Ahead of tonight’s BBC One Yorkshire documentary ‘Who Owns Leeds United,’ The Square Ball have published a series of emails sent between Shaun Harvey and Leeds City Council, in which the Leeds United CEO attempts to negotiate a loan for the repurchase of Elland Road.

The emails, which were obtained by the BBC under the Freedom Of Information Act, show council officials tirelessly attempting to help Leeds United avoid relegation and financial doom by coming to a mutual agreement for the repurchase of Elland Road. Leeds City Council is caught in an unenviable position of trying to protect one of their city’s greatest assets – a high profile sports club – and ensuring taxpayer’s money is spent wisely in these times of increased scrutiny and financial hardship.

Contrary to Ken Bates’ take on events, that the council didn’t care for the future of our club and showed no interest in helping us, the emails reveal an entirely different story. One in which, Leeds City Council attempted to overcome concerns of hidden ownerships, overvalued assets and unreasonable loan requests from the club to find an agreement that would not only support the long-term future of the club, but also provide value for money to the taxpayer.

Within the emails is an alarming claim from Shaun Harvey that the club had already agreed in principle a £10m investment that would be injected into the club – ensuring we avoided the subsequent administration – if the council (not the club!) agreed to several conditions set out by the mysterious investor.

These conditions were that;

  • The council would loan Leeds United £18-25m at 4% interest – an incredibly low amount for a loan that would have stretched over 20 years.
  • The council would give principle planning permission for additional (non football) facilities to be built on stadium land
  • The council would give Leeds United first refusal on all LCC owned land around the stadium before selling to anyone else

It’s almost a little too convenient that the mysterious £10m investor would be interested in exactly the same things Ken Bates is. The principle planning permission and first refusal on additional land all seem to tie in nicely with the hotel and retail facilities our chairman has been planning to build for several years now.

Considering no other football club in the country believes Ken Bates’ non-matchday vision is a financially viable one – least of all the Chelsea executive who spoke of the small revenues Chelsea Village turns over – it’s difficult to imagine an investor willing to put in £10m so that Ken Bates can prove everybody wrong. A ridiculous number of clubs have been taken over by wealthy people in the past decade or so, yet none of them have highlighted a need for hotels and non-matchday events to build their coffers – not even after plans were announced to restrict clubs to wages based on their own income.

It almost seems as though Leeds United have attempted to use the clubs uncertain future as chips in a game of high stakes poker with the council. The council, worried that the city may lose a club which brings people, money and attention to the city, were left desperately trying to help the club, whilst at the same time, trying to uncover who it was their money was going to (fears of money laundering laws were mentioned at one point), whether their loan would be safely repaid and most importantly, whether the taxpayer was getting a fair deal.

You can read the emails yourself over at The Square Ball, but for me, the council have been backed into a corner by Leeds United who seemed to be using the council’s fear of losing a huge city asset as leverage. The council were left in an impossible position where they had no idea where their money would be going, whether they could rely on Leeds United to repay the huge loan they requested and where a mysterious investors demands were bordering on blackmail.

Yet through all this, the council continued to try and find a mutually suitable solution, only for Bates to later announce that ”revenge is a dish best eaten cold” claiming that the council had little interest in helping the club.

The BBC One Documentary “Who Owns Leeds United?” will be screened tonight at 19:30 for viewers in the Yorkshire region and available on iPlayer thereafter. Sky viewers across the country can also see it live on channel 976.