Where are the Bantams?

Negotiations carry on around the future of Bradford City and where they will play next season – and going forward form that – with talk about leaving Valley Parade. Odsal is the assumed destination but Mark Lawn was quick to point out that Bradford is a big area with many sites available.

With this comes talk of City moving up the Aire Valley towards Keighley. It is thought that Bradford City supporters are increasingly based in the area to the North West of the City and that it would make sense to relocate the club in that direction. Indeed when there is talk about City fans clubbing together to buy Valley Parade there is a separate conversation which discusses if millions of pounds raised by supporters might be better spent on a new stadium rather than the ground in Manningham, Bradford.

Popular wisdom tells us the Aire Valley – rather than the middle of Bradford or its immediate suburbs – is where the City fans are, but how accurate is this? Aside from speculation it is difficult to find any hard and fast data on where Bantams fans are. So at BfB we thought we would ask.

The method

A question was asked to people who follow BfB’s Twitter feed for them to send the first half of their postcode. This message was repeated three times over the course of the weekend of the 6th, 7th and 8th of May 2011.

The assumption was that the Twitter feed would represent a cross section of supporters and that enough supporters to give a picture of the distribution of post codes would respond. It was also assumed that respondents would be Bradford City supporters who went to games.

The post codes were plotted onto a map with varying sizes of circles used to represent the number of respondents within that post code. A modification was done on these circle sizes in order to maintain a visual integrity of the wider circles.

That calculation is:
cityfans[postcode].population * (500 + (250/(cityfans[postcode].population)))

The limitations

Twitter naturally taints results towards its user base which is slightly younger than the general public. The sample size gained – eighty – represents around 1 in 137 Bradford City supporters (considering the attendance of the final game of the season) and a better study could be achieved by using a wider sample size. There is no guarantee that respondents regularly visited Valley Parade. Post Code areas are sized around populations rather and land area and so many rural areas have larger surface covered by their post code than urban areas.

The results

The map of Bradford City supporters can be found here. The data which supports that map is available to anyone who wants it (it is anonymous data which is basically a set of post codes and coordinates) but written out the eight responses were:

B16, BB5, BD2, BD2, BD2, BD2, BD2, BD2, BD2, BD3, BD3, BD6, BD6, BD9, BD9, BD10, BD12, BD12, BD13, BD13, BD14, BD14, BD14, BD15, BD15, BD15, BD15, BD16, BD16, BD17, BD17, BD18, BD18, BD19, BD19, BD19, BD19, BD20, BD21, BD21, BD22, BD24, BN3, CH48, DH1, DN14, DY1, DY6, GU12, HD4, HD6, HD6, HU18, LN2, LS6, LS12, LS16, LS16, LS17, LS24, LS25, LS28, LS29, LS29, M1, M14, M6, MK45, NG13, NN10, PL2, PR3, RG42, S1, SL4, SW9, UB7, WF6, YO16, YO23.

My take

Data analysis is a science and I could not offer a definitive answer to the question as to where the Bantams are but looking at the map it is obvious that Valley Parade (the more northern of the two markers, the other being Odsal) is situated very much within the heaviest population of Bradford City supporters.

Indeed looking at the idea that City’s fans are in the Aire Valley while it is true that there are populations of Bantams supporters in those areas these would appear similar in size to those to the South of Valley Parade in Cleckheaton and in Brighouse. The Aire Valley – so this limited survey suggests – is no more a home of City fans than any other direction away from Valley Parade.

The point

Data collected on Twitter and ink blot maps are not the definitive statement on the distribution of Bradford City supporters but they do show a challenge to the received wisdom about a migration of City fans into the Aire Valley (or indeed any other direction) showing Bantams supporters very much within urban Bradford while expanding in all four directions. York, London, Manchester and Leeds all have distributions of supporters.

If this data can be gathered over a weekend and conclusions drawn from it then one has to wonder what analysis of the Bradford City season ticket holder’s database would present and what conclusions could be drawn from that. Certainly when talking about relocating the club one would hope this data would be investigated rather than assumed.

Much of Bradford City is received wisdom: That the fans are here and not there, that these people will come to games that those will not, that this behaviour is set in stone; and one has to wonder if that received wisdom is challenged and – if it is not – if by asking the supporters (and lapsed supporters) the right questions new truths would be revealed.

The stark warning as Bradford City’s future is presented in the bleakest terms

While doing the media rounds today, Bradford City Joint Chairman Mark Lawn has issued the starkest of warnings: maintain the status quo, and there will be no Bradford City Football Club in two years time.

As we exclusively revealed last week, the Bradford City Board is attempting to renegotiate the terms of the Valley Parade rental agreement. The club currently has to find £1.3 million annual running costs to use their home of 108 years, and as fortunes on the pitch continue to stall the ongoing existence in League Two is proving to be a huge hinderance.

So Lawn has, as is his way, laid it out in plain terms. No success in renegotiating the rental terms, and the club will have to move out. This could take place within a year. Lawn tonight told BBC Look North that the club cannot survive two more years in League Two at Valley Parade under the current arrangements.

The Yorkshire Post claims Odsal is the most likely destination if City move out. Much has been discussed about the home of the Bradford Bulls over the last two years, with a proposal to redevelop the ageing ground quietly falling by the wayside as the effects of the UK’s deepest recession since the 1930s have squeezed public spending and corporate appetite for construction.

At present the Bulls could lose their Super League licence, such are the inadequate facilities at Odsal. With it’s unsuitability for football seen when City moved their in the 1980s – while Valley Parade was rebuilt following the fire disaster – it seems a hugely unattractive option that wouldn’t be chosen lightly.

As would the potential path to get there. The club has previously admitted breaking the 25 year lease they are bound to at Valley Parade would likely lead to a period of administration. In recent days, reliable rumours have surfaced that the club views going into administration as a route they may be forced to take.

Such a scenario would be one to fill every City fan with dread – we need only remember that the club’s second spell of administration, back in February 2004, was initially presented to us a technicality that we shouldn’t be concerned about. Five months later, we stood on the brink of losing our football club forever.

Moving to Odsal, potentially going to administration – these are all unappealing options to anyone with Claret and Amber in their heart. Therefore the focus returns to the club achieving a positive outcome to these rental talks. The Yorkshire Post – which has confirmed the club is looking at the rental proposal BfB had suggested (not that they are acting on our idea) – has revealed Prupim, the company City rent the Valley Parade offices from, are willing to talk about a rent reduction. However stadium Landlord Gordon Gibb is apparently unprepared to talk to City. Though a spokesman for the Gibb Pension Fund told the Yorkshire Post they have had no direct contact from City.

Why are these talks being played out in the public arena? If the club is in such dire straits, why are we persisting with cheap season ticket deals and £1 offers for home games? Why are we wasting precious money on unproven non-league strikers like Jake Speight? All of these questions circulate around the head and are not a criticism as such of City; but one has to wonder whether the seriousness of the situation we’re being presented with is quite backed up by the club’s actions.

If Gibb is the key to Bradford City’s future, shouldn’t we be banging down his door and begging him to be reasonable; rather than threatening to abstain from a 25-year agreement via the local paper?

There are worrying times for the club. Lawn has revealed that we cannot carry on as we are, and the answers apparently lie with people who semingly don’t have the club’s best interests at their heart and have very different priorities.

We can only trust in Lawn and Julian Rhodes – owners and custodians – to act in our best interests and find the solutions that ensure the future of the club is preserved and we can continue for another 108 years at least. But in the meantime, as we read the situation presented so gloomily by Lawn in the local paper, we feel worried and pessimistic and helpless and scared.

So many times over the past decade we’ve endured miserable failure and tried to stay positive by declaring it can’t possibly get any worse. As this disastrous season comes to a close, let’s hope that for once we are proven to be right.

Is there any solution to Bradford City’s Valley Parade problem?

BfB understands that Bradford City are attempting to negotiate with Valley Parade landlord Gordon Gibb over the terms of the current rental agreement. It would be wholly inappropriate for us to publicly disclose any details of these talks – due their high sensitivity – other than to say that City’s Board is trying to find a compromise to this ever-present problem.

As the 2008-09 and 2009-10 financial accounts show, the current rental and running costs City must pay annually to use Valley Parade are hindering their ability to achieve success on the field. City’s overheads are covered by income not generated by the football, and the playing side is paid for by season ticket sales and gate receipts in general. With season ticket sales on track to be lower next season, it means the playing budget will be reduced for City’s next manager. However, the club’s existence is currently assured by other income streams.

That said, the Valley Parade situation remains a millstone around the club’s neck. The idea of moving to Odsal was floated two years ago, but now seems as unlikely as the council’s  redevelopment of the Bradford Bulls’ home which was proposed at the time. City have attempted to talk to Gibb about buying back the stadium, but the former Chairman’s asking price is too high. A 25-year lease means City are left paying huge annual rental payments which are undermining efforts to revive our ailing fortunes.

So the Board – as Gibb’s people seem happy to disclose to other people – are looking to negotiate new rental terms that would be more favourable for City. At present City are paying £1.3 million per year in rent and running costs, and in January Mark Lawn told us that Gibb was earning a 15% annual return on his original investment.

Gibb has no reason to agree to reduced terms, but if the rent issue remained so difficult that it threatened the existence of Bradford City Football Club, he could suddenly be left with no annual return and a piece of land that would be difficult to sell in the current climate. So one must hope the club can convince him that it is in his interests to help them along the way, while still providing him with a healthy return.

One solution could be to broker a structured rental deal that can help both parties achieve their aims – City to climb up the leagues and Gibb to build his family’s pension fund. Lawn told BfB that: “This club needs to be in the Championship. In the Championship we survive and we survive well. That’s where we need to be. The overheads suddenly don’t become as bad because we need this type of stadium to survive.”

So one idea could be – and this is a BfB suggestion rather than necessarily a proposal on the negotiating table – that the rent is restructured for which division City are in. In League Two revenue is clearly more tight, and the size of rent becomes such an issue that it holds back the club. If the rent could be more favourable now, it would only enhance the Bantams’ ability to earn promotion to League One. Here the rent could be increased again, and then increased even further if and when City return to the Championship and benefit from far greater revenue. All the way along, rent would be manageable to the club.

For that to work, Gibb would have to accept the rent would be lower for now, plus an inherent risk that he would never receive the same level of return if City continue to bumble about on the field. For that reason, City would have to make the terms more favourable in the Championship (and, hey 20 years is a long time, so include Premier League terms too) than they are now, so that Gibb could potentially receive an even greater return on his investment.

All of which may seem unattractive to Gibb, but the alignment of two goals – City to climb to leagues and Gibb to make more money on his investment – would in many ways be more agreeable to all. Right now the two parties don’t get on well, and while that may not be such a problem for Gibb one would like to believe there remains some feeling for the club he once cared so passionately about.

Whatever the solution, we need to avoid looking at Gibb as the villain and beating him with a stick. The club badly needs his help and, as much as we might argue it is unfair he is getting richer because of us, if that objective was at least parallel with our objectives it would surely be the best compromise from a far from ideal situation.

We watch on with interest, as these talks are clearly vital to the club’s future.

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.

Odsal vs Valley Parade – The debate rages on

Mark Lawn, ever the shrinking violet, came out with a robust statement regarding the Odsal debacle at the weekend. His points, however valid, are unlikely to improve relations between BCFC, the Bulls, and Bradford Council. His programme notes for the Morecambe game are also interesting. He states that the council’s feasibility study around the Bulls taking residence at VP was done without consultation with BCFC and goes on figures that are nearly 10 years out of date. Yet they are prepared to throw £1million of taxpayers money at yet another Odsal plan.

I took two work colleagues to VP for the Morecambe game last Tuesday night. One was a Middlesborough fan who said he liked the stadium, particularly the ‘house’ in the south-west corner! The other was a one time City trainee/first-teamer and full time Bulls fan. His view of the situation was akin to most Bulls fans. VP is not suited to Rugby League. He’s right.

Our jaunt to VP on Tuesday was part of a sports fan away day thing we do at work. Recently we travelled to the Keepmoat stadium for the Boro vs Donny game. I sadly missed this but the agreement was we would visit both Odsal for a RL game and VP for a bit of hoof ball. The Odsal vs Castleford game was an enjoyable experience for all concerned. It had been a while since I had been to the ground. In the late 80s and early 90s I went to a lot of Stock Car and Speedway events which I feel Odsal is great for. This time I got to see what the grass in the middle was used for! I enjoyed the standing, the beer on the terraces, even the obligatory overpriced Ecoli burger was good. All in all, it was an enjoyable ground, if a little chilly with no shelter to speak of.

Can it support football? Yes, with some serious development work. Due to the track surrounding the pitch, the corner areas are elevated up. It looked like an upside down parachute with the corners being pulled up by imaginary lines. This would need to be flattened out before suitable for football.

The pitch was in much better condition than the VP one. Despite a good game of egg chasing every other week and the same kind of harsh winter that VP has seen, it was green. I can’t foresee any complaints from the 22 footballers who have to earn their brass there.

So Odsal has some good stuff going for it. Transport links and parking is very good, with bus users having the benefit of the improved Manchester road to get them to and from their beer and nightclubs!

So then: Valley Parade. Well, its better isn’t it. A well constructed (I should know, I put a fire retardant wall up in the new Kop approx 10 years ago) and seated stadium. First class facilities (except the loos!) and a great location, only 15 mins stagger from the city centre or Forster Square retail park and train station.

The ground has so much history. Manningham Rugby Club which became BCFC. 11th May 1985, RIP the 56. The finest City goals the Leeds Utd fans have ever seen (thanks to Beags and Collymore!). Its part of Bradfordian life no matter which bit of the city you grew up in. The sentiment is there which maybe Odsal doesn’t possess. Didn’t it used to be a rubbish tip?

But it can’t support Rugby League can it? Yes it can. VP seats 25,000 fans. Whip out a few rows at the northern and southern ends and you have a longer pitch. This will satisfy the men with odd shaped balls. Better for hoof-ball as well! Its has covered seating areas and the possibility of reintroducing terraced areas in the lower Kop and main stands. There is much that can be done to VP to accommodate the RL lot and also please a fair few stalwart footy fans who like to stand as well.

What’s more, it’s a little cheaper. Mark Lawn estimates it would cost £5.5million to buy the ground back from the cash strapped Gordon Gibb. Mr Gibb is likely to want that cash injection as soon as possible before he sells it to someone else who may not want to be as ‘kind’ on the rent side of things. Another £1-2 million in pitch strengthening and other adaptations mean that its a maximum £7.5 million outlay for a true multi-purpose stadium. The remainder of the £15 million airport windfall can then go on redeveloping Richard Dunn and creating excellent training facilities for both codes, and all other sporting endeavours in the city. Sell Odsal for a few magic beans and you have more houses being built on a brownfield site.

Now I’m not a business man. I am a council worker, but for them east of Pudsey. The figures look attractive, sustainable and value for money. Say those 3 words/phrases to anyone in local authority and a green light usually beckons!

So why not? Its all about politics. All concerned are private businesses. The council wont want to hand £5.5 million to someone who runs his business in the North Riding of Yorkshire and until recently, Lincolnshire. They would rather build a pond or a grass verge in their fair city.

BCFC and the Bulls are private companies that serve the Bradford populace. However a major development that doesn’t meet all demographics is difficult to implement. How many Polish descent Bradfordians go to City or the Bulls? How many Asian, Irish, Chinese or other ethnic groups are likely to use these facilities? These are all questions likely to be asked at a high council level. This is not meant to sound inflammatory, racist or bigoted. Please don’t think it is. It’s the fact that all councils in the UK are required to show how investment in the community brings a benefit to all social and ethnic groups. Its called being inclusive and the dreaded ‘sustainable’ word.

I can only hypothesise. I don’t know what is said at the high level of Bradford Met Council. This is my guess, coupled with an almost fanatic rivalry between Bulls and City (two different sports, please get over yourselves!) and a local council without a party majority. Politics are stifling the sporting progress of two fine clubs who deserve better and also a Bradford population who continue to suffer whilst our elected members continue to bicker.

So what is likely to happen? The status quo. Bulls will stay at Odsal and get some covers for the terracing at an unattractive price. City will continue to pay huge amounts of rent and struggle to maintain the VP site.

I echo Mark Lawn’s words. We don’t need a pond, we need leadership.

Odsal Sporting Village plans over?

The Telegraph & Argus is this morning reporting that a funding crisis has all but ended Bradford Council’s Odsal Sporting Village Plans. The proposed £75 million development was to include facilities for all types of sports, plus a new stadium for the Bradford Bulls and, possibly, Bradford City to play in. A hotel was also mooted.

But the Learning and Skills Council has frozen funding to refurbish Bradford College’s campus, so one of the sporting village’s main funders now has their own unexpected extra costs to meet and cannot support Bradford Council. The gap in funding has left the Council investigating scaled down Osdal revamp plans, with an urgency needed given Bradford Bulls may lose their Super League licence if their stadium stays in its current state for much longer.

It might be premature to write off Odsal as an option for the Bantams – the problems of high rent payments to meet at Valley Parade which led City to even consider moving have not gone away, and a solution of sorts needs to be found. The eventual revamped Odsal project may centre on just producing a new stadium for the Bulls that City could also use; although it seems wrong to move away from supporting other sports who more urgently need top facilities and just build a new rugby ground, when the Bulls could easily move into Valley Parade instead.

What it does show is that City cannot realistically wait around for a realistic vision of Odsal to be agreed and built – history of failed redevelopment plans and the recent obvious vanity of Odsal Sporting Village offer no confidence they will get it right this time. The Council has just short of £20m committed to the village, perhaps some of this money could now be used to purchase Valley Parade for City and the Bulls and use the rest of the budget making Odsal a home for other sports? Perhaps a deal can be struck so City and the Bulls pay rent to the Council, which directly goes to funding the other sporting projects?

With a General Election approaching, it will be interesting to see what political statements are made about the situation over the coming weeks. Bradford has two well-supported and worthwhile professional sporting clubs which help to raise the city’s profile – it’s time to take a firm grasp of reality and work out a solution that best meets everyone’s  interests.

Is the club’s ambition killing it from within?

Over the last couple of years I’ve witnessed a lot of the goings on at City through various media. The first has been the Internet, to which this site is but one of many saved to my favourites, and others have been the paper publications such as the T&A, Bantams World and The City Gent.

In the last three years I have been a season ticket holder and spoken to or overheard opinion from fellow supporters. As I have been a Season Ticket holder for nearly three seasons, bar a time in my mid-teens when the club climbed into the second tier, I’ve also witnessed the League Two displays and formed my own opinions.

What’s my conclusion based on all this evidence? Read on.

  1. We think we are a really big club.
  2. McCall is a good City man but not a good manager
  3. The squad are not fit to wear the shirt
  4. The officials are awful at this level
  5. It’s a lot warmer at VP than at Odsal!
  6. We haven’t a penny pot to pee in
  7. Where’s the money from all them season tickets/Delph money

Do I agree with any of these conclusions? Like all people with splinters in their posteriors, I’m going to say no and yes.

We think we are a really big club….

Well we’ve got a big ground – we don’t own it and sold it for a 10th of what we paid to develop it originally. We now pay nigh on £1.2 million just to play here. Our squad is tiny. We use council pitches or a five aside complex to train at.

We played in the Premier League – yes for two seasons where like most un-established clubs, we stretched way beyond our means and suffered as a result. In the Premier League we were fodder for the big teams, a challenge for the middling teams and could gain points from the rubbish teams. We stayed by the skin of our teeth. We’ve got this little bit of history to keep us proud but we’ve never been a massive and consistent force in English football. Ask a foreigner even when we were in the Premiership who City was? Well the Swede I spoke to in London in 2002 said he didn’t know and had to ask a friend.

What about our big fan base – I should think so from the 500,000 strong Bradfordian population which makes it the 4th largest metropolitan district in England. Premier league Burnley is 88,500 in population. Someone said to me that Bradford is a rugby town. Well on Friday night against Castleford, we had less than 9,000 in Odsal. Admittedly, the game was on Sky Sports and it was freezing (see point 5) but still, City competes with that having 11,500 average for this season. In division 4. Not the top tier of rugby league!

In conclusion we have delusions over our size. But I believe that this keeps the gates high. We have some serious potential. We also have some unbelievable risks in the rent paid to play at an oversized ground we no longer need. City needs to downsize physically as well as in aspiration.

McCall is a good City man but not a good manager

Yes. We all agree in these difficult times that Stuart McCall is a great City man who holds iconic status in almost everything he has done for us….

Except as manager. Do I think he was bad? No, but as another Arnold Laver product chafes my cheeks I also say yes. He has brought some interesting players to the club. At times he has brought some bizarre signings in like the 5ft 4in forward David Brown two seasons ago. Brown entered the field of play at VP after scoring on his debut in a previous match away at Macclesfield Town. He looked like a Smurf against Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy! Central defenders and centre forwards in league two are big for a reason. Diddy David was not. However, it did provide some good amusement for the City faithful.

Do I think McCall should have left? Yes, because he wanted to. I thought the reason for getting McCall in would be to build slowly and carefully to build a platform to grow the club again. We wouldn’t sack Stuart. That would make us Judas. But talk of promotion which was unfulfilled, talk of double promotion which was also unfulfilled and then talk of promotion despite a massive reduction in playing budget which has also gone to pot makes me think that only the very best managers in English football could cope with all that pressure of expectation.

The fans and the board in my opinion did not use Stuart McCall to his strengths. We could have built a strong squad like Rochdale has in the time McCall was given. Instead we went for broke in his second season(remember the premier league?), failed to achieve promotion and then battled to compete in an allegedly poor league. We thought the club would bounce. A club with this much weight around its neck does not bounce. To compete, you must be agile. We are currently lumbering round without coherent direction, attainable goals or hope. This is not Stuart McCall’s doing. Its us. The fans and board members, with our insatiable appetite for success whatever it takes that crushes our own development

In conclusion, McCall failed because we fail. It’s a competition, not a divine right (see point 1).

The squad are not fit to wear the shirt.

Fit that in with the opposition chant of only singing when we win. Well, like petulant and ungrateful children we do throw our toys out the moment it all goes wrong. We boo the players, myself included which is shameful. When you feel bad, things keep going wrong and someone you want to impress (the fans) keep telling you you’re bad… guess what? You’re bad.

The affect of morale has been plain to see over the turbulent last few weeks. Its clear now that the players were playing for their manager. They had a great affinity for him and are crushed as a result. Many are out of contract at the end of the season and while they can impress in the safety of a training ground, on the pitch is a different matter. When you are down, doubt yourself and are afraid for your standard of living you will make errors. You will take the wrong decision under pressure. You will hoof the ball up to a lad who wins 9 out of 10 headers even though he will loose possession and it will be back soon.

What is needed is determination. Only a few of our lads have it. Ramsden and Flynn are definitely those who will not give up. The rest? Whilst not giving up like Dan Petrescu did all those times, they are not battling for the full 90 minutes. Especially in the two games following McCall’s exit.

Are they fit to wear the shirt? They are the only players we have got. Get behind them, give them the strength. Find forgiveness in your hearts for Zesh Rehman and Matt Clarke. They are only men. But us as fans can give them that little bit they need to achieve that little bit more. If its hard for us to watch, it must be harder for them to cope with the pressure of expectation. We must play our part even if they are currently not achieving theirs.

The officials are awful at this level.

Yes. Full stop.

My knowledge of the game is poor to say the least but even I know when Michael Boulding has his own shirt twisted twice round him by a slow centre half’s hand. Its poor. Its allowed, because Clarke for us gets away with it every other game. But its not good for the game.

Until refereeing gets a major overhaul, we need to be good enough in this league to beat 12 men. Yes, the one with the whistle and the power to send players off included! Can we do this? Yes with investment, both in money and time to develop some quality players.

It’s a lot warmer at VP than at Odsal!

Yes, it is. But I’ve sat in the Midland Road stand for the last few seasons. We are protected from the elements by the Main stand and because of its orientation. The Kop on the other hand is like being sat in a wind tunnel on the occasions I have swapped to sit there!

If we could save ourselves significant amounts of rent by relocating to Odsal despite its run down appearance, upturned corners of the pitch and rugby connotations we could achieve more in terms of playing budget. It’s a no brainer. But its not without its critics including me.

The Odsal Sporting Village will not be completed. I will stake big money on it. There is no political clout within Bradford Council to achieve this development much like the hole in the city centre. If it happens, I’ll laugh my head off because I was wrong and that Bradford have come together to actually do something for the community. £70+ million for a 18k seated stadium, though? Someone hasn’t done a Value for Money investigation on that one!

VP is our home. Its also dragging the cash straight out of the club and into the hands of someone who profits from other’s misfortune. Its becoming tough choice for the board members to make now. What ever happens, a solution must be found to the £1.2million overheads we pay before a ball is even kicked.

We haven’t a penny pot to pee in

This is true. We are working within our means as far I know. Players such as James Hanson actually earn less being a full time pro than what he got working for Co-op as an assistant manager. Our top scorer earns less than a shop worker. Just think about that when you think about how big Bradford City is.

The overheads don’t help. Big name players cost money and are not guaranteed to achieve success. For us to progress we need to make our own stars of tomorrow. This won’t happen this season, next season, or even the year after. But it has to be an avenue to explore along with the others. Peter Taylor could help us with this. We can only wait and hope.

Where’s the money from all them season tickets/Delph money?

Stuart was given a playing budget of £1.2 million for this season. Couple that with the £1.2 million overheads and countless other running costs for the club, we can safely assume that the Delph money went into a financial black hole that is City’s accounts book.

Fans look to the board to provide sufficient finance to ensure success on the pitch and rightly so. Mark Lawn injected £1 million to ensure stability last season. Although he did well out of Driver Hire and the Rhodes family have had some success with Filtronic, they cannot afford to throw money at something at the expense of their own wellbeing. For fans to expect that is quite unbelievable.

Despite me trying to work out the City incomings, I still don’t know how the club keeps afloat. I then have to assume that the board provide funds from their own reserves (which will have depleted in the last few years due to the recession) to keep the club going. Mark Lawn restructured the clubs income stream to allow two amounts of season Ticket money to come in per season. One at around Christmas and one in the close season. This will have given the club some initial boosts in finance but this is now over. I have to have faith in the board of Bradford City because, quite frankly, who else is there to turn to.

New investors will not approach City whilst we reside in this league. Ask yourself this: Do you want to be in the same position as Notts County? They can keep their 5-0 mauling of us if we continue to remain solvent and they disappear from the football world. A terrible set of affairs.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, its all a bit pessimistic isn’t it? We are constrained financially and this won’t go away. We are in a major rut and are sailing dangerously close to going out of the league entirely.

Come on, Pete! You must have some positives? Yeah. In the potential stakes we are pretty good. The focus needs to be on reducing the overheads, maintaining the good season ticket sales and growing the playing staff. These are all long term aims.

In the short term we can and should survive this year. I believe if Peter Taylor wants to stay and can improve this club he should be given a two year contract to provide progressive improvement. First year should be the aim of a top ten finish. This is achievable. Second year should be the aim of playoffs and hopefully promotion. This could be achieved if the quality of playing staff recruited in year one can support progressive improvement into year two. If he smashes this and we go up next year, he and the club will have exceeded our expectations and we’ll be as delirious as we were after Wolves all those years ago. Or maybe not!

What about us fans? We need to be patient. Stuff the ‘big ground-have you seen the premier league-we all hate Leeds scum’ rhetoric. Lets build for the future and actually trust the club to improve itself rather than bowing to our insatiable appetite for success.

‘Can we do it?’ said Barrack ‘Yes, we can’ shout the City faithful.

From stability to here to where?

Mark Lawn, January 2009:

Bradford City have had enough turmoil and non-stability at this club.

Thirteen months ago Mark Lawn had decided that Bradford City have “had enough of turmoil and non-stability” and gave Stuart McCall a new contract to manage Bradford City until June 2012. Now Bradford City go into the latter half a season with a manager who no one is sure will be around in June 2010. How did City go from the one position to the other?

In February 2010 Lawn confirmed that City’s replacement for McCall is not viewed as a long term appointment saying

The three-month spell gives us the chance to look at each other so it’s good for both parties. If Peter proves himself, I’m sure we will be talking about a longer-term contract. But it does mean we can look at others.

The former comment endorses the idea of a manager as the keystone of a stable football club, the second suggests that this view is no longer holding sway at Valley Parade in either that the manager does not offer stability or that stability in itself is worthless. How have the club gone from believing stability is the way forward to abandoning it as a policy altogether?

There is a theme of commentary – or perhaps just dissent, the two merged sometime ago – which has it that City have had stability over the previous few years with Stuart McCall and Colin Todd both enjoying around 135 games in charge of the Bantams – but I would suggest that around two and a half years as a manager is nothing of the sort.

It is the start of stability, the point in which stability begins. Where you make it known to all that you do not believe a manager’s position is mutable with the form of the club. Where players begin to get confidence that the man they sign a contract to play for will be at the club when it comes to an end. When supporters get to feel that the player name their child gets on the back of their shirt for their birthday will not have left the club by Christmas.

Stability is one way of running a club but not the only way, and one could argue – with limited success in my opinion – that it is not the best way. But most importantly it is the way that Bradford City were following a little over a year ago and have now abandoned.

Retaining institutional knowledge – that is the point of stability at a club – is something Peter Taylor seems to value more than his employers. Wayne Jacobs is retained as assistant manager and on his first day in Bradford the new City boss started talking about [para] “building something not over fifteen weeks but three years and fifteen weeks.”

Peter Taylor is a man much more worth listening to when it comes to questions of how to make a successful football club than City’s joint chairmen. He is talking about years, Lawn is talking about weeks.

The short term deal, Taylor’s talk of loan players, the interviewing candidates to replace Taylor in the summer, the idea of judging the new manager over the next fifteen weeks. City have moved a long way in a short space of time away from the one position and, if the Bantams are no longer following a plan of stability bringing success, what plan are we following?

What is the club’s plan to bring success and advancement to Bradford City? How will Peter Taylor be given the scope to achieve more than Stuart McCall and Colin Todd did?

There are many things which could augment the club that Taylor now manages. The club’s training facilities are notoriously poor and in bad weather the players have no full sized pitch to use; the club’s scouting needs attention (if not expansion, if a James Hanson can be plucked from the non-league of West Yorkshire why not see what pickings can be had on the other side of the Pennines?); the academy could be raised in standard to match those at Huddersfield and Leeds.

Then in a wider sense there is the problem with ground ownership – which costs £600k of the clubs budget – and the rental of equipment within Valley Parade which costs the same figure again. The issue of City’s 107-year-old home is oft talked about and Bradford Bulls chairman Peter Hood – a man with whom Lawn should take care in his dealings with for Hood is a canny and will eat he City chairman for breakfast – is holding a suspiciously open door to the idea of City moving to Odsal.

What are our plans for the future location of Bradford City? Stability says stay where you are, the three month appointment says why not say we will move into Odsal but tell Gordon Gibb we might return to Valley Parade should he make a better offer on the rent.

The price of tickets at Valley Parade and the free tickets given out to youngsters are about building a stable and constant tradition of support. Is that plan to follow the way of stability past? A policy of maximising transient support is more in keeping with the idea of short-term thinking. The club is shortly due to announce 2010/11 season ticket prices for those unable to afford to purchase one last December, potentially as soon as next week, so we may know more then.

More than these things – and already I can hear someone tapping the words “BfB blames the fans again” – the atmosphere at Valley Parade on a match day and around the club in general is bad to the point of being poisonous and, as Taylor picks for him number two a man who some have spent the best part of two years saying could not coach, is the new gaffer’s first choice at the club going to come under the same abuse as the last few have?

So many things could be done which would help the attitude around the club and thus help the manager from not being made to look stupid on Sky TV after we lambaste a kid who gets a ball full in the face for being “in the wrong area” to addressing the situation that Lawn believes has emerged around the club’s official message board.

Is there a plan to achieve any of these things which would mean that Peter Taylor had more resources at his disposal than Stuart McCall? That means that, aside from his innate abilities, Taylor has more to do to suggest he can achieve with City what many, many managers have failed to do.

In the space of a year, Lawn and Julian Rhodes have left behind the idea of stability and gone to one of fixed term appointments. Is this the new view of the club? Are we as fans to get no more connected to our managers than we do the people who run our phone companies or banks? Are we Peter Taylor’s Bradford Army, or is Taylor just an acting sergeant in someone else’s platoon?

All of which is not to say that the Bantams chairmen do not have a plan for taking the club forwards, nor is it inherently a criticism of the club for changing its mind on how it operates. Just that, having binned one plan, the appearance to supporters even on the broadest most meta level is that one set of ideas have been ditched in favour of a total opposite set.

The supporters of Bradford City are the people who pick up the pieces when the chairmen fail in the plans they have for our club – the last twenty five years have told us that much – so, as those supporters, is it not reasonable that we ask, after such an obviously and publicly move away from one position, we are told what the club stands for now?

Notes on a Move

There’s been a little consternation over the last week or so about Bradford Council’s much vaunted ‘Sporting Village’ project at Odsal. As we all know this project has been doing the rounds for longer than most can remember, and every so often concerns are raised about Bradford City’s potential involvement. Let us for a moment forget the fact that ‘Odsal Sporting Village’ is as likely to happen as us winning the FA Cup this season and take this situation on both its merits and its drawbacks, because I don’t believe such a move would be the earth shattering event some would predict.

Firstly, as we all know, our beloved Valley Parade is leased back to us for a reportedly silly amount by our Rollercoaster loving ex-chairman. This would be a main facet of any argument which supported our moving home. A satisfying two finger salute and a fresh start; this brings me to the other point which I think would hold weight. The talk this season around the Bantams has been of a start from scratch, a club reborn from the failures of the bloated wage packet and ego brigade from last season. So, why not augment this new breed with a step away? I am by no means saying that we engineer a move away from Valley Parade as soon as possible, but I see no reason other than nostalgia to hold on with a death grip to a home which has not seen success for a long time.

The proposal itself would offer a wonderful arena for both ourselves and our egg-chasing cousins, potentially athletics and much more too, ok, so we would have to share it with others, but we wouldn’t be the only ones in that boat, Wigan Athletic manage it. If we are, as many feel, starting from right at the bottom, then this would give us an opportunity to do so in a new home, perhaps without the trappings of memory and expectation which haunt our current one. Moving stadium does not kill the club, it is us, the fans, who are that lifeblood, and I’m sure you feel the same as me, in that as long as Bradford City AFC exists, I will watch them regardless of what pitch they inhabit, I love the club, not the stadium.

That said, it would always be a wrench to leave, and there would be many thousands who would balk at the thought of leaving, and yes, it is a spiritual home, but there would doubtless be successes at any new ground, and potentially more revenue, without a crippling amount of rent. Tradition is important, but so is making the best of your situation and I, for one, believe a potential move would be a benefit to our club.

Yes, we have had some wonderful moments at Valley Parade, times which none of us will ever forget, David Wetherall with ‘that’ goal, beating Arsenal, Gordon Watson’s brace from the bench! But do you not think Arsenal fans witnessed some fantastic times at Highbury? Middlesbrough at Ayresome Park? Shrewsbury at The Gay Meadow? These memories do not die if the stadium does not remain, but our debt to Gordon Gibb might. However, this is the same council which seems to have created Britain’s biggest building site as a tourist attraction in the city centre, so I won’t hold my breath. For the time being, I will continue to enjoy inhabiting Valley Parade, hopefully it can provide some more happy memories.

Seeking the bald facts of an Odsal move

Recent talk had me thinking about the current situation off and on all day. would it be possible to get to the bald facts on the possible Odsal move without the ever present emotion getting involved as it has had a way of doing so far?

I can but try. Let’s start with each party’s point of view. Why do they want to come to a deal?

Firstly, Bradford Council. Committed to the costly Odsal sports village, part of which involves filling in the existing stadium bowl and building a new ground of only 18,000 capacity (by any yardstick, the smallest new ground envisaged for any major English city) overlooking the site of the original stadium. The scheme is as I’ve said very costly. A look at how the finances might stack up has convinced them that the figures look infinitely better if City can be persuaded on board with the extra income that would generate.

Next Bradford Bulls. Having wanted a new ground for years (some might say decades) they really wished for a rival to the Galpharm at Huddersfield, not only to preserve their super league status but to provide a venue for RL representative matches. This would have involved a new ground capacity of 25,000+.

They will grudgingly accept a 18,000 ground to secure their SL status on the present site and, equally grudgingly, they will accept a ground share with City if it means a lower rent for them at what they will still consider their (new) Odsal home.

Finally, Bradford City. On an ongoing financial knife-edge due to the costs of their Valley Parade home. 1/3 million a year just to play at VP (compare this with Notts County who pay £25,000 a year to play at Meadow lane.) then on top of this City also pay annual rent for the shop/office block. it probably doesn’t all add up to £1million a year but it will still be a crippling total figure.

The benefits? They’re clear enough for the council and Bradford Bulls!

The financial benefit is really the only Pro for City (unless you accept that a ground that is easier for away fans to get to once a year, while at the same time being far more inconvenient for most City fans 23 times at least every year, is a Pro)

There are more Cons for City. the revenue from advertising and the bars and catering franchise would be lost. There would be the major hurdle of negotiating their way out of the existing lease with Mr. Gibb…that won’t come cheap. Over time they would lose support from Baildon, Bingley and up the Aire valley as supporters found it more troublesome and inconvenient to travel to the far side of the city on matchdays. they couldn’t rely on replacing all the lost support from around Odsal for 100 years a rugby stronghold. Even keeping emotion aside, there is also the almost certain outright opposition to the move from fans. Finally there is the capacity. would any club voluntarily move from a 25,000 capacity ground in their major catchment area to a ground of only 18,000 capacity right across the city?

To do this is a tacit admission from the joint chairmen of permanent mediocrity. No more talk of a return to the Premiership ever.

Finally, there are the terms at the new ground. here we have no choice, we are compelled to speculate. Even though City are the bigger professional club, the bulls regard Odsal (even the new ground) as their home. they would not agree a deal which made them 2nd class citizens at Odsal. This being the case, as the bigger club, would City agree a move on terms inferior to the Bulls?

Would City agree to be the junior partners?

The council seems determined not to consider a move the other way…Valley parade could be bought and completed to a capacity of 30,000+….a home for both clubs more in keeping with our big-city status, for far less than the new Odsal stadium outlay and there would indeed be Rugby League representative matches and even the possibility of England under 21 soccer matches at the ground.

Whatever happens It is time their was a City fans forum on this one proposal – the possibility of moving to Odsal. time all the facts were made known by the joint chairmen. Mark Lawn has said that an offer was made to Gordon Gibb to buy back the ground but that he wanted a higher price than City could pay at that time. Let’s have the figures…what did City offer and what did Mr. Gibb want?

There has been too much cloak and dagger already in this whole affair. let the fans have all the facts and the true situation.

Groundsharing at Odsal moves from debate to battle

The Bradford City Supporters Trust holds its AGM this evening, with one especially pensive agenda item up for discussion.

Last February Bradford City revealed it was considering an option to ground share with Rugby League neighbours Bradford Bulls, in a council-backed redevelopment of its Odsal stadium. With the rental payments and running costs of City’s 105-year-old home, Valley Parade, somewhere in the region of just under £1 million per year, the opportunity to be released from expenditure which is potentially holding back the club’s  progress is one difficult for joint chairmen Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes to ignore. The time is approaching where the debate moves forward and firm actions need to be taken.

When plans were first mooted for turning the basic Odsal ground into a sporting village, it was easy to dismiss it as fruitless council activity that would ultimately be ruled unworkable. The cost of the project is widely expected to be over £80m, a quarter of which would be provided by the council. In the mist of a UK recession where the affects are more visible within Bradford than many parts of the country – witness the giant hole in the city centre that was supposed to be a shopping complex by now – it’s questionable where the rest of the funding would come from, but the council is said to remain confident of acquiring it. It means that, rather than sit back and wait for the sums to not add up, City fans against their club moving home need to make their voice heard.

Writing in the latest edition of City Gent, BCST Chairman Alan Carling outlines a timetable for council activity which suggests a decision over City’s future could be made by early 2010. A green light would see the Bulls temporarily move to Valley Parade in 2011 while building work on Odsal took place, with both clubs beginning life in the redeveloped Odsal by August 2013. Alan also suggests the Odsal go-ahead is dependent on City’s involvement, as the income streams from only the Bulls make it difficult for investors in the development to receive a desired return.

Not that matters are so simple for City, with the giant question mark of the 20-year Valley Parade lease the club is financially obligated to complete as part of the 2003 deal which saw then-Chairman Gordon Gibb buy up the stadium. Alan speculates two ways the council and City might work around that problem, neither which appear financially desirable. The first is the council buys the stadium from Gibb, thus freeing City from the terms of the lease. The cost of purchase and then demolition of the ground is a poor use of tax payers’ money given the returns from then selling on the land will be far less – and that’s ignoring the sheer ludicrousness of the council buying and demolishing a stadium City want to remain in so they can persuade the club to move elsewhere.

The other suggested option is a strategic City administration, with the idea being the new City owners would be removed from previous financial obligations and be free to leave Gibb with an empty stadium. Whatever is thought of Gibb, this is morally wrong and risky, as the club cannot put itself into administration until it’s about to move over to Odsal, in four years time. Is the business-wise Gibb going to sit back and wait for that to happen? Is the Football League going to allow one of its members to so blatantly get out of financial commitments? Is the council going to devise a sensible business plan on the basis of encouraging a local company to bend the rules?

In his article Alan wrote, “My personal concern is that if the club goes along with the Council’s Odsal plans, we may be venturing into an ethical and practical minefield for the sake of financial gains that are both uncertain and distant. And these anticipated gains are unlikely to be large enough to outweigh the attendant risks, which may include risks to the survival of the club.”

All of which continues to make it difficult to see just how Bradford City and the people of the Bradford district would benefit from the club moving to a redeveloped Osdal, when there is already a suitable venue for the City’s two professional clubs in Valley Parade, achievable to buy for a fraction of the cost. The proposed Odsal Sporting Village is aimed at providing a wider range of sporting facilities, but there is no obvious reason why it couldn’t still be developed to the benefit of local athletes. Training facilities for both City and Bulls could be situated here too.

It would still a disputable use of public money to buy Valley Parade for two commercial organisations, but it could be argued that, by doing so, the space vacated by the Bulls could be developed into an important sporting community focal point that aspiring local athletes can develop from. It would be reasonable for City and Bulls to pay rent to the council and, within Valley Parade, there may also be opportunity to push ahead supporter desires for a return to standing areas.

Of course the prospect of the Bulls moving to Valley Parade is something its supporters are understandably opposed to in the same way City fans don’t want to be moved to Odsal, but is their discomfort more important than ours and is it justification enough to unnecessarily spend millions of pounds? Even allowing for the hindrance of claret and amber-tinted spectacles, I find it difficult to see the logic in the whole proposal.

But those with the power to make it happen clearly do see something, and tonight BCST will discuss how City supporters can make their voices heard. There are suggestions the club is taking an increasingly-dismissive view of the Trust’s power and influence, largely due to its membership size, but whether members or non-members all City fans opposed to the Odsal plans should be considering how they can support the Trust in leading the fight. It has been suggested the club will hold a referendum with all supporters before any final decision is made, but is it enough to sit back and wait for a voting slip to appear?

The biggest concern over the decision to stay or leave Valley Parade is that assumptions and apathy might come to be later regretted.

*The BCST AGM is being held at Bradford Irish Club from 7.30pm tonight.

How full is the glass?

A year on from joint-Chairman Julian Rhodes’ target of City achieving back-to-back promotions, the more realistic vision of Championship within five years was revealed by fellow Chairman Mark Lawn at the Bradford City Supporters Trust Fans Forum last night. Call it lack of ambition if you will – though a certain mega rich East Midlands club with a Swedish Director of Football has the same stated goal – but Lawn’s ambition and tone was in keeping with the low-key but determined attitude that is emanating from the club right down to the players who are impressing in pre-season friendlies.

Like any sensible business in these credit crunch times, a cautious but reasoned picture of the health of the club was presented from Lawn, Operations Director Dave Baldwin and manager Stuart McCall. Fans present had the opportunity to ask questions to all three and, though the financial restrictions the club must operate under can seemingly be depressing to ponder too much about – that same rich East Midlands club pay just £20k a year to rent their stadium compared to the huge overheads of playing at Valley Parade – the fact those charged with finding the answers can still remain cautiously upbeat is something more City fans would do well to emulate. A quick scan of message boards shows some present have typically twisted the words of Stuart and Lawn and come to conclusions that are based on fantasy to tell others it’s all doom and gloom, oddly enough not voicing their concerns or grumbles at the time. As Lawn said at one point, “too often Bradfordians see the glass as half empty, maybe this season it’s time to look at it as half full.”

Much of the interest was on the football side of matters and what Stuart had to stay. He spoke of his transfer targets and that bringing in a keeper and at least one midfield on a season-long loan was looking increasingly like the route he would go, quickly pointing to the success of Scott Loach, Dean Furman, Nicky Law and Steve Jones to illustrate that this is not something to be fearful about. What’s the difference between signing a player on a season long loan and someone on a one year contract, he pondered. With visible frustration at the number of targets he’s lost out on this close season, particularly to Oldham, he remained hopeful more players would become available for permanent transfer over the next few weeks. James Hanson has been offered a contract.

Of those who had gone, he played down rumours of dressing room fallings out being behind the departure of Rhys Evans and Barry Conlon, explaining that the reason Matt Clarke and Conlon had been dropped against Exeter was simply because they stayed up late watching the Champions League Final on a Wednesday and missed training on the Thursday. Conlon just needed a fresh challenge and Paul Mullin looked a good signing with a host of other League Two clubs, including Rochdale and Shrewsbury, interested in him at the time. Evans left simply due to wages, Kyle Nix was someone he admired but who he couldn’t find a place in the team for ahead of others. He lacked a bit of pace and height, and wasn’t best suited to the 4-4-2 formation Stuart prefers. Paul Arnison was decent going forward but not the best defensively, and had been caught out by the division’s better wingers. The biggest shock of the evening was that no one asked about Bower.

Stuart stuck up for Joe Colbeck over the contract dispute, but did concede when he first heard the winger had rejected the deal he angrily told him not to come back to the club before calming down and offering an olive branch. He also stuck up for Chris Brandon when one fan asked why Brandon, as a City fan, won’t take a pay cut. He hopes Brandon can be a big player this season, though it’s still uncertain if he will stay. Omar Daley is recovering well in Jamaica, and has shown great mental determination. He did warn fans not to expect too much from him too soon, words that will probably be ignored by some if he struggles at first.

In terms of the failings of last season, Stuart didn’t want to dwell too much on them but suggested playing too attacking away from home cost the team with the high number of defeats on the road. In fitting with the more guarded outlook for the season ahead, Stuart talked about being more prepared to settle for a point in away games. Nothing to do with playing negative formations, but being more prepared to see out the game if need by rather than go too cavalier and be defeated. The defenders job will be too defend, rather than play the ball out the back as was seen last season. He acknowledged Clarke’s distribution wasn’t the best, but praised his defensive qualities.

Stuart was asked about his threat to walk away and what kept him at the club and referred to the number of positive emails he received and feeling he didn’t want to walk away with the budget being slashed. What about the zombie state he got into last season, and will he do when the going gets tough this season? Stuart didn’t try to pretend he knew the answer now and won’t get down again, speaking about how much he cares and how everything on the pitch is his responsibility. He was advised by other managers not to get too high with the highs and too low with the lows, but conceded that’s easy with the highs but more difficult with the lows.

Mark Lawn talked about the finances and stadium situation. He’d made an offer to Gordon Gibb for the stadium but it had been rejected, Gibb wants a high amount for it – more than he originally paid. Lawn appeared to be biting his tongue on this issue, but on top of the rent payments Gibb’s been receiving the last few years, the former Chairman is clearly hoping for a huge profit and is certainly not going to go out of his way to the club. Odsal was downplayed a little, but he spoke of another possibility that no one else has considered. No doubt we’ll discover more soon.

On the money for Fabian Delph, Lawn revealed last season the club had budgeted for either promotion or Leeds selling Delph – neither of which happened. It’s here that the biggest confusion of the night reigned and already some fans are saying we’ve spent the money for Delph. This is a totally distorted view – the club had a shortfall in budget which its now had to revise for this season, as we’ve seen with player departures. If City had not been promoted and Delph sold, the wage budget could have been the same this season. The money from Delph, if and when he goes, can still benefit the club and, if it’s over a certain amount, Stuart will be allowed to make an extra loan signing. Those supporters muttering “we’ve already spent the Delph money, the club is a shambles” are very much supping from those half empty glasses.

The always impressive Dave Baldwin talked about sponsorship and commercial activities. Apart from a drop in the banqueting facilities, blamed on the credit crunch, and needing to tie up a sponsor for the Midland Road stand, the club is bringing in a lot of revenue from its off the field activities – more so than season ticket money. The club is working hard to increase the fanbase, and Baldwin confirmed they will continue to try season ticket offers as long as around 10,000 supporters take it up every season. The new appointment of the man from Morrisons is something Baldwin expects to have a positive impact on the club.

So as we left into the grey summer night with some fans seemingly determined to feel negative, the tough but honest assessment of where the club is going left me at least feeling more positive about the season ahead. Bradford City knows its limitations, is being run by people who genuinely care and who, crucially, take a positive approach to the issues ahead. As Mark Lawn said, “I’m a businessman, business is about problem solving.”

Of all the lessons of the last two seasons, it’s clear the club isn’t putting its eggs in one basket and working to promotion or bust this season. This time next year the club may still be in League Two, but if the hardwork continues the vision of Championship football by 2014 will still be on track.

Back to the field of play – Bradford City vs Wycombe Wanderers League Two Preview

Much has happened since last Bradford City walked the grass of Valley Parade in the 2-0 win over Grimsby Town.

The Darlington game bit the dust – or the snow if you will – and City had to wait a week before recording an impressive 2-0 at Gillingham leaving people talking about promotion prospects again until distraction came in the news that the Bantams seem unable to find a replacement for Bradford and Bingley who will not be sponsoring the club next season and are able to find a replacement for VP in the shape of an Odsal Sporting Village after revealing that it cost £1.2m to play at home a year. The game with former league leaders Wycombe Wanderers seems small beer in context.

The move from Valley Parade will be debated elsewhere and is surely one of the most serious in the club’s history dwarfing the problems with sponsorship which have effected many clubs in football and seen Mark Lawn effectively begging the businesses of Bradford for the £60,000 asked for by Friday afternoon that would assure the shirts that went to the manufactures could feature something emblazoned upon them.

City have handled the sponsorship situation poorly. Bradford and Bingley’s problems were there for all to see and the assumption could have been made that they would not renew a long time ago. In that situation City could go looking for a backer on the quiet and – if one were not found – do as Aston Villa and Barcelona do and hand the ten square inch of real estate on the front of the shirt over to charity. Either that or decide that it was to be left blank claiming this was a deliberate decision as Leicester City have done.

The scrambling for cash from anyone who will give it and the naming of a base price the Bantams will accept serves to cheapen the product when interest in sponsorship picks up. £60,000 of sponsorship equates to two Sky TV games – an interesting piece of information that casts a different light on City’s attempts to get the Darlington game on – and illustrates the rather random nature of football finances at this level.

The Darlington game takes place on Tuesday night and promises to be equally as tough as the visit of Peter Taylor’s Wycombe Wanderers. The Chairboys were top – taking over from City in November – until the middle of this week but the two games in hand they have over Brentford, who went level on points with them, suggest they may return to summit. Nevertheless when they do get to play Taylor’s side are not in the greatest of form with recent draws with Macclesfield, Exeter City and Luton Town being coupled with defeats to Grimsby Town and at AFC Bournemouth and arguabily the Bantams are playing them at the right time.

Stuart McCall goes into the game with a grumbling keeper Rhys Evans wanting a new deal – he has earned one but timing is everything and Evans’s comments in public are ship rocking – but in good form. City concede few and are building another run of clean sheets with Evans not picking the ball out of the net for the last 180 minutes. Much of this is down to adding a third commanding aerial figure in recent weeks in the form of Zesh Rehman who will most likely switch to the central defensive role to cover Graeme Lee who is suspended. Matthew Clarke will partner and Luke O’Brien will hope to have recovered to play left back with Paul Arnison on the right.

The midfield of Nicky Law Jnr and Dean Furman seems set in stone although Paul McLaren’s set plays are missed greatly when he is not included and the Bantam number four would be in my starting eleven as would Joe Colbeck who builds up match fitness to the point where he seems as if he will explode. Steve Jones on the right hand side will make way for him this game or next. Omar Daley continues on the left and McCall tells us that we should not be so negative about him, which is strange because we are not and perhaps someone should tell City’s players and management to spend less time fixating on criticism or at least balance it up against the praise.

I illustrate this with the fact that BfB got a ratio of 3:1 in comments in support of Daley during the week so ending that week with a spirited defence of the player is – perhaps – giving undue credence to one side of the debate.

Peter Thorne and Michael Boulding continue up front.

The Odsal debate calls for steady debate in the conflict of hearts and heads

In football, as with any love, decisions are often made by not by a valuation of the choices but of the criteria which those choices are assessed by.

We know the merits of two sides of an argument but we evaluate the weight of those merits. We know that Omar Daley makes some poor decisions and be frustrating but also that he can scream through defences and can score breathtaking goals. Our decision is not on if a series of things occur but rather how important those things are to us when weighed against each other. In a way we do that when we declare our allegiance. We know wins are more likely watching Manchester United but we feel more connected to Bradford City and the feeling is more important than the knowledge.

These decisions are the interplay between the heart and the head, between logic and the soul, and they are the very core of why we follow the clubs we do, marry the people we marry, live the lives we lead.

So it is in this context that we frame the notion of moving Bradford City to the Odsal Sporting Village in the medium to long term.

The arguments are simple. In the white, black and red corner there is the idea that City pay out £1.2m a year to play at a stadium owned by a hostile landlord in a part of town that has problems and few amenities in the half mile around the stadium for fans while the players train at a school playing field five miles away from the stadium and its offices. In the claret and amber corner is the fact that Valley Parade is – as Jason so eloquently points out – our home, our memorial and our history at a ground that is connected to the community the club serves and is one of the finer stadiums in the country out of keeping with our lowly league position as anyone who went to Accrington Stanley would tell you while Odsal is a bowl away from the City Centre where one would turn up, watch and go home.

We all know the arguments and could probably throw a few more onto the pile. Perhaps we could even add further corner or two to the debate. I warm to the idea of creating a ground within the City Centre if it were possible and others have talked about new locations in the Aire Valley. The options are plentiful for discussion.

Nevertheless those options will always return to this same decision making process. The head vs the heart and how important one is compared to the other. Is it more important to give the players decent training facilities than it is to play near The Fighting Cock? Is it more important to have strong links to a community or to a motorway network? Is it more important for Bradford City to be at the physical location where our supporters died or is it more important – even as a tribute – to do what (would seem, and one assumes is designed to) move the club forward?

The weight of one over the other keeps me awake at night and this is a time for clarity. In this debate – a significant debate on the future of the club – that clarity needs to come from an honest and frank assessment of the two options involved rather than the sloganeering and ad hominemisms vs silence and high handedness which has marked BORG and the authorities in the debate over the Bradford Odeon.

Perhaps it is not too much to ask for two sides of an argument presented and positive without attack on the other and a good debate followed by a ballot of season ticket holders to decide this issue. The future of club’s under the elite level in football is in engaging supporters then – on this the largest question of all – the club need to engage now.

Should they engage then the onus falls on us – the City supporters – to hold that debate appropriately.

It’s our home

Whenever you start to believe that the financial problems which have blighted Bradford City during the last eight years are behind us, you remember about Valley Parade.

It was presented as good news when City’s stadium was bought by then-Chairman Gordon Gibb in the summer of 2003, because it got the pressure of a mortgage lender owed millions of pounds off our back. Sure, the owner’s pension fund held the ground’s deeds rather than the club, but no one was going to repossess and kick us out of it. We had a Chairman committed to a bright new future who was creating headlines by offering City’s then-squad a seven figure bonus if promotion to the Premiership could be achieved in the season ahead.

Not even six months later the new dawn had given away to dark clouds. Gibb left and a mud-slinging battle with the Rhodes’ ensued which threatened to spell the end of a club which was supposed to be celebrating its centenary. In July 2004 it looked like it really was over, but an 11th hour peace-deal was eventually brokered between the man who held the keys to the stadium and the family who held the keys to the club’s future. City carried on, but with hefty rent payments to meet from their no-longer friendly landlord.

When Mark Lawn was quizzed about the stadium ownership at the fans forum last year he spoke of attempts to buy back the stadium been met with an uninterested response from Gibb, who was apparently enjoying the money. Reports today suggest Gibb never received a formal approach. For sure there seems to be no threat of Gibb evicting City to build luxury flats in the near future, the credit crunch if nothing else has seen to that. But like for many people renting is not ideal, sees much-needed money sucked down a black hole and there persists a feeling that your home is never truly your own. I doubt City are allowed to redecorate, or keep pets.

Reports are circulating today that City are considering moving to play at Odsal when it is redeveloped. When should really be if because for years we’ve heard fanciful talk of a super stadium springing up on Odsal top and it seems no closer than ever. Maybe this time it’s different, maybe one day pigs really will learn to fly.

Who knows how true the reports of City’s interest really are, but they are certain to worry Gibb. Valley Parade is in far from the most beautiful of locations and there is no sporting team who’d be willing to move in and pay equivalent rent payments. The credit crunch makes it a foolish time to plan building flats on the site instead and, even when the economy returns to normal, who’s going to buy a high-rise pad overlooking the sex shops of Manningham Lane?

Perhaps that’s the point of these stories, a whiff that the Bradford City gravy train might be departing up the road surely weakens Gibb’s position at the bargaining table. Maybe City just want to force him into negotiation over rent payments or ownership.

As for the prospect of moving away from Valley Parade, it’s clearly an emotive subject for all fans. Personally I’d scream no, but if the rent payments from staying are so significant they can seriously hamper future progress then sacrificing tradition must at least be considered. I hate seeing these pop-up grounds like at Doncaster which have no character, and if that’s what a ‘community stadium’ in Bradford might look like then the pleasure of going to watch my team will be less.

But for me the efforts which have been undertaken during the last couple of years must continue. The Bradford City Supporters Trust has done much to lobby the Council to be more even-handed in its support of the district’s two largest professional clubs and it must continue. Sure I’m biased when I believe the Council should help more, but I don’t think tax-payers’ should subsidise what is ultimately a business – just for some equality with Bradford Bulls.

The credit crunch means less bank managers are going to be prepared to loan Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes the money to make Gibb an offer, but is a solution to suit both parties possible? Can’t the deal be restructured, for example, so that City’s rent payments become repayments and eventually Gibb receives back what he originally paid, plus interest, and we take back what belongs to us.

Maybe that’s naive, but at the very least good relations with Gibb must be built. There is probably still anger there between the Gibb and Rhodes families – but this isn’t just about boardrooms, it’s about 12,000+ people who watch Bradford City play every other fortnight from whom Valley Parade is home. We’ve been coming to our gaff for years and we even redecorated it before Gibb came along. It’s a place we expect to keep coming to for a long time, and then for our children to bring their children to.

Moving to Odsal might seem a tempting option, but let’s not give up on our home just yet.