We live in very fluid and interesting times watching events happen around the world and as a Bradford City fan it is no exception. The news of Edin Rahic's departure was timely as coincided with the deadline of the City Gent deadline, so we thought it would be good to use our contribution (below) to review events and our position and respond to you directly.
But before you go on to read that, please allow us to quickly plug our AGM & Open Fans' Meeting on Monday 10th December at the Midland Hotel from 7pm. We do have a special guest coming up from London to address you also called Deborah Dilworth who is the EFL Network Manager for Supporters Direct.
Bradford City began the season with
· a new and untried team;
· a new and untried ‘Head Coach’, rather than a traditional manager;
· the departure of certain trusted professionals behind the scenes;
· an apparent determination to centralise the control of the club in the hands of the
· a new business model that emphasised the development of young players, leading to the impression
that we would become a nursery club for other teams. The accent throughout was on a clean slate,
and on youth over experience.
This was a high-risk strategy. Each of these new approaches involved some element of risk, but in order for the club to succeed all these approaches had to come good at the same time, and the chances of that happening were very low indeed. It is worth noting that if this new strategy had worked out against the odds, the owners of the club would be hailed accordingly for bringing a whole new model to the English Football League.
In the event, this did not happen. Results on the field failed to materialise despite an early change of Coach, and the club began sinking towards the bottom of the League. A growing disconnect developed between the supporters and the club, with an increasingly vociferous campaign of opposition to the owners.
This was the diagnosis of the club’s difficulties presented to the Bradford City Chairman by the Supporters Trust in October, when he agreed to meet us to discuss the situation. Trust members and other fans had put forward a large number of questions that were collected together, collated, and presented to the Chairman under three main headings:
· What were the reasons for the decline in the club’s fortunes since January?
· What was the club’s thinking on the current crisis?
· What were the remedies and prospects for the future?
It is fair to say that Edin Rahic answered these tough questions politely and directly, and there was no flinching from the fans’ opinions. There was none of the fraught communication that has sometimes occurred on similar occasions in the past. A report of the meeting was published by the Trust, and it was agreed to continue the meetings as a constructive response to the club’s predicament. A schedule of dates for these meetings was pencilled in, stretching into Spring 2019.
It was mentioned at the meeting that the Chairman had been in touch behind the scenes with Julian Rhodes. A few days afterwards, it was announced that Julian had become involved more directly at the club in order to support the owners’ efforts to reverse the downward drift. It has just been confirmed at the time of writing that Edin Rahic has now stepped down as Chairman, and that Julian Rhodes has been appointed as Interim CEO.
As Bradford City fans we appreciate the key positive role played by the Rhodes’ family. It would be a huge understatement to say that their efforts and commitment have contributed enormously towards keeping the club going through two administrations and three relegations. More recently, they appointed Phil Parkinson, and presided as majority shareholders over the history-makers’ season of 2013.
The return of Julian Rhodes has been a timely move. It has enabled the club to draw more directly on his vast knowledge and experience, and it served to connect the club more closely with fans. It will be a matter for history to understand how the club’s current predicament was allowed to arise. The important point now is not to dwell on the past but to move forward, and to direct all our energies into the battle that the club faces on the pitch at a time when the fans are needed the most.
The magnitude of the task ahead cannot be downplayed– from assuming that we would be play-off contenders every season, all eyes are focussed now on avoiding relegation. As John Hendrie said so powerfully in his resumed column in the T&A, it is a moment for everyone with the club’s interests at heart to work together to help ensure a tolerable outcome to the season.
If the mood has changed in a positive direction off the field, a number of the original questions remain largely unanswered:
· Is David Hopkin effectively the manager now rather than a Head Coach?
· Has the balance changed between the recruitment of young players and more
· Has the balance changed between investments in the first team and investments in infrastructure?
· Is there enough professional support on the administrative side of the club?
· Is the majority shareholder Stefan Rupp still committed to his financial involvement?
· What is planned for the January transfer window?
… and then the question that fans can hardly bear to ask:
· How bad do the finances look?
These questions will continue to be a matter of concern to all supporters, even as the club hopefully begins to progress in the right direction. And other questions will no doubt come to the fore of supporters’ minds as the coming weeks unfold. The Trust’s view is that it is much better all round if the answers to these questions come from solid information exchanged in a professional setting, rather than through a cacophony of gossip and rumour conducted so often these days through social media. The professional alternative is what ‘structured dialogue’ is all about. The club is obliged to undertake this according to the rules of the English Football League that were passed in 2016. It is especially important in the current situation at Bradford City, where there is an urgent need to give fans all the information they deserve to know, in a way that respects the necessary safeguards on confidentiality and the interests of the club. Reassurance amongst supporters that they know what’s going on – what the basic plans are and where the priorities lie – will be a big factor in itself in helping us to survive in League One, and to progress thereafter.
Julian Rhodes was unfailingly courteous in the past in his dealings with supporters’ groups. The Trust Board is confident that he will honour the commitment made by the previous Chairman of the club to continue the series of meetings with The Supporters Trust. This will enable members of the Trust and all fellow fans to put forward the points that concern them most, and receive their answers directly from the club.
Together in City!