The All New And Improved Ken Bates TSS September 8, 2011 Leeds United 12 Comments We’re constantly accused of being anti-Bates here at The Scratching Shed – Of being unable to see the wood for the trees and of allowing contempt to cloud our judgement. And to some extent that’s probably fair comment. I’ll be the first to hold my hands up and admit I’m not Bates’ biggest fan. The tagline underneath the header that reads “Your #1 Source of Anti-Bates Propaganda” was written in jest – a sort of self-deprecating retort to the criticism of some fans. The fact is however, that there is some accuracy to that statement. We do tend to pick up solely on the comments from our chairman that we can use against him. It makes for more interesting reading, and does serve an agenda. In our minds that agenda is to fight fire with fire. Ken Bates has spent enough time insulting the fans of our club, we feel it only fair to take the occasional shot back; particularly when he makes it so damn easy. I found myself in quite an uncomfortable position last week however. His interview with Yorkshire Radio didn’t irritate me anywhere near as much as it usually does. For once, he didn’t spend his time insulting the fans, he was open and honest about our transfer dealings and seemed almost sympathetic towards disillusioned fans. He was almost likeable. In truth, that’s all I’ve ever really wanted from Bates. I’ll never be totally happy he owns the club, but if he can cut out the embarrassing rants from his interviews, stop treating supporters with total contempt and allow us to peak under the dark veil that casts a worrying shadow across our club from time to time, I’ll be much happier. I’m sure we all would. With that in mind, I thought I’d take a more balanced approach to this weeks Yorkshire Radio interview and highlight not only the bits that concern me, but the more positive stuff too. Transfers The Good: Ken starts with transfer news and Newcastle United’s Nile Ranger who was linked with a move to Elland Road earlier this week. Simon Grayson dismissed this rumour earlier in the week and Ken reiterates that by pointing to Nile’s criminal record as good reason for not wanting him at the club. The Bad: Ken decides to narrow down the list of players available to us by taking a shot at Nile Ranger’s agent who just so happens to be the same guy that represents Jermaine Beckford. Bates insists we will never do business with the guy while ever he’s in charge at the club. Pretty sure that can’t be helping Simon Grayson’s search for players… The Good: Whilst discussing transfers Ken also reveals that Simon Grayson merely identifies targets and it is Shaun Harvey that deals with the negotiations. I list this as good because a lot of people are blaming the manager for our failure to seal contracts during the summer transfer window. It’s this sort of clarity I feel is important for the fans to hear. The Bad: After an admittedly amusing rant on Robbie Savage’s desperate need for attention, Ben Fry decides we once again need clarification on how the transfer pot works. This prompts a patronising response from the chairman who feels the need to talk as slowly as humanly possible because we’re all too dumb to understand it (apparently). Wages, money in, wages, frees not free etc… The fans The Bad (and a little good): Speaking about the Lord Harewood dinner which 50 “random” fans were invited to Ken says it was nice to interact with those present but that they had to be careful who to invite so not to get those with “hidden agendas”. It was good of the club to invite the fans but it sounds like a similar selection process to what all great dictators use. No supporter would use such an occasion to take shots at Bates, Lord Harewood was a great servant of the club. More Bad: Bates uses an example of a LUST member attempting to voice concerns and proceeds to try and discredit the entire organisation. The first thing Bates did at Chelsea and Leeds was cut every tie with supporters groups and launch official members groups which I’ve always found a little too controlling. Every club needs an independent voice, and whilst LUST doesn’t speak for me personally, it does speak for plenty of other Leeds United fans and deserves respect. Bates speaks of a self-appointed leader serving his own agenda which is not how any supporters trust works (as I’m sure he knows). They canvass the support and present mutual concerns under a united front. To claim they’ve never done anything to help the club was particularly grating for me – the members of LUST are supporters like the rest of us who spend good money following Leeds United. Scum game and East Stand The Good: No complaints here whatsoever. He explains the ticket policy which I personally think is the fairest it’s been in a long time (aside from the pointless members scheme) and then proceeds to drone on about his shiny new boxes and the health and safety brigade that need to pass off on the East Stand (which I’m sure was of interest to someone, somewhere). To return to ticket allocation for the Manchester United game, what I found particularly encouraging was that those who booked for Palace or Bristol before the draw are guaranteed a ticket. Those that only booked for the sake of the Scum game come second to them. There’s still flaws in the system but we’re getting there. Yorkshire Radio Criticism The Laughable: Sorry to end on such negative terms but Ben Fry felt the need to address our growing complaints against Yorkshire Radio’s poor line of questioning. Bates and Fry agreed there was nothing wrong before our chairman told us he didn’t own Yorkshire Radio but the Leeds United Group did (of which he’s the majority shareholder). Summary After the encouraging interview last week this was a return to form I felt. Continually criticising fans rather than addressing their concerns helps nothing. I appreciate Bates may think he’s answering our questions in these interviews, but it’s quite selective and that’s where the criticism of Yorkshire Radio comes from. LUST, like Ten For Ken before them, have proposed several questions we’d like the answers to and I can’t help but think the criticism of these organisations comes from that. It’s easy to dismiss independent supporters groups as serving no purpose, but they do exactly what they claim to – represent supporters. Not all of us, but a fair few usually, all of whom pay good money to follow Leeds United. So there you go. My attempt at a balanced reflection on Bates’ weekly address. For a full transcript see the Fax Man’s post over on The Square Ball blog.