English Championship rugby league club Bradford Bulls will return to its historic Odsal Stadium home this weekend after agreeing an 18-month occupancy deal to play at the venue.
The Bulls will welcome 4,000 fans to Odsal for the match against York City Knights on Sunday. All season ticket holders will be guaranteed admission and a ‘Back Home’ limited mid-season ticket offer will also be made available.
Bradford announced in August 2019 that it would be leaving Odsal to groundshare with the Dewsbury Rams amid plans to develop a new home in the Yorkshire city. Odsal is considered one of English rugby league’s most historic stadiums but the facility, along with the Bulls, has fallen on hard times in recent years.
Odsal first opened in 1933 and famously drew a crowd of 102,569 for the 1954 Challenge Cup final replay between Warrington and Halifax. The stadium still attracted large crowds as the Bulls enjoyed great success in the 1990s and 2000s. However, the team went into administration in 2012 and was liquidated in 2017, forcing a rebirth in the lower leagues.
Odsal is owned by Bradford City Council, but the Rugby Football League (RFL) was forced to step in to assume the lease-hold interest in 2012 amid the financial troubles surrounding the Bulls.
In November last year, Bradford signalled its intention to return to Odsal, regardless of whether it succeeded in its bid to return to the top-tier Super League and Sunday’s match against York has now been pencilled in as the club’s first game back.
Bulls chairman Nigel Wood said: “While the stadium is not yet exactly as we want it to be, and there is still work to do yet, nevertheless it provides the best opportunity to allow most supporters the chance to view the action in person. The match will have a limited capacity in line with COVID protocols and we ask for everyone’s understanding in that regard.”
Wood added: “Odsal Stadium is the venue that came back from the dead. We are not blind to its shortcomings. It may be old and it may be basic, but it is our home. There is considerable uncertainty still around the sport, matters that we cannot control or even influence like central distributions and league structures, so we can only commit to an initial 18-month occupancy while these issues get resolved.
“We hope people can understand that. Getting the Bulls back to Bradford is not the end of the journey and we continue to work positively and collaboratively, with all organisations who can help, to give the supporters the facilities they deserve in the 21st century.”
Image: Chris Heaton/CC BY-SA 2.0/Edited for size