Political parties talk sports in Bradford: Lib-Dems ‘will not support stadium solely for Bulls’

Last night the deputy leader of the Liberal-Democrats, David Ward, stated that his party would not support revised Odsal Sports Village plans if it meant the bulk of the £15m of tax payers’ money set aside for the scheme being used to refurbish a stadium solely for the Bulls use. The remarks came during a sport related election meeting organised by Bradford City Supporters’ Trust at the Bradford Irish Club.

Councillor Ward, the prospective parliamentary candidate for the new Bradford East seat, was supportive of the sports village concept, but was critical of the differences of policy the Council had in supporting the Bradford Bulls and Bradford City. Unfortunately, the ruling Conservative group declined to attend the meeting and were therefore unable to explain, or defend, their policies. The panel, which also included Minister for Sport, Bradford South Labour MP Gerry Sutcliffe, and Councillor Martin Love, leader of the Green Party in Bradford, were unanimous in believing that the Odsal Sport Village plan could not go ahead in its current guise given the economic situation.

All also believed that the revised plans for the Sports Village should be wider ranging and include the issue of ground sharing and wider use of training facilities for all three of the Bradford Districts professional clubs and the wider community. Martin Love spoke of the fabulous sports facilities he had recently seen on a trip to Belgium. Seemingly, even small towns have superior and centralised facilities that put Bradford’s to shame. Councillor Love thought it was important that everyone involved in sport in the District, be it athletics to professional football, should come out of their respective, often insular, worlds and see how sharing facilities and enthusiasm could benefit all.

Bradford South MP Gerry Sutcliffe built on the debate by suggesting that a wider Bradford Sports’ Trust, or even a Bradford Sporting Club, be formed to push forward cohesive plans for shared facilities in the District. He thought it was ridiculous that Bradford City had been forced to leave the District in order to find suitable training facilities. The relationship between the Bulls and City was debated and it was thought that someone ought to act as facilitator to try and get both clubs to talk about a future ground share – be it at Odsal, Valley Parade or even another venue. As Gerry Sutcliffe said ‘shouldn’t that be the Council’s role?’ Among the audience was a member of the newly formed Bradford Bulls Supporters’ Trust and there is now a commitment, among supporters at least, to build bridges between the two main professional clubs in the city. Gerry Sutcliffe also intimated that once the election is out of the way it is an issue that is worthy of further examination.

David Ward questioned the ruling Conservative executive’s commitment to the city of Bradford. He noted that the majority of them lived in places such as Ilkley and Haworth. Councillor Anne Hawkesworth, who holds the remit for sport, does indeed live in Ilkley. Gerry Sutcliffe expressed his frustration that not once had the ruling Conservative group contacted him regarding the Odsal Sports Village. Unfortunately, once again the lack of a Conservative voice on the panel left questions unanswered and did leave many wondering about their commitment.

A question was asked about safe standing at football grounds. Gerry Sutcliffe said he would support safe standing at new football grounds. Martin Love pointed out the discrepancy between football and other sports and wondered whether, given the improvement in supporters’ behaviour, whether some of the laws could now be reviewed? The Minister for Sport agreed that issues, such as not being able to drink within sight of the pitch before matches from corporate boxes, does seem a nonsense. Though he was mindful of where we have come from, and the reasons why the bans were put in place, he was open minded and wanted to act for the majority and not the minority. A suggestion from the floor that the lower tier of the Bradford End be used as a trial for German style safe standing was well received. However, ultimately it would be the club’s decision, though given the positive response from the panel it could be an area worth pursuing after the election and perhaps the club could attract funding for the experiment?

Wider issues such as supporter ownership, or part ownership, of clubs and the governance of the game, in particular the dominance of the Premier League, were also touched upon. However, it was the specifically Bradford areas of the debate that will be of greatest interest to supporters. There does seem to be a willingness to push some of the issues forward once the election is out of the way. It is perhaps as much our imperative as supporters to keep the channels open as it is the clubs and politicians. Quite clearly if we keep pressing on issues such as a Bradford Sports Trust and safe standing there does appear to be support among our politicians – though once again the absence of the Conservative party is to be regretted.

In twelve months time what is the minimum you would consider to be success for Bradford City?

The season at Valley Parade wends towards a disappointing end without much to play for and with minds focused on next August and the start of a new campaign. Much work is to be done between then and now by the club and management to get City into an improved position which we all hope to be in in one year’s time. In one year from now many hope the Bantams will doing much more than playing out until the end of the season and so The Barry Articles ask…

“In twelve months time what is the minimum you would consider to be success for Bradford City?”

Richard Wardell Fundraiser in times of trouble and former BCST man

Success means different things to different people. Personally, I think that I have lower expectations than most supporters so success in my eyes might not be success in another supporter’s eyes. For me, on the playing side of matters I would like to see two or three home grown players established in the first team following in the footsteps of Luke O’Brien;

I would like to see us produce a giant killing in the FA Cup as we celebrate 100 years since we won this magical trophy and I would like us to be making a strong push for the play offs by playing some attractive passing football. Off the field, I would like to think that the club would own Valley Parade again and that our finances are in the black. I would also hope that the club will be offering cheap season ticket prices again for the Bradford public. One final thought; I hope that we have the same manager as we currently have to offer some medium to long term stability for the club.

Jason Mckeown City Gent & BfB Writer

The minimum expectation for me next season has to be a strong promotion push – otherwise the decision to allow Stuart McCall to leave in February would have to be re-questioned.

Last season the club gambled heavily on promotion and lost, with the result a severe slashing of playing budgets. Nevertheless the expectation from many fans and some of those in the boardroom was McCall still had to do better this season. With limited resources, I believe McCall began building a squad that could grow and develop in time, helped by clever acquisitions along the way. It wasn’t the quick win though; hence the pressure for McCall to walk when it became obvious promotion was beyond us this season.

Under Peter Taylor the goalposts have shifted and greater resources are available, subsequently realistic expectations of what can be achieved must rise. I personally hope Taylor doesn’t release too many players this summer, but if he chooses to undo McCall’s initial building work it has to be for the purpose of speeding up progress. At least one of the two owners and many supporters advocated the abandoning of long-term to the point it’s almost become a dirty word, so next season we need to see the fruits of this different approach.

Not that I believe failure to be promoted should lead to Taylor’s dismissal; but with greater resources and experience than McCall, he should be able to take the club forwards next season. We have to be looking back in a year’s time and agreeing progress has been made. We have to be looking back in a year’s time and agreeing the decision to abandon McCall’s team-building attempts was the right one.

Steve Baker Stalwart City fan and Bantams Bar regular

I think with Taylor in charge, his pieces of the puzzle in place like facilities and pitch surface, promotion should be achieved. If however Taylor isnt in charge, who will come in? Largely it is an unknown until the manager is nailed down to a contract, so its a little bit chicken before egg at the moment.

I think we will manage to keep a lot of the good young players we have and they can have a good crack at the league next season, but I worry that if we dont go up next year, the crop of youngsters we have will get snaffled up by other clubs. There are easily 4 or 5 young players who could play in a league above L2 (Hanson, Williams, McLaughlin, O’Brien and Neilson) and you cant expect them to stick around for another season in the basement. Taking these players out of our squad would dessimate it. Look how toothless we have been up top without big Jimmy recently.

Its hard as a City fan in the league we are in to say what would be the minimum level of success. We cannot afford as a club and financially to be in this league any longer, so the sooner we get out the better. We have the best chance of acheiving this with Taylor at the helm and with his methods and track record. Lets not expect pretty football. Lets not expect us to be beating Liverpool in the 3rd round of the FA Cup (just getting there would be nice). Football that gets results and gets us out of this league is fine by me.