Exclusive: Odsal Stadium latest with no sale agreed and scale of RFL losses revealed

Aaron Bower
Bradford Bulls, Odsal Stadium

The Odsal Stadium lease is still receiving expressions of interest over two months after the deadline for best bids passed, Love Rugby League can reveal – as it can also be revealed the extent of how much it is costing the RFL to currently own the lease.

The game’s governing body infamously purchased the stadium’s lease from Bradford Bulls in January 2012 at the height of their well-documented financial difficulties, for a fee of around £1.2million. They have owned the lease since then and charged the Bulls a peppercorn rent to play out of the venue, a figure believed to be below £100,000.

However, the RFL appointed the Leeds office of Knight Frank to invite best bids to purchase the lease before January 31. The Bulls then confirmed they were one of the bidders but as of today (April 10), no bid has yet been accepted for the lease, Love Rugby League has been told.

In fact, there are still tentative expressions from businesses and companies in the area about acquiring the Odsal lease for a variety of uses. Should someone other than the Bulls win the race for the lease, they would then have to negotiate with the new leaseholders over a rental agreement.

It is estimated that the Bulls and a local stock car company pay around £125,000 per annum in rent – but Love Rugby League can reveal that the financial liabilities for the venue are much higher than that – meaning that as things stand, the RFL foot the bill as leaseholders on any shortfall.

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Love Rugby League has been told that the governing body are spending a significant six-figure sum each year to maintain and upkeep Odsal, even after the rental payments from the two tenants – the Bulls and YorStox – have come in.

That essentially means that any new leaseholder would either have to consider potentially having discussions about putting up the rent, or inherit the upkeep and maintenance costs of the site.

It is also, according to sources close to the situation, extremely unlikely the RFL would recoup the money they paid for the lease in 2012, when current Bulls chairman Nigel Wood was in charge at the RFL. The value of the venue had depreciated to £750,000 in 2018 according to the governing body’s accounts, and has likely depreciated further since then.

That means the governing body have lost significant money on the deal whatever the final price: and they are losing money annually on the site, too. It is, of course, a situation existing RFL CEO Tony Sutton has inherited, with the deal for Odsal done under Wood’s stewardship. The RFL and Knight Frank have both been approached for comment.

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