Leeds' Thorp Arch Academy

Regardless of how much Ken Bates tries to paint a rosy picture of a sound financial future for LUFC, there’s still an elephant in the room that never seems to be mentioned whenever Ken Bates hails himself as the “saviour of Leeds United” and tells how he single-handedly came in on the back of his blue horse to slash a path through greedy creditors and rescue Leeds United from extinction – failing to recognise he was the only person who ever threatened LUFC with such a fate.

The promises that Elland Road and Thorp Arch would be bought back as a matter of priority when the current owners took charge six years ago still haven’t been delivered. A couple of shiny new bars and some “state-of-the-art” conference facilities have been patched onto the side of the ground and 700 seats miraculously vanished, but our ground and training facilities are still in the hands of third parties, to whom Leeds United continue to pay extortionate rental rates – which are in turn used to justify extortionate ticket prices – to use the facilities our dedicated support paid for in the first place.

Despite Ken Bates’ insistence that Leeds United are running smoothly and operate on a sound financial footing, our club once again went cap-in-hand to the Leeds City Council to try and raise funds for the redevelopment of Elland Road. The funding they seek however, won’t be used to repurchase the stadium and free ourselves from the huge rental bill Ken likes to blame for everything he can, but instead, we will be using any funds the council may approve to increase the size of the ground and stick retail and hotel facilities on the side of it.

Maybe it’s just me that likes to look at these things as being entirely black and white, but surely repurchasing the stadium and then saving the extra income we’re not wasting on rent to improve the facilities would be a much wiser long-term plan? After all, the last thing Beeston needs is a four-star hotel.

If that wasn’t enough to leave you slightly concerned about the priorities of our current ownership, then point your browsers in the direction of the new Square Ball blog and today’s revelation that Thorp Arch has fallen into such a state of disrepair that instead of the club repurchasing what they were describing as “world-class facilities” only a few months back, they will instead abandon Howard Wilkinson’s legacy and start afresh somewhere else.

Since losing the battle to repurchase Thorp Arch on favourable terms, it seems that any hope Leeds United had of reclaiming our training facilities have since dissipated. Rather than accept the ownership failed the club massively, the excuse has been spun to what the club hoped would be a much more palatable explanation. They expected us gullible supporters to believe our training facilities went from world-class to out-dated and sub-standard all in the space of a few months.

The overwhelming concern from my point of view is that the club is getting ahead of itself and failing to build the solid foundation every successful club has beneath them. Take away the playing staff, and ask yourself what assets Leeds United AFC currently has that could be used to prevent future financial collapses? Assets that most clubs use to secure loans that are used for redevelopment and expansion?

Rather than secure a loan against the repurchase of Elland Road and Thorp Arch, the club is instead ignoring the fact we own neither of them and focusing on extending and increasing the value of other people’s properties. It’s like building a conservatory on the side of your semi-detached council house.

It’s time the club started to look at the bigger picture. 50,000 seats and a hotel are the last things Leeds United AFC need until A) we own the ground they’re expanding upon and B) we’re playing in a League where 50,000 seats will actually be needed. It’s also time the club stopped fobbing the supporters off with spun-out excuses, because they fear we’re unable to handle the truth.

  • Gryff

    A very sensible and interesting article!

    With the stadium/TA we don’t actually know who owns it as far as I am aware. Far be it from me to suggest any wrongdoing by the current owners, but of course there is a hypothetical possibility: The anonymous ‘owners’ (supposedly more than ten of them!) could own both TA/Elland Road & the Club separately and therefore effectively funnel funds out of the club and into their back pockets (and this would be legal!). Strictly hypothetical, of course.

  • Mikelufc

    Exactly so gryff.
    Bates has the club and the fans by the balls and I can see no way this situation can be changed except by fan power.
    They do have more power than Bates but that does not include willpower and organisation.

    • stotty

      I have said before many times that we should abandon Thorpe Arch and go in with Leeds Carnegie. It is too remote and hasn’t delivered for the Club.
      LUFC won’t get a mortgage to buy back Elland Road and/ or Thorpe Arch in this financial climate and could not raise the deposit in any event. There is time in hand to buy back the stadium and the price is fixed with a year on year upcharge.. Luckily the previous incumbents sold it cheap which may turn out to be an advantage in the long run.
      Before slagging Bates off just remember the past and that Krasner et all used the money from the sale and leaseback to pay off the personal loan they raised to buy the club in the first place None of that money came into the club.
      Perhaps because nothing is happening in the transfer market and we have a lay off weekend it is a case of ‘idle hands’!!

  • Jonathan Hooper

    If you read what Gwyn said, its not as bad as the fuss its caused.

    What is being said is that the cost of re-purchasing Thorp Arch would be more expensive than doing up a disused site on different land to get to Premiership standards.

    If that is the case, then from a business point of view, it makes complete sense. I think people have visions of the lads training on a school field. The point it is, to bring to modern Prem standards may cost more than building from scratch.

  • lorimerhotshot

    Funny that. I was just next door the other day asking some people on the next street if I might borrow a few thousand quid ‘cos the neighbours wanted their internal walls restructuring.

    I’ve no idea who the people on the other street are. They’re hardly ever around. Think they spend most of their time abroad, which is where they wanted me to repay the money to.

    Actually I’ve never met the neighbours either but I thought it would be nice if I just borrowed the money anyway so their place could be nice, the way they’d like it.

  • Dje

    I thought we were in a long-term mortgage/ debt with Thorp Arch? Regardless of whether we want to upsticks and build Thorp Arch II over the road from Thorp Arch I wouldn’t we still be obliged to pay rent/debt payments on Thorp Arch for a considerable length of time? In which case, we are still over the barrel as far as I can see.

  • Peter T

    I expect the rent on TA and ER is going offshore (probably not far from Bates sticky paws )
    It is just a ruse if we bought them back he would lose a valuable way of suckiing cash out of our club

  • Paul C

    It is such a shame that Thorp Arch has is now deemed to be useless and basically falling apart, especially considering how highly it was once regarded but we shouldn’t forget that in the last 15 months we have had an awful lot of snow and er stuff happening..

    Perhaps we should see this as progress by the current regime though. There are plenty of leisure centres around to use before we take over an abandoned school and we shouldn’t forget the big car park next to the West Stand. It was good enough once for Billy and the guys in the 70s so why cant the current squad use it? I am sure if Larry stumps up a few quid he will be able to rent it from the club for training , a couple of portakabins et voila , an instant inner city Thorp Arch.

    Who said Bates and his backers would not take this club forward ? …..onwards and upwards with Bates and Harvey…. way hay !!!

  • Dje

    After reading the Square Ball dénouement, I think it is more likely that Gwyn Williams joins a long line of Leeds executives ~ Risdale, Krasner, Mervyn Levy, the Professor, Shaun Harvey, Bates himself ~ who talk a lot of shit.

    It would only make sense abandoning Thorp Arch if:

    1. We no longer need any training facilities. Utter nonsense there then.

    2. The location of Thorp Arch is not ideal. Well, it hasn’t moved, and I’m sure the players love the A1(M) commute to test out their latest sports cars.

    3. We no longer need Premiership standard training facilities. We do, if we have any ambition, but the Leeds money men might argue that a field or two with floodlights, a single changing room and a physio’s room is more than enough. Worrying.

    4. Williams was speaking to a small bunch of Leeds fans in private with the full knowledge that it’d soon be out in the public domain (ie. here) and make Leeds fans panic (ie. us) from all the unknown and doomsday-speak. Let’s face it, Leeds fans not knowing has worked handsomely to-date for Bates & Co. Who knows, maybe it will even lead to nervy Leeds fans contacting their local councillors imploring, no demanding, them to give money to Bates on any terms that he sees fit, regardless if it turns out to be utterly fraudalent, that’s if they want re-electing that is.

    • Colin

      “Gwyn Williams joins a long line of Leeds executives ~ Risdale, Krasner, Mervyn Levy, the Professor, Shaun Harvey, Bates himself ~ who talk a lot of shit.”

      @djedjedje BINGO! 100% spot on

  • tony c

    yes the old Elephant in the corner of the room has stirred again …wasn’t the sale of Delph and the money for the two kids poached by Chelski suppose to be for the re purchasing of TA until the Last minute when the old Pirate turned to the council for a loan (and as with the purchase of LUFC they went able to see who owned what because of all the different ways the owners of the club, ground and TA have been disguised) Then he had the gall to blame the council for not purchasing TA 1) what happened to the money Ear marked for TA & 2) Why would KB want to sell something he is getting an ever increasing rent on and still owns to sell whenever he and his cronies decide to sell to whoever he’s in a win, win situation

  • Frosty

    When Bates last started building hotels it was at stamford bridge, which gave Chelski over £100 million debt. If it wasn’t for their benefactor, Chelsea would be in the toilet financially.

    Does Bates see another real estate opportunity to cash in on, has he got another cash crazy russki lined up? Or does he really think he’s going to leave a legacy behind. Personally I don’t believe in fairies and I wouldn’t trust Bates as far as I could throw him.

    Clever business yes, ruthless sod definitely! Trustworthy, not on your life MOT

  • Gryff

    Funny, that. For years we were such a ‘big club’ with ‘fantastic facilities’. That was until we missed out on repurchasing TA. Since then, TSS is right: it seems to have fallen into a century’s worth of disrepair…

    @djedjedje
    I appreciate your point, but I doubt any of us will be imploring our local representatives to invest more of OUR money into HIS business!

    • TSS

      @gryff

      That’s the most ridiculous thing about it all really. For those that live in Leeds like myself, we not only helped fund the original building of Thorp Arch and the rent paid since it was sold to bail out the club, but we’re also going to pay TWICE for it to be bought back (through tax and ticket prices). With that in mind, I think we should all go down for a swim and a bit of a kick-about sometime next week.

      Those that don’t live in Leeds are welcome too. After all, you’ve paid three times…

    • Dje

      @gryff

      As a single team city I’m sure there are plenty of Leeds fans who wouldn’t mind it. The losers would be those Leeds citizens who are not interested in football or support other teams ~ so I doubt they’d get that much sympathy form LUFC fans. And even if they had to pay more council tax then I’m sure it’d be less of an increase than on their season tickets (which is OUR money into HIS business).

      ^^^ Not that I’m promoting it as an idea mind!

  • lorimerhotshot

    Don’t worry. It all makes perfect sense.
    We only have to ask for money from council to develop the stadium because we’re spending our income on such as rental and oversesas banking investments that are necessary for the smooth running of Leeds United Football Club.

    Now, if we develop the stadium then the property will be worth more. Of course if we have to borrow to achieve that we’ll can pay back with any income we get because we are on a sound financial footing. Plus we’ll benefit from increasing the value of the stadium because the owners to whom we pay the money only want it to be worth more because it is good for the football club.

    That is why it is fair for the owners to load any development loan onto the club itself, even though the club does not own the property.

    And just to add, the club board categorically denies that any such ground investment will in any way bring personal in the form of increased value, future rental increase or otherwise, in any way whatsoever.

    Honest. Cross my heart. But not the die bit.

  • lorimerhotshot

    missed out a word. last para – ‘personal GAIN’

  • Ryan H

    Bates doesn’t even open the East upper for 95% of our games, so a 50’000 capacity stadium..hmmm!

  • Andrew Hough

    Well the rumours i heard and please correct me if i’m wrong but the reason the deal fell through with the council buying TA was because they needed to know the names of the people in the “manchester busisness consortium” who apparently own TA and who the council would be paying the money to…..?
    Something Ken Bates couldnt give them because he is one of the owners?

  • henry vincent lewis

    You cannot look at Ken in isolation.
    All businesses, governments, council lie to us and rob us blind.
    Hypocrisy makes the world go round.
    The governments, past and present, have brought the country to its knees with vat up again, fuel prices due to sky rocket, electric and gas up again.
    The local councils are doing the absolute minimum, and will only tackle emergencies!
    Banks, whose greed and incompetence brought on the last crisis, are making money hand over fist at our expense.
    All the above are allowed to lie and cheat and never suffer themselves for their incompetence.
    Why? Because they know they can screw us – the very people they let down in the first place.
    When the Government had to admit that smoking was dangerous, after trying to ignore it for 40 years, they had to find another way of screwing money out of us.
    Even though the lottery was doing a fine job, they needed more. What did they come up with?
    Gambling!! Far worse for a family than smoking, but who cares.
    They having taken over sports sponsorship, and the TV ads are full of them. Half time watching the football some actor idiot tells you you can bet on anything, corners, goalkicks, next goalscorer etc.
    While the husband is losing his shirt, his wife can lose the rest at on-line Bingo.
    We are so stupid it will take 20 years before we realise there is a problem!!
    Ken Bates is only screwing us in a VERY small way,
    and, compared to the scum above he is a saint!!

  • Loved them diamond floodlights

    Am I missing something here? did I dream that two of the most memorable times in Leeds history ie bremner and co and promotion from old 2nd division IMO were played out in the backdrop of our training pitch there is a rather large bit of land going spare around our ground and it didn’t do some of the greatest players ever seen any harm did it?

  • les irwin

    if i was a tax payer in leeds i would be pissed if when there are going to probably be council employees loosing ther jobs in the current climate that public money was spent on helping a private company build a hotel if we are as sound as ken makes out why doesnt he go to a bank or why is there not people clambering to have a piece of the leeds united action .the question is why is kwb building onto a building he doesnt own and to be fair that thing which he has added outside howards bar is a monsterous horrible folly

  • Colin

    Just want to throw my 10p’s worth into this.

    The reason for the meeting with the council is because LUFC and Leeds City Council had funding plans for LUFC in place should England get the WC and Leeds became a host city. This meeting was LUFC trying to get the council to agree to some funding despite not getting the WC2018. This was the only thing that LUFC could do. With no WC and in this climate, LCC will obviously say no chance. And that’s where the 50,000 came from – that was the minimum requirement from FIFA.

    So there won’t be any money from the tax payer spent on LUFC and there’s no funding from the Leeds taxpayer on LUFC currently either.

    Leeds turn a profit but it’s tiny. Where does the money go? £2m on rent for ER & TA. £1-2m on upkeep and operating costs for ER & TA. And then, you’ve got wages, police costs etc. For that reason, we will be at TA for a long time yet, as we have no money and forget about any expansion/improvement of ER.

    And to everyone moaning about the money being taken by Bates and his investors. Firstly, there’s no way they’ve even recouped anything but a small part of their original investment. Secondly, let’s think like an owner and not as a fan. Let’s say I owned LUFC and had gone through all the shit with turning the club around. I’d want some serious money coming my way, and you know what, I deserve it. I’d want millions. Every single year.

    Reality is that the owners don’t get that. The game’s changed – owners don’t make money out of selling tickets to fans – that’s small fry. The money comes from selling the brand, lucrative contracts, TV money etc. For example, the BBC doesn’t make it’s money from the licence payer, it makes it from flogging Top Gear and Strictly Come Dancing and wanky period dramas to the Americans. LUFC isn’t a charity, it’s a business.

    • Colin

      And before anyone jumps on me, I’m not saying that I agree with the business aspect of football, at Leeds or anywhere else. It annoys me in just the same way that £3.20p for a pint of Fosters in a pub does. Diesel costs me £1.34 a litre and that has to get drilled out from the centre of the earth, transported through thousands of miles of piping, distilled, put in a truck, put in a tank and at any time it might explode. Yet something that is 98% water and 2% yeast, barley and wheat costs me twice as much.

      It’s all toilet and I’m not happy about it. But what can I do, I like Fosters.

      • TheReaper08

        @colin That was one of the most considered and well thought out posts I think I have ever read on here, I doth my cap to you.

        The ability to think about the situation without the emotion of our club/our city is difficult, to be frank I very rarely if ever witness that in these parts.

        I enjoyed everything right up until the part you said you drank Fosters.

        • Colin

          he he he :)

      • Gryff

        @colin

        Yes to an extent I agree, but your point about not making profit out of Leeds does rather depend upon the owners not fiddling behind the scenes.

        … Not that I have anything against violinists, of course!

  • James McGuirk

    What is going on at our club? I can’t believe whats going on, whats being said. Is every football club like this?

  • David Scown

    Just how can we pa

  • terrrrrrrr

    I thought that in order to qualify for a loan or mortgage, you first had to provide proof that you can afford to pay it back.Based on the profits Leeds United have shown over the last couple of years, they can afford sod-all…

  • Dje

    @terrrrrrrr

    The last few years LUFC have give or take broken-even. I imagine they actually made a profit – but the accountants whittled at it to show that we made a modest, almost negligible profit. That includes the large repayments we are making on Thorp Arch and Elland Road ~ so we can afford it.

    As to getting the loan or mortgage in the first place, as far as I can tell Krasner and Co effectively re-mortgaged Elland Road c. 2004. That might partially explain why it isn’t quite as daft as has been made out to add all the developments to the Elland Road site.

    Just because you have an expensive mortgage doesn’t mean that it is senseless to add an extension at the back and a nice orangery aside the kitchen. Of course if you only rent a property then a.) you wouldn’t want to waste your money adding to someone else’s property that you are only temporary or on a short term living in. b.) Your landlord might well wait to you have finished the extension and orangery and then promptly evict you for defacing his or her property.

  • Colin

    @djedjedje Krasner didn’t re-mortgage, he sold Elland Road on a 25-year lease deal with a buy-back clause to raise the required funds to pay the latest instalment of a loan to Aston Villa shareholder and former Watford chairman Jack Petchey.

    Not long after Bates took over, ER was bought by Teak Industries, based in the British Virgin Islands (hmmmmm). LUFC don’t own ER. But I would take a punt on the people who do own LUFC, also own ER.

    You take money out of a British company (such as LUFC for example), you get taxed. If a British company pays rent to a BVI based company, there’s no tax to pay. A British landlord gets taxed. A BVI landlord doesn’t.

    I’m not saying that Leeds own ER, but Leeds own ER. And that’s why LUFC (who don’t own ER) could plan to develop ER and get no push back from the owners (Teak), because they have a “good” relationship with Teak Industries

  • Colin

    This is from a Guardian Article and it puts into perspective what football is now all about:

    • £1m: amount raised by the England squad’s “Together We Are Stronger” campaign in the three years before last summer’s World Cup – players donating match fees. Gareth Barry: “It’s not just about playing football for us: we realise we can use our status to improve people’s lives. It’s important to support others who are less fortunate than ourselves.”
    • £100m: tax avoided by Premier League players last year using legal tax avoidance schemes, now subject of an HMRC inquiry. Among the top saves by England players: Gareth Barry’s £136,000.

  • Dje

    @colin

    You have me so handsomely bamboozled which your word trickery that I now question if you aren’t Shaun Harvey afterall!

    And if Elland Road actually still or ever existed.

  • Colin

    @djedjedje Don’t worry, It’s been agreed officially that I am “fit and proper”

    • Gryff

      @colin, didn’t Bates buy Leeds for £10m? I wouldn’t imagine the costs of buying LUFC would be all that (relatively) high?

      I would imagine “Teak”‘s income from ER would mean that Teak (who of course have nothing to do with our current owners) would make enough money to surpass the cost of LUFC to our current owners pretty soon?

      • Colin

        @gryff I think you’re right. But he took on the debt. I think first time round (after Krasner) it was astronomical (so £10m but took on the debt) – and then when we went into admin and into 3rd division, i think it was around £35m debt?? Not sure.

        As I recall (but not sure on this at all):

        when Ridsdale left it was £90m in debt
        when Krasner left, not sure
        Bates bought it (£10m) and tried to clear the debt
        A couple of years later, Bates couldn’t clear the debt and I think it was at £35m.
        Leeds go into admin.
        Bates/owners rebuilt the club from admin, let’s say £5m debt.
        And now we’re straight, but then again if we get promoted i think we own the debtors £12m or so??

        Please correct me if I’m wrong. But I think that is about right?

        • Paul C

          Am I missing something here? Has some new announcement been made? I am sure that Bates has said on more than one occasion (At least once on oath) that he has put Nothing at all into Leeds United. Not one penny.

          • Colin

            @Paul_C You’re right. He hasn’t. He works for free as Chairman of Leeds United on behalf of the owners, Forward Sports Fund.

            It’s a tax dodge – a person paid by a British company would be questioned as to why they don’y pay UK tax. Ken can spend 90 days a year in the UK and be based in Monaco (tax free and a rather nice place to live) and no questions can be asked. He can’t take a wage and doesn’t. As to what FSF do, is up to them are they are based in the British Virgin Islands (that means no tax) and represented/registered by a Swiss company Credit Financiare (or something like that) which means you can’t get their details. The owners of FSF(LUFC) are fit and proper. Who puts money into and takes money out of FSF is of no concern to HMRC or the football league. Likewise, no-one knows who owns Teak (based in BVI) who own ER.

            Bates acts as Chairman out of the goodness of his own heart to do FSF a freebie favour. FSF own Leeds and their heads are squeaky clean. The people who fund FSF are unknown and can’t ever be disclosed. Bates and Patrick Murrin (formerly of Chelsea ownership) were thought to own LUFC, but that was retracted in court.

            They might, just might, have something to do with the funding of FSF. But that’s just a guess and I’m probably 100% wrong. But I’m not. :)

  • Gryff

    @colin sounds about right to me, you’ve got a good memory!

    I suppose if we owed £12mil then that could partially explain our reluctance in the transfer market at the moment?

  • Colin

    @gryff we’re debt free at the moment. We only pay the £12m if we get promoted this season. This was part of the deal to come out of admin. Get promoted after 2012 and there’s nothing to pay!

    I think we’ve got some money to spend on quality, if there’s someone SG really really wants, but Bates keeps it under wraps to avoid any opportunity for people to have a pop at Leeds for wiping out debt in the admin and now having good money to spend. Bates like to play the poor man. I bet McCormack was expensive, but that went unnoticed to many outside of Leeds.

    I think we have money but nowhere near as much QPR, Cardiff, Leicester etc. But then again, the amount QPR/Cardiff have spent is mental and dangerous – they are trying to buy the league. And Warnock and Dave Jones better hope they get promoted or I guarantee you they’ll be unemployed next season.

  • Chareose

    Good posts Colin and suggests that the Anti Bates bandwagon might not be entirely correct. However its still way too clouded over to be sure whats really going on.
    To the guy suggesting we use a feild with floodlights for training because the lads in the 70s did……. Mate the world has changed since then. If you want to attract the top money grabbing, glory hunting world class premadonna players to our club you need the facilities…… The poor blighters hands might get too cold in the winter and who can begrudge them a giant jacuzzi, sauna room and a personal massuer……all necessities for our overpaid players im sure you will agree

  • Chareose

    P.S the days of Don Revie paying Billy Bremner his match fee with a packet of dry roasted peanuts and a mug of steaming hot tea has long since gone…..

  • Irving08

    How can Bates, a right-wing libertarian, possibly justify funding his enterprise with other people’s money ? Even as a left-wing libertarian, I am struggling to find any justification for it. What collective good would be secured by such funding ?

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