Ken Bates Take Note: How To Run A Football Club By Amit Bhatia TSS March 5, 2012 Leeds United 21 Comments I’m sure many of you watched the fascinating documentary on Queen’s Park Rangers last night where a camera crew was given unprecedented access to the behind-the-scenes goings on at QPR as their owners tried to secure a Premier League promotion. Things started off with the horrible Flavio Briatore as chairman of QPR and the similarities to Ken Bates were hard to miss. He involved himself too much in the team, couldn’t help but stick his nose into every individual matter, often providing unprofessional soundbites for the press and his all round arrogance, highlighted by such quotes as “I saved your club, how dare you boo me?” (sound familiar?) and an inability to accept his way may not be in the best interests of the football club was all too clear to see. After Briatore had hired and fired a series of managers leaving Rangers in a relegation battle, the fans of QPR started vicious protests against his leadership and Flavio was replaced as Chairman by Amit Bhatia. To describe the two as polar opposites wouldn’t do their differences justice. Out went a chairman whose old fashioned ways included hurling abuse at players and staff, and in came a man whose calm and controlled manner instantly settled those around him. From walking on eggshells, afraid of a trademark dressing down from the Italian, the QPR players and staff were now given the freedom to express themselves. Concerns and issues were raised and debated sensibly, and the chairman did everything in his power to ensure the people beneath him were happy and felt comfortable at the club. In short, one led by fear, the other by respect. The differences were staggering but the result was nonetheless predictable. Bhatia understood rule one of business, that the most important thing is to keep your customers and staff happy. Briatore meanwhile was from the same “my way or the highway” school as Ken Bates, and his reign was doomed to failure from the outset. Ken Bates could learn a lot from Amit Bhatia. Bates’ view that Leeds United fans have no right to express an opinion is from a bygone era that has no place in the 21st century. Modern consumers simply won’t accept it, and Bhatia knew this. As Chairman of QPR, Bhatia went to great lengths to listen to and address the concerns of fans. The feeling of unrest and exclusion dissipated, attendances roses and the positive atmosphere resulted in improved performances on the pitch and ultimately, promotion to the English Premier League. Ken Bates meanwhile refuses to treat fans with the same respect. He doesn’t believe they have any right to express an opinion, and what’s even more worryingly, is that there seems to be a small minority of fans that agree with him and help reinforce this theory. Successful businesses don’t care whether their customers complaints are accurate or justified, they’ll go to great lengths to resolve them either way. Where I work, we have an entire office full of staff whose sole duty is to respond to customer queries and ensure we keep them happy. Whether that involves an explanation of where we acquire stock, what we spend money on or how we justify prices is largely irrelevant, we’re here to serve the general public and if knowing such information is important to them, then we’ll hand it over without hesitation. In fact, if we’d reached the stage Ken Bates has at Elland Road, I’m almost certain that our directors would deliver information to you personally, bow-tied and handed over whilst on one knee begging for mercy. All successful companies understand that you answer to your customers, because without them, you don’t exist. It’s clichéd, but the customer is the boss. The reason for this is simple. Happy customers spend more money and, more importantly, they keep coming back. Failing to understand this results in a similar situation to what we have at Elland Road, whereby thousands of fans stay away every week refusing to give Ken Bates their money and thousands more refuse to spend money on products around the stadium, all because Ken Bates doesn’t treat his customers with the same respect that Amit Bhatia and the company I work for does. Bates’ approach is from a bygone era, it’s commercial suicide nowadays. The documentary started with the statistic that Premier League teams have an average income of £108m. That’s £81m more than Leeds United’s last reported figures. Is it really so hard for Ken Bates to change his ways with such an incredible amount of money at stake?