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Friday, 17 May, 2002, 05:35 GMT 06:35 UK
The price of ambition
Bradford City face some gloomy days ahead
Gloomy days lie ahead for Bradford City

Bradford City have discovered to their cost that ambition comes at a high price.

The Bantams' journey into adminstration with debts of around 13m is the result of falling victim to the two-pronged attack of the collapse of ITV Digital and the desire to remain a Premiership club.

Ironically, Bradford's troubles can be traced to their survival at the end of the 1999-2000 season, their first in the top flight following their promotion.

The intoxicating wine of the Premiership went to Bradford's heads, prompting what was, with the gift of hindsight, an ill-judged spending spree in the summer of 2000.

Bradford wanted to be more than mere survivors, and although manager Chris Hutchings was nominally the hand on the wheel, the steering was provided by chairman Geoffrey Richmond.

Bradford paid fees for Ashley Ward (1.5m), Dan Petrescu (1m), David Hopkin (2.5m), and while Benito Carbone, Ian Nolan and Peter Atherton arrived on free transfers, and Stan Collymore on a loan, they all commanded big salaries.

Bradford chairman Geoffrey Richmond will have some tough decision to make over the coming weeks
Geoffrey Richmond has some tough decisions to make

Carbone's 40,000 weekly salary attracts the most attention, but the likes of Atherton (14,000 a week) and Ward (18,000) also knocked a big hole in Bradford's wage bill, which peaked at a massive 14m in 2000.

It became apparent halfway through the 2000-2001 season that Bradford were not going to avoid relegation and Jim Jefferies was brought in by Richmond to lighten the wage bill for life in Division One.

Hopkin and Petrescu were sold, but the club were still haemorrhaging cash.

Bradford sought to slash their wage bill to 7.5m last year, with a further target of getting down to 4.5m this year.

Salvation

Such was Bradford's financial damage that they had budgeted for a 2m loss this year, even before the collapse of ITV Digital.

The club's directors - four members of the Richmond family and two members of professor David Rhodes family - had increased their bankrolling of the club to 13m in March this year.

They would have been content to fund the club at that level, until the collapse of ITV Digital proved the straw that broke the camel's back, along with their failure to off-load Carbone.

The talented Italian striker had loan spells at Derby - who sent him back because they could not afford his wages - and at Middlesbrough.

A permanent move to Middlesbrough collapsed, and Carbone returned to be a huge burden on Bradford's finances.


I have invested eight years of my life and I'm on-line to lose approximately half of 30m
Bradford chairman Geoffrey Richmond

Bradford's salvation now lies with the administrators, who have the power to do what the club could not - tear up players' contracts.

Although creditors such as the Inland Revenue - who are owed 400,000 - will demand their pound of flesh, placing the club in administration may be a smart move.

High-earning players such as Carbone may be sacked, but with a reduced wage bill, the club may present a viable asset for a potential buyer.

And that could be Geoffrey Richmond, armed with a re-financed package.

The Bradford chairman said at a media conference: "I have invested eight years of my life and I'm on-line to lose approximately half of 30m.

"It is not right for me at this moment in time to sensibly make a decision.

"Football clubs are remarkably resilient. There are a lot of clubs in all sorts of trouble but they all come out the other end.

"It is a uniquely difficult time for football and it is my belief there will be a large number of clubs who will have to take some sort of action over the next four to eight weeks."


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28 Mar 02 | Football
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