to do this in the past but because of the individuals concerned it has never got off the ground. It is almost as if neither side trusts the other sufficiently to believe their own club won’t lose out.

“I believe it would take someone like myself to make it happen.”

On buying City specifically Parkin added:

I was approached on behalf of Bradford City quite a while ago to see if I would be interested in investing. I was, basically, offered a third of the club. That is not how I work, I instead prefer to be in overall control.

“Despite that, I did have a couple of conversations and then looked at the books. I thought things were going swimmingly and a week last Friday I believed the deal would go ahead. But then Julian and Mark came back to say ‘no’.

“My offer to buy Bradford City involved me raising around £3m. As part of that, Mark would be paid back a £1m loan he has in the club over 18 months. I was also willing to pay £750,000 for the shares owned by Mark and Julian with a possible further £750,000 based on performance.

On the talks with Rhodes and Mark Lawn, Parkin disclosed:

I wanted to set up a capital structure, whereby existing shareholders would retain 25 per cent of the shares in the football division of Bradford Sporting Club but have no voting rights. Any dividends would then be paid if the club was making a profit. That way, they would be paid on a performance-related basis. The same would apply to the Bulls with existing shareholders having 25 per cent of the shares in the rugby league side.

“Unfortunately, Julian and Mark didn’t want that. They wanted it to be guaranteed. I can’t accept that. There is no point me raising £3m and handing over £2.5m for Bradford City, which is basically not worth a lot in the open market.

“I have looked at a few football clubs and there are a lot who can be picked up for nothing. And they have assets, such as owning their own ground. That is not the case with Valley Parade.

In response, Rhodes told the Yorkshire Post:

Discussions are ongoing and we appreciate Steve’s interest. His accountants were impressed with what they saw.“We will always do what is in the best interests of Bradford City and, in that respect, we are still waiting to see Steve’s business plan.”

All of which is fascinating stuff and the next steps will be very interesting. BfB has recently heard of interest from another investor too, so although Parkin’s proposals are worthy of consideration it may not be the best deal on the table.

Parkin, who tried to buy Leeds United in 2004, is currently on the Board of Guiseley AFC and earlier this year was in discussions with Wakefield Wildcats about purchasing the Rugby League club. Instant comparisons can be drawn with Geoffrey Richmond and Gordon Gibb in Parkin being a well-made businessman keen to make further money from investing in sporting clubs.

Whether City’s Board will welcome this public announcement is unlikely. It will surely increase the pressure on them to sell the club – and the terms that Parkin has revealed, which they have rejected, will led to fierce criticism from some. But while the lure of more transfer funds and even moving to a new stadium with lower costs is appealing to some, it’s important this offer is fully consdered and the longer-term interests of this football club stay in mind.

Is Parkin the best person to own our football club? Time will tell, but without the full facts ourselves we have to rely on Rhodes and Lawn to make the best judgement for all our best interests.