Ken Bates was probably expecting an instant end to any kind of protests when he fired Simon Grayson last week. Generally speaking, the efforts of Leeds United fans to oust the unpopular chairman have been pitiful, quickly ended by any shred of hope offered up by a forthcoming transfer window and promises of “transfer warchests” or the signing of some random loan star the Whites faithful quickly decide will plug the gap. Or indeed, a new manager.

If you haven’t yet realised the last seven years have followed a repeated cycle, allow me to point it out for you;

  1. Growing unrest leads to calls for action.
  2. Dissident uprising leads to fan protests
  3. Excuses come thick and fast from the board, the chairman and manager. A rallying cry is issued by players.
  4. Protests dwindle as fans cling to some tenuous shred of hope offered by the club (forthcoming transfers being the main one).
  5. Fans split as the clubs excuses are accepted, some fans decide this is having a negative effect on our promotion hopes/ability to attract players/investment etc…
  6. Instead of fighting Ken Bates, the fans become distracted and start to fight each other.
  7. Uprising successfully quashed, the pattern repeats.

It’s become so predictable and tiring that any efforts made to remove Ken Bates are instantly dismissed by those that want him out the most. The level of cynicism aimed at LUST could quite possibly be the start of this whole cycle repeating once more. Whether the argument is that “LUST don’t have the cash to change things” or “what took them so long?” or “they’re using the uprising to boost their own profile” the fans are already starting to question each others motives, which in turn, draws attention away from the big picture.

The most ridiculous thing is, the fans moaning about an organisation trying to get Ken Bates out of Leeds United generally want Ken Bates out of Leeds United!

And what seems to have been missed by everyone is that Ken Bates manufactures these little divides every time. He’s played us all off against each for the last seven years. With one five minute rant on Yorkshire Radio or a couple of paragraphs in the programme notes, Ken Bates has done more damage to dissident uprisings than Colonel Gaddafi could have managed with the United States nuclear arsenal at his finger tips.

It takes only the slightest suggestion, whether that be that protests are having a negative effect on team performance, or that certain investors have been scared off by our thuggish antics, Ken Bates successfully creates an “us and them” divide every time. It generally goes along the lines of;

“This dissident minority are not real Leeds United fans. They’re just morons more interested in causing trouble than they are in Leeds United. Their childish antics only harm Leeds United Football Club, it upsets the team, effects performance and deters would-be investors.”

"Dissidents" protest against Bates, August 2011

Hurting the team’s performance? Scaring off would-be investors? Harming Leeds United? I didn’t mean to do that Mr Bates. I am a real Leeds United fan, honest! I just wanted to see my club successful. I just wanted to get a return on the thousands of pounds I pay to follow them each year. I didn’t realise that the failures of this football club were my fault? I can only apologise for letting these morons suck me in. I’ll give them a piece of my mind for you…

And with that, the cycle repeats.

It repeats because the above would be enough to scare most fans off. None of us want to hurt Leeds United after all. But just to undermine the efforts of those stubborn few that remain and ensure the divide is strong enough to distract us all, Ken Bates always finishes off with “I don’t see the dissidents/morons/sick-pots/LUST stumping up the cash to buy Leeds United”. And he’s right – sort of. He’s ignoring the fact that all these dissenting fans cough up thousands each year to fund the club but y’know… minor details…

This time however, Ken Bates’ own predictability may come back to haunt him. Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” and that’s exactly what Leeds United fans have been doing for the last seven years. It’s the pattern I outlined above. If you want a different outcome, you have to change the variables.

Having predicted stages 1-3, the Leeds United Supporters Trust sat patiently waiting for an opportunity to alter the formula. Instead of allowing stage 4 to successfully quash any campaign for change, LUST responded in kind to Ken Bates’ standard, probably pre-recorded “show me the money” rebuttal. Firstly, they asked Ken for some specifics – what kind of investment he wants (full takeover, 10%, 25%, 50%?), and what kind of valuation he has on the club. Not an unreasonable question since he’s asked LUST to show him the money.

The Supporters Trust then go one step further asking interested parties to contact them first. This way, Ken Bates can’t simply deny the existence of credible investors and write them all off as chancers and conmen – their own credibility can be assessed by the wider fanbase and media. Not ideal, but I’m sure they’d be more comfortable with that than Ken Bates referring to them as “Sheikh Rub-A-Dub”.

LUST’s plan is simple, yet incredibly brave because there’s a good chance it’ll fail, and if it does, their reputation will be damaged leaving them back at square one. They have plenty to lose as well having already made great strides in the PR war, providing an alternative voice for the major news networks to air. They’ve also seen membership numbers soar, making them one of the largest supporters trusts in the country.

Everything hinges on whether a credible investor is forthcoming. If one does come forward, then great – the possibility of an alternative has been proven. If no investor is forthcoming then we’re back at square one and Ken Bates will be gloating for the foreseeable future. But either way, we’ve altered the variables, broken the cycle and tried something new. That’s progress no matter what happens and I for one applaud LUST for their efforts.