In light of the Love Leeds, Hate Bates return regular TSS contributor Gledders returns with his thoughts on the matter.

Like many other fans, I’m actually interested in watching football at Elland Road. But there is something about the management of our club, no matter what regime, that always seems to be a distracting factor. I have currently got a Ken Bates-shaped thorn in my side. I have said this in these pages before, but I have to re-state my position to newcomers as being a person who originally welcomed Bates to Leeds United. It is actions that have changed my opinion of him, not irrelevant or emotive argument. I saw the endorsements for the LLHB site by TSS and ClarkeOneNil and visited the site. I was surprised to see it obviously isn’t run by screaming maniacs and recommend every Leeds fan to have a look.

I think everybody knows that money is somewhere near the heart of every successful football club. Football is a massive leisure business and that is why there is so much of it sloshing around. This is why Ken Bates’ argument about running Leeds United as a business rings such a chord with so many of us because of the disasters of the past. That’s the shiny shell of his argument but when you start to strip off the veneer, what do you actually find underneath? I think you find something pretty bad.

Bates has an obsession with cost-saving. I remember when he arrived, the toilets in my stand had their paper towel dispensers removed because we had hot air blowers and we didn’t need both. Newspapers reported that the rented goldfish were sent back and sadly there were redundancies amongst full time staff. Here is a man who will not pay out a penny more than he has to. Essentially, we can be sure the costs of running our club are probably now as low as is possible to get them. We have 32 players on our books according to Leeds’ own website. Let’s say that the average wage is £2000 a week. That means every week, we pay out £64K. If the average wage is £3000, the bill is still only £96K. To fund that, we have about 20 000 people that turn up and pay an average of £21 (season ticket prices) 23 times a year which makes £186K a week. We have revenue from merchandising, sponsorship, tv rights, cup games and food & drink on top of this. Fair enough, we have some big outgoings, business rates, the vat bill, ground staff and so on, but it is obvious that the basic business can be comfortably managed to make a profit. Without big wages, a chimpanzee could make this club work now it has jettisoned its historical debts.

For anybody that wants to pick holes in my figures, don’t bother. That’s not the argument. I’m the first to admit, they are guesses because I don’t know the whole story. Ask me about my business and I can tell you the price of paper clips. Ask me about Leeds United and all I can sense is lack of investment. Here is a business with an established brand, a regular income stream and obviously able to make a profit. Although it is early days for a new company, it has practically no capital assets, a poor credit rating (the reason put forward by Bates himself for not being able to purchase Thorp Arch,) and no obvious outside investment. Any new business able to demonstrate sales growth and profits like the new Leeds did in its first year should be in the Dragons’ Den naming its price. Instead, we can’t even get a mortgage roughly equivalent to one year’s gross profit. The equivalent value of Thorp Arch went as a goodwill payment to Astor Holdings in the first year accounts. That’s right, Astor holdings the company who invested £10million into the old club, £37.5 million in debt expecting a return despite subsequent relegations. Since when did it become a fashion to make goodwill payments to previous owners for a company bought from the Official Receiver? That’s not good business sense.

Don’t misunderstand me. I want to get out of League One as much as the next fan. I’ll be the first person to book the following day off in anticipation of the promotion hangover, but I don’t buy this “running Leeds as a business” b*****ks. To compete in the CCC we need management with a clear vision, running a solid company, backing a great club. I think Grayson has got what it takes but when we are up against other big clubs like Newcastle or even West Brom, he’s going to need money. If he can’t pay the wages, he won’t get the players. Sadly, the minute he doesn’t get the results, he’ll be the first casualty to pay with his job no matter how talented he is. So whilst upheaval is a bit unsettling, we need to see the back of Bates soon for the long term good. You don’t go into football for the money, you do it for the love of the game and if you make a bit of cash, well that’s just great.

So, well done LLHB. I hail you now as visionaries. Just because we are winning, don’t give up the pressure. I am the man who was sat in the rain at the end of May 2005, watching Leeds v Rotherham with nothing to play for and 6 spare tickets. Mid table in the CCC is no ambition and we will need more than just Simon Grayson to push us up to the Premier League. The current incumbents have incompetence stamped all over them.

I wish I had Trevor Birch’s phone number.

  • TSS

    I was thinking about Trevor Birch the other day as it happens. What always impressed me whilst he was at Leeds was how he got on with running the club without feeling the need to be in the media 24/7 – Something Krasner, Bates, Ridsdale etc… etc… couldn’t/can’t resist. I bet there’s a few that were totally unaware of his time at Leeds.

  • Ed

    You pretty much hit the nail on the head. If/when we get promoted we have to hope Bates doesn’t hang around for 2 or 3 seasons to see us in to the Prem. We have to hope he makes his profit by selling us as a Championship club.

    The reason he won’t is he is living the good life on expenses booked to United’s account.

  • Terry

    Was listening to 5 Live in the car today as they were interviewing Delia Smith about her latest book. In the course of the conversation it came out that she has spent £11 million of her own money on Norwich City and does not expect to see a penny of it back. Compare that with Mr. Bates who admitted in court that not a penny of his money had gone on Leeds United, indeed he said he hadn’t got any money, only assets. Saviour of Leeds United? My a**e.

  • Sad Leeds Fan

    Excellent analysis of Bates.
    The latest exit from Elland Rd is that of Steve Lewis , Head of Commercial, on Tuesday.Timing was obviously connected with Bates’ presence at the match on one of the 90 days allowed on this soil for tax exiles.Was he sacked, or did he resign?Regardless, it was a shock to the staff,as he was out of the door that day apparently.Was it connected to the affair of (no) tickets for the soldiers’ families? Was he the sacrificial lamb?
    He had worked for the club for 15 years since leaving full time education,and was well liked and highly regarded.It was quite obvious when dealing with him that he was customer(that is fan) focussed,and had common sense ideas that would have boosted attendances,and revenues.Equally, it was obvious that he was frustrated by Bates’ short sightedness, for want of a better term.

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  • Grumpy Older Man
    • TSS

      Haha, that’s pretty funny. i hope they aren’t holding their breath for a reply though. I’ve emailed LUFC once or twice regarding certain matters and you seldom get a reply worth reading.

  • Mark

    Am I right in thuinking that when we came out of Administration that one of the stipulations was he couldnt sell the club for a period of 5 years? If so we have a few years of him to go! Oh joy….

    • TSS

      He doesn’t own the club though, does he? This is the problem with so much secrecy, it’s ridiculous.

      • jules g

        Are the current owners the same people who had money invested in us prior to our crash???. But by going to a tax haven can put the club into administration through a stooge and get away with all the penaltys going!!. Is this possible????.Something fishy going on here and the FL should investigate.