Odsal: what next? Everything we know about lease situation as bid deadline passes

Aaron Bower
Odsal Bradford Bulls Alamy

The Odsal Stadium, home of Bradford Bulls - Alamy

The deadline of January 31st for bids to purchase the Odsal lease has now passed – leading many to wonder what could be next for the future of one of rugby league’s most historic venues.

The Rugby Football League confirmed late last year they were now in a position to sell the lease they paid in excess of £1million for in 2012, with Leeds-based property consultancy Knight Frank appointed to handle the bidding process.

Love Rugby League exclusively revealed more details about the finer points of the Odsal lease last month: including how it no longer has a covenant that protects the venue being used primarily as a rugby league venue, leaving it open to potential bids from parties who could utilise it for other purposes.

With the deadline for best bids passed, here’s everything Love Rugby League has learned about the situation: including when a resolution to one of the biggest sagas rugby league has endured for the past decade could finally reach an end.

What happens now?

In short, Knight Frank will now assess the bids that have been tabled. That number is understood to be in double figures and come from a variety of sectors.

After that, there will be a period of due diligence undertaken to assess the financial credibility and strength of all bids that are preferred, before the property consultancy reports back to the seller – the RFL – with their recommendations for bids to consider.

It will be the RFL who have the final say in who they sell the lease to. In terms of price, it will be some way below the £1.2million the governing body paid in 2012. The venue has significantly depreciated in value since then and while the final sale price of the lease will be a significant six-figure sum, it will now not recoup what the RFL paid for it.

How long could a sale take?

Any notion of a quick resumption to the matter will, it seems, prove to be unfounded.

Love Rugby League has been told that there is a ‘firm desire’ to reach a conclusion to the matter as quickly as possible: but in terms of timeframes, it will likely be several months before a sale is completed.

As mentioned previously, there is a lengthy process to go through: but a sale would certainly be complete before the end of this season, allowing the successful bidder the opportunity to work with the Bulls on a long-term future arrangement for Odsal: unless of course, it is the Bulls themselves who land the lease.

What about potential bidders?

There has been significant interest – with the headline bid coming 24 hours before the closing date by Bradford Bulls themselves. The Championship club want to take ownership back of the lease they had to sell over a decade earlier due to financial problems, and believe they are on a sound enough financial footing to table an attractive deal.

Of course, the Bulls’ priority would be to remain at Odsal and as such, it continue as a rugby league venue – a criteria the RFL have at the very top of their list when it comes to assessing bids. Love Rugby League has been told any prospective bidder who prioritises keeping the Bulls in situ at Odsal will be taken much more seriously than bids that don’t. Indeed, Love Rugby League has been told there have been tentative talks internally at the club about what a renovation of Odsal would look like.

However, Love Rugby League understands that there are a number of businesses in Bradford who have lodged bids – including some which have different ideas for usage at Odsal. But as mentioned, the RFL are unlikely to seriously entertain any of those. They have maintained their priority is ensuring rugby league continues to be played at the venue, and that the lease does not effectively fall into the wrong hands.

Jonathan Hyland of Knight Frank told Love Rugby League: “The Leeds office of property consultancy Knight Frank, who asked for best bids for the Odsal lease by Wednesday January 31, are now working through the proposals they have received. Knight Frank are undertaking due diligence on the parties that have responded and will be reporting back to their client, the Rugby Football League Ltd, in the near future with their recommendations”.

READ NEXT: Leeds Rhinos exclusive: James Bentley on his sober journey, weight loss and his renewed sense of purpose