Gibb / Rhodes / Honourable

It seems that when Bradford City are keen that a news item is quickly disregarded, it will emerge in the later hours of Friday afternoon. This is what twenty-four years of writing about Bradford City has told me, and is the spirit in which the notification of the reunification of relations between the club and Mr Gordon Gibb was received.

The Gibb Family’s Flamingo Land Pension Fund owns Valley Parade. Bradford City – the business which Gibb was at that time the chairman of – rent Valley Parade for an amount which was promised to be “peppercorn” but would seem to many if not most fair-minded analysts to be prohibitively expensive.

Flamingo Land – the business which the Gibb family own – is returning to sponsor the shirt sleeves of Bradford City – the business Gibb left some twenty years ago – as the lease on the tenancy of Valley Parade ticks down.

Pointedly, Gibb is impressed with the club’s new management, and probably he is right to be. A position of antagonism with the club’s landlord over a disagreement that dates back twenty years – and the cost of that antagonism – are obviously to City’s Chief Executive Ryan Sparks.


In 2004, I was consumed with writing about Bradford City. It took up too much of my time, defined what I did, and seemed to be important in a way which I find unfathomable now.

This is not to say that I do not believe that football clubs, or the communities around them, are important, because I do. Rather that it seems so ill that I was the vox hominem of Bradford City and that the club’s representation on the World Wide Web – representation which would be important in the fundraising in 2004 to keep the club alive – would be largely in my hands.

To recall the early 2000s Internet culture is to recall a place before social media which, very obviously, had the potential for what was to follow. All that was good and ill about the next two decades swirled ominously in the air.

I still look back on those days with wonder.

Marc Antony

It is exhausting to recall even the details. Before one game Gordon Gibb walked onto the grass at VP, microphone in hand, to say that Bradford City would always have a home at Valley Parade and that he had taken action which would secure the future of the club.

Two decades of retrospect are stark. Gibb bought a business for £1, he ran it, and then left after he sold the biggest asset it had to – in effect – himself. The Pension Fund then went on to make an impressive return from that.

The soul of Gordon Gibb is not a subject I can speak with any authority on, nor want to. Gibb’s intentions might have been, and still be, pure. The material outcome has been that the Pension Fund which purchased Valley Parade has made a massive return on the investment it made in a business which three months later was in Administration with Gibb gone.

But he is an honourable man.


Gibbs stands in contrast to his rival, and interlocutor in 2004, Julian Rhodes.

Rhodes’ involvement in Bradford City is long, and it is storied. Rhodes often kept poor company in the boardroom, and the years of his involvement are a map charted promise on the path to inevitable conflict, and conflict which ruined what was good.

Once again, these details are wearying to recall. The new starts that petered out, the failure to maintain promised stability in partnerships with bombastic people who needed to be controlled. The moments it was made clear that the deals derived from being involved in Bradford City were private affairs.

And always the wounded soul, there to remind us what he had sacrificed to keep Bradford City in business, and promising to walk away without “making a penny” on an asset that rankled into decline.

He remains, an honourable man.


That Gibb has a bank of support in the support at Valley Parade is largely for not being Julian Rhodes. Rhodes’ history is tarnished with the actual, while the Gibb era is an Al Gore Presidency. All potential, never dirtied by doing.

The “doing” was beyond Rhodes, but nevertheless he was able to sell his share in the club for half of £5.5m, with Mark Lawn taking the other half. That any of that was possible was a result of £500,000 raised during the summer of 2004 by supporters of Bradford City. Raised by donations, by charity events, by auctioning off, by raising awareness, but underlining to all the importance of the civic institution which hung in the balance. At the time, it was the biggest fundraising effort by a group of football supporters in history.

That there was a Bradford City for Rhodes to own, then sell, was because ordinary people of Bradford put hands in pockets and raised enough money to keep it going.

Pick a side: Gibb or Rhodes. History shows Rhodes hawking the club like a John Street Trader before selling to “a good custodian” who turned out to be The Man Least Suitable while describing Gibb’s actions point by point is – to the uninformed such as I – indistinguishable from that of an asset-stripper.

That is not the case, though, because they are both honourable men.

So Now Then

When I think back to the summer of 2004 I think of two men playing chicken with a football club that people cared deeply about. I think about people called Mark and Mike and Kath and Richard and others working very, very hard to make sure that at the start of August 2004 there even was a Bradford City.

I think about how irresponsible that is, and how counter it is to what both claim, and how pressured one is to take a side against one party and in doing so exonerate the other.

Then I remember that they are, honourable, men.


This is a landmark Summer for football, in which petrochemical money appropriated from the people of Saudi Arabia has been spent on trying to recreate the NASL in Riyadh. It is a bellwether of the end of what we have known as late 20th century capitalism.

Finance in football has ballooned to a position where it is no longer capable of sustaining itself. The riches of fossil fuel, as they destroy the planet, are used to prop up entertainment product in places where people rely on charity to eat.

This is what the end of the Hume and Smith Capitalism looks like, and what replaces it, is a kind of hypercapitalism where money is untethered to value and what greater indication of that the reation of a entertainment product in which the amounts paid to consume it are irrelvant to the product itself?

Cristiano Ronaldo is paid an estimated £173m a year to play for Al-Nassr. There is no suggestion that Al-Nassr’s owners – The Public Investment Fund who declare themselves a part of the Saudi Arabian Government – will ever recoup that figure or any desire to do so.

Cruciatus in crucem. Eas in crucem.

This seems far-fetched now, to suggest that the way the world is run will change, but in 2004 had I said that the Liverpool captain would leave Anfield in order to play in the Saudi Arabian Pro League you’d have looked at that with similar scepticism.

The economic flaw of hypercapitalism is the cycling of assets and money around the higher tier, which abstracts it from the value within the tiers, and this is the stage we are entering. Football Clubs are either uninteresting to wealth, or they are passed around without concern for the supporters who have so little impact on them that the are not worth factoring into decision making.

Football has gone beyond owner’s extracting value from clubs. This discussion about honourable men is finished. The industry of football has no use for club the size of Bradford City.

As supporters, we need to move to a more egalitarian view of the game. The honourable men of football have extracted the wealth out of all clubs, leaving a wasteland of looted nation states and billionaires towering over volcanic wastes where nothing will grow. Clubs will end up owned by supporters because only the supporters will care.

There will only be supporters who remain for Bradford City and our ilk, and I would suggest we hasten the moment we come to terms with that.