Bradford Bulls, one of the most successful clubs in rugby league, have been forced into liquidation. This afternoon, the administrator rejected the bid to save the club.
If a buyer does come in, then the new Bradford club will be granted admission to the second tier of English Rugby League for the 2017 season. But they will start will a 12-point deduction.
Staff hadn't been paid since December. They have today been made redundant. The administrators rejected a bid from a New Zealand based consortium to buy the club.
They were first revealed to be in financial trouble in 2012 when a £1 million shortfall was disclosed. They were placed in administration. A second administration followed in 2014 and at the end of that season, they were relegated from the Super League. They have failed to get promoted in the past two seasons and in 2016 they didn't even get close.
This is a shocking blow for Rugby League in the UK. For this is a club with a deep history behind them.
Bradford RLFC - the forerunners of the Super League-era Bradford Bulls - were one of the original 22 clubs to secede from the Rugby Football Union in 1895.
The issue which forced the secession was banning of 'broken time payments'.
Rugby was always a Saturday game. As ex-Rugby League Ireland chairman and Widnes native Dave Southern told Balls.ie in 2015, many working class northern rugby players worked six days a week. The Sabbath was their only day off. Thus, they were forced to miss a day's work and incur a loss of earnings for playing their chosen sport. The northern clubs began reimbursing their players for the loss of earnings. These were called 'broken time payments'.
The London based RFU, fanatical about stamping out any signs of professionalism, moved to ban these payments. In 1895, 22 northern rugby teams met in the George Hotel in Huddersfield and announced their intention to break away from the Rugby Football Union.
Rugby League was born. Bradford RLFC were one of the original 22 clubs. Over time, rugby league would show greater willingness to modify the game in order to render it a more free-flowing and running game.
Bradford RLFC won the championship a couple of times in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They were one of the founding clubs of the Super League in 1995-96.
In this glitzy new era, they were renamed the Bradford Bulls. They enjoyed a golden era, winning four Super Leagues in this time - 1997, 2001, 2003, 2005.
They won two Challenge Cups in 2000 and 2003.
In their heyday, they vied with St. Helen's and Wigan for the title of the most dominant club in Rugby League.
Maurice Lindsay, the former chairman of Wigan and one of the visionaries behind the Super League, described the announcement as "mind-numbing".
It's a very sad day for the sport. When we began the Super League, Bradford embraced it and embodied much of what we envisaged for the game... They had razzmatazz on and off the pitch. To see this happen today is mind-numbing. I feel for the supporters and all involved with the club. What's going to happen to them? Let's hope a white knight comes along for the sake of the supporters. It's a tough time for rugby league and we need to find ways of lifting the sport so this doesn't happen again.
A sad day for Rugby league and the supporters of @OfficialBullsRL ... thoughts to everyone hurting from the news.
— Sam Burgess (@SamBurgess8) January 3, 2017
Sad day for #rugbyleague in the UK. The once powerhouse that was the Bradford Bulls is no longer. I feel for the players, staff and fans
— Justin Morgan (@jusmor28) January 3, 2017
Really sad news about @OfficialBullsRL one of the iconic English clubs! Hope players and staff get sorted out ?
— Zak Hardaker (@zakhardaker1) January 3, 2017