Bradford Bulls have secured a Full Academy Licence until the end of 2027.
The Bulls had been awarded a probationary licence in June 2021 to cover the 2022 and 2023 seasons, allowing the club the opportunity to make the improvements necessary to secure a 'Good' rating for a full licence.
As it did with the other two clubs who were given probationary licences in 2021, Castleford Tigers and Hull KR, the RFL has worked with external advisors to assess Bradford’s progress and closely with the club itself as it sought to earn a full licence.
Dave Rotheram, the RFL’s Chief On-Field Officer, says:
“This is a positive announcement both for the Bradford Bulls club, and for Rugby League in the city and its surrounds, reflecting a significant improvement in the standards of their Academy since they were awarded a probationary licence in 2021.
“A Licenced Academy is a major financial undertaking, especially for a club outside the Super League, and it is a credit to a number of key figures at Bradford for the considerable commitment they have shown.
“We have also been encouraged by Bradford’s response to the news when it was delivered this week – they were pleased to have achieved the necessary standards for a full licence, but determined to continue to improve in pursuit of the best possible rating of ‘Excellent’ for their Academy.”
Ryan Hunkin, the Bradford Bulls Head of Youth, adds: “I am delighted to receive the news that we have achieved a Full Academy Licence, this is fantastic news for the everyone involved in the Academy – staff, volunteers, players and families.
“I’d personally like to thank the RFL and the club for the support and guidance over the last six months whilst we have been striving to regain our licence. The appointment of key people within the Academy staffing structure has certainly aided our journey – people such as Gareth Pickles our Youth and Academy Director and Jill Elam our Academy Player Welfare Manager have been vital to the progression made in such a short time.
“I am now looking forward to continuing the great work alongside our dedicated staff, in ensuring we continue to strive for excellence.”
Jason Hirst, the Bulls CEO, said: “Today’s announcement is testament to the outstanding contribution and difference our new Academy management team – Ryan Hunkin, Gareth Pickles and Jill Elam – have made since their appointments around six months ago. Ably supported by various performance staff, they have brought about the required improvements in terms of standards, protocols, procedural adherence and overall management discipline and rigour.
“The full reinstatement of our coveted licence ends a period of uncertainty and allows us to build further on the solid foundations laid by Ryan and his team, as we look to identify and develop more elite players.
“It is also testament to the board’s decision two years ago, not to abandon its Academy but to instead invest time, effort and personal money into resecuring its’ Elite Academy Status.
“The club would also like to pay tribute to sponsors, donators to the club’s Friends of the Young Bulls initiative and BullBuilder for their unwavering and much appreciated support of the club’s Academy and Scholarship sides. Their invaluable contribution helps support the club’s considerable financial commitment to its Academy, as we proudly remain the only non-Super League club inside the sport’s heartlands, to run an Elite Academy.
“If any individual, group or business would like to help support the club’s Academy moving forward, please contact Jason.Hirst@bradfordbulls.co.uk.
“Finally, the club would also like to place on record its thanks to the RFL for their invaluable advice and support.”
The following 13 clubs now have Full Academy Licences for the current period which runs until 2027, although they are all kept under constant review to ensure that standards are maintained.
* Catalans Dragons have a full licence although they play in French competitions rather than the RFL Academy for logistical reasons.