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Rugby League chief rejects calls for inquiry into handling of Bradford Bulls saga, claiming it ‘could paralyse the sport completely’

Ralph Rimmer has rejected calls for an independent investigation into the Rugby Football League’s handling of the Bradford Bulls saga, claiming it “could paralyse the sport completely”.

There have been widespread calls for a review of the governing body’s decision-making in regard to the fallen giants following a recent takeover by a consortium involving former RFL chief executive Nigel Wood and his family.

Wood was chief executive of the RFL when the decision was made to acquire the lease of Odsal Stadium for £1.25 million in December 2011, and when previous owner Andrew Chalmers was chosen above two rival bidders to re-establish a club in Bradford following the Bulls’ liquidation in January 2017.

Concerns have been raised about potential conflicts of interest, but both chairman Simon Johnson and now Rimmer have dismissed calls for an inquiry into the RFL board of directors’ handling of Bradford’s long-running troubles.

Rimmer, who succeeded Wood as chief executive in January 2018, said: “You’ve got an independent board – that’s what they’re there for. 

“What’s point of having an independent inquiry into an independent board?

“They’re there to make independent decisions which are non-conflicted in best interests of the sport. 

“The independent board is there to govern and if we have inquiries into them, where does it end? It could paralyse the sport completely.

“You either trust the independent board or you don’t. They make decisions in the best interests of the sport, that’s what their job is.”

Rimmer also denied Wood’s friendship with Chalmers was a factor in the approval of the Kiwi’s bid to form a new Bradford club in 2017, ahead of the two rival proposals.

“A full board made that decision,” said Rimmer. 

“I’m disappointed about some things that have happened in relation to the club but based on the information we had in 2017, we chose what we felt was the best bid to set up a new club in Bradford.”

Club accounts submitted to Companies House for January 31, 2018 to January 31, 2019 revealed total liabilities of more than £1.4m.

But Rimmer insisted the last two years for the Bradford club had “not been a disaster”, adding: “This company is still trading. Creditors are protected, the club continues and there’s no insolvency.”

Asked whether Wood’s past role with the RFL and current position as chief executive of International Rugby League (IRL) represented any conflict of interests, Rimmer said: “Nigel was more than entitled to be involved in a club going forward, and he has done so. 

“The RFL will apply the rules as they do and no rules have been breached.”

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