DEWSBURY RAMS chairman Mark Sawyer has insisted there is “no conflict of interest” after acquiring a minor shareholding in Bradford Bulls as part of a consortium taking over the club.
The purchase of the crisis-ridden Bulls was announced on Tuesday night at a Bradford fans’ forum at Dewsbury’s Tetley’s Stadium, with Sawyer holding a 24.99 per cent stake.
Nigel Wood – the head of International Rugby League and the former RFL chief executive – and his family are the major shareholder in the new consortium that has taken over the club from Andrew Chalmers.
Eric Perez, who founded Toronto Wolfpack and recently took over Hemel Stags ahead of a relocation to Ottawa for 2021, is the interim chairman.
Sawyer’s involvement with the Championship club is within the RFL’s rules as his stake is less than 25 per cent, and he insists that there will be no conflict of interest between his two roles.
“I’m determined to make sure there’s no conflict between having shares in Bradford and being the main shareholder and chairman at Dewsbury,” he said.
“I’m determined to make sure that neither of the clubs will suffer for the fact I’ve got an interest in both.
“It won’t affect my chairmanship of Dewsbury. I’m taking the maximum amount in Bradford that I’m allowed to. I’ll be acting as a consultant but at any one time I’m doing that for people in other businesses. It’s just another role I’ve got.”
The Bulls are reported to be more than £750,000 in debt, although a significant debt to former owner Chalmers will be written off. Sawyer said at the fans’ forum event that he is already dealing with creditors and is confident that all debts will be repaid.
“It won’t be money coming out of my pocket that was going into Dewsbury,” he said. “Fans need to understand that.
“It isn’t a case of getting involved at Bradford and thinking I need to save a few quid at Dewsbury. I’m not looking to dispose of my shares in Dewsbury or step down in the foreseeable future.
“I’m as committed as I ever have been, I’ve been there for 18 years. Unless the fans decide they’ve had enough of me I’ll continue in my role trying to make Dewsbury the best team it can be, and as sustainable as possible.
“Dewsbury must remain a sustainable business so that if I keel over at any time, somebody can step up and run that business.”
Bradford announced their intention in August to leave their Odsal home due to the high rent and maintenance costs, instead agreeing a temporary groundshare with the Rams at the Tetley’s Stadium.
This has been approved by the RFL for the 2020 season and Sawyer says that he will be working hard to ensure the Bulls can return to the city in 12 months’ time, but he admits that their stay in Dewsbury will be extended if a home is not found in that time.
Sawyer first became involved with Bradford as that groundshare was arranged, and he then helped act as an intermediary between Chalmers and the RFL. When Chalmers decided to step down from the club, he saw the opportunity to help out.
“It was extremely difficult to get new investors in, and I just woke up one day and thought in the interests of Dewsbury, where do we come in as a tenant?” said Sawyer. “And also in the interest of rugby league, I thought I could offer something.”
The close relationship between the two clubs had led to fears from supporters of the potential for a merger, but this suggestion has been dismissed by Sawyer.
“That is not the intention whatsoever. Bradford is Bradford and Dewsbury is Dewsbury,” he said.
The Rams will hold a fans’ forum on Wednesday (October 30) at 7.30pm in which supporters can put questions to Sawyer.
It was also suggested at Tuesday’s Bradford forum that Batley chairman Kevin Nicholas had provided support to the consortium. Nicholas has clarified that this was purely legal advice.
“They asked for a little bit of legal advice on certain issues because I’m a solicitor,” he said. “I’ve no more involvement in it than that. I’m 100 per cent Batley Bulldogs.”