Odsal lease to be sold to Bradford Bulls as details of purchase revealed

Aaron Bower
Bradford Bulls, Odsal Stadium

Bradford Bulls look set to win the race to secure the lease of Odsal Stadium – with the sale for an initial fee of £100,000 set to be discussed at an upcoming Rugby League Council meeting later this month.

The Bulls have beaten off interest from a motorsport company and a third party, who the RFL have agreed a non-disclosure agreement with and therefore cannot be named, to reclaim hold of the lease over a decade on from them selling it to the governing body for in excess of £1million.

The RFL’s board have, Love Rugby League understands, approved Bradford’s bid as the one that is most beneficial for the sport – and it will now be discussed at Council on July 24 before an official sale is likely to be completed.

And Love Rugby League can exclusively reveal the finer details of Bradford’s bid. They have proposed to pay an initial payment of £100,000 – with a further £160,000 over five years. That would represent an income of around £260,000 by the year 2029; the lease was sold to the RFL for around £1.2million in 2012.

The RFL would also get 50 per cent of proceeds up to £1million if the Bulls sell the lease at any point in the next ten years.

It has cost the sport a significant sum since then to upkeep and maintain Odsal, with the value of the lease also significantly depreciating. It is estimated, Love Rugby League understands, that the RFL spend around £190,000 per year meaning that a sale essentially became inevitable.

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A sale of the asset at £260k will result in a loss on sale that will be recognised in the 2024 RFL accounts of £490,000. However, the RFL have stated in communication to clubs that disposal of the lease is now ‘critical’, given the amount it costs the governing body – and effectively the sport – to upkeep the stadium of one of its member clubs.

It does, of course, mean that if the Bulls are successful in winning back the lease then it effectively comes back under the control of the man who purchased the lease from the club over a decade ago: Nigel Wood. He is now chairman of the Bulls, having been in control of the RFL when the initial deal was struck.

And now, Council will discuss the issue later this month – though the final sale remains an RFL board decision and given how they have approved Bradford’s offer as the best for the sport, it is almost certain it will be accepted and the Championship club will once again own the lease to the stadium.

In a statement to Love Rugby League, the RFL said: “The Board considered the possible disposal at its meeting this week – the recommendation of Knight Frank and the Executive to dispose of the property (Odsal Stadium) and on what terms – and will bring that recommendation to the RFL Council meeting before the end of this month.”

Bradford Bulls said, in a statement issued to Love Rugby League: “The Board of Bradford Bulls, after very careful consideration, have submitted an offer to reacquire the leasehold interest in Odsal. We understand that the club’s offer to secure our home at Odsal Stadium will be discussed at the RFL Council on 24 July 2024.

“We are advised that the RFL Board will present our offer as the preferred bid to the members and they will listen to their views before finalising their decision.”

CEO Jason Hirst said: “It is well documented that the running costs of Odsal are very, very substantial so once the RFL decided to sell the lease we had to think hard about whether we could afford to take it on.

“The club’s board concluded that Odsal was our spiritual home and we should do all we can to bring the stadium back into the ownership of the club, to protect rugby league in the city.”

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