How big are the Bradford Bulls
How big are the Bulls?
A brief history for Midlands fans.
The build up to Saturday’s big game is well under way. The pre-match line-up of local musical talent is in place. Extra beer and food has been ordered. Tickets are selling fast and even the weather is going to be good.
But just how big an attraction are Bradford Bulls? Will they help us beat our record attendance set in the February friendly against Leeds?
Beyond any doubt they are one of the biggest names in Rugby League, but events off the field led to a rapid decline in their fortunes and they now find themselves in the third tier of the game rather than at the very top where they were for so many years.
Their plight is very similar to that of Glasgow Rangers whose team and travelling army of fans visited small grounds and small clubs for the first time as they worked their way back to the to the more familiar environment of the SPL.
Bradford Bulls started life as a Rugby League team at the inception of the sport in 1895, gaining the name Bradford Northern in 1907 to differentiate themselves from the round ball teams in Bradford.
In the thirties they moved to Odsal, the giant bowl of a stadium where they still play. The fact that at the time this was the second biggest stadium after Wembley says a lot about the club’s standing in world of sport, not just in Rugby League.
They won the Cup on several occasions and had a record crowd of 69,423 in 1953 in a third round tie against nearby Huddersfield, but bad times lay ahead and a decade later, just 324saw them play against Barrow in their cavernous stadium.Then they went out of business.
But such is the importance of the game in Bradford that they were reformed a year later.
Cup wins soon followed, and the Championship was theirs twoyears running in 1981 and 1982.
All this was in ‘the old days’ when Rugby League was a winter game, but it is the Summer era and Super League which defines Saturday’s opponents.
The name change to Bulls was the first indication of how they were embracing the modern game. Their branding and marketing were slick and modern, and matches at Odsal. became events with cheerleaders, music and entertainment. They were Super League Champions in 1997 and were the best supported club with average gates of over 15,000.
Success continued and 2002 saw them bearing Australian side Newcastle Knights to be crowned World Champions.
The next year saw a clean sweep as they collected all three domestic trophies; The Challenge Cup, The League Leaders Shield and the Challenge Cup.
Further World titles followed in 2004 and in 2006 and Bull-mania was at its peak,
However, ‘trouble at t’mill’ was looming as financial difficulties started to engulf the proud club and they entered administration in 2012.
In 2014 they were relegated from Super League and the downward spiral continued.
But Bradford still loves its team and they have survived, and now the team and their fans are having a ball, touring the country as they visit clubs such as the Bears.
Which brings us to this season, which they started at York City Knights with a York record crowd of over 4,281, half of whom were travelling Bulls fans. Asimilar number saw them recently at Newcastle in an evening game. But their fans also venture down south and over 500 made the journey down the M1 to see their heroes beat Hemel Hempstead,setting a club attendance recordand also scoring 68 points in the process.
Now managed by veteran coach John Kear, they are sitting at the top of League 1 having lost only one game this season, and few would bet against them moving into the Championship next year.
So, they are certainly big, very big in fact, but the best way to judge exactly how big is to come along, savour the atmosphere and see for yourself on Saturday.
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