Ken’s Fanfare for the Common Fan Dje May 8, 2012 Leeds United Following the release of the Leeds United’s list of ‘wanted’ and ‘unwanted’ players, eyebrows were raised by the inclusion of Adam Clayton on the transfer list. For a player who has become a first team regular, with 43 league games under his belt this season and 6 goals and 5 assists to boot, he is not in keeping with the other dross on the transfer list: those fringe players (Nunez, O’Brien), forgettables (Connolly) and outright flops (Paynter and Rachubka). Warnock responded to questioning as to why Clayton found himself on the transfer list in an interview yesterday evening, offering: I’m looking to sign midfield players, and the contract Adam’s representatives were looking for, we weren’t prepared to go to that extent. Coming into the last year [of Clayton’s contract at Leeds United] it makes sense to see if they can get that offer somewhere else and if we can get an appropriate figure it’s the sort of money I can use to improve the squad … Adam has probably had more games than anyone else, but looking at that area I have my own ideas about players I’d like to bring in and that’s what I’m looking for really. There are two different reasons mentioned in this interview as to why Clayton has been transfer listed. They are: one, a new contract has stumbled over wage levels, and two, Clayton is not the ideal player that Warnock wants for central midfield. But it is the latter which is more viable to influence Clayton’s inclusion on the transfer list. Considering how much Clayton’s game has waned since Warnock’s arrival – in comparison to fellow central midfielder Michael Brown, who, when he remains on the pitch, has on occasions shown signs that he is a solid hard working midfielder and worth the punt of another season on ‘reduced’ wages – it is understandable that Warnock might want to try other recruits in central midfield. Who they are, and whether they are better than Clayton are arguments set for a later date… What is more pressing in the here and now is the way Leeds United fans have jumped on the conclusion that Clayton is on the transfer list primarily because of his and/or his agents excessive wage demands, rather than where he fits in (or not as the case may be) with Warnock’s plans. To be fair, Bates has led us down this path with an interview on Radio Bates immediately before the release of Wednesday afternoon’s hotly anticipated Schindler’s list of retained personnel. To quote: There is one individual whose agent has demanded £15,000 a week for him. That is £780,000 a year and with taxes, you are looking at nearly £900,000 a year, for a footballer in the championship. That is the equivalent of the gate receipts from four home games in a season. It is ridiculous, good luck to the guy if he gets it elsewhere. For a club that doesn’t name names in transfer gossip, our Chairman sure likes to wave about unsubstantiated numbers. Putting zero and zero together, Leeds fans quickly deduced the answer wasn’t four at all but Adam Clayton who was churlishly demanding the £15,000 a week. Taking Bates no-words at face value a stream of ire interrupted Clayton’s afternoon golfing session. Forcing him to respond via Twitter: As my last retweet didn’t seem to make sense to many of you… I DIDN’T ask for 15k a week. Before capping off a bad day at the office with a movie and a can or two of Carlsberg. ‘Is Clayton worth £15,000 a week?’ is one debate worth having. But it only holds any sense once Leeds United fans can agree on what constitutes a ‘decent’ wage for a first team regular at Leeds United whilst we are in the Championship. To debate this is to restep into that dirty brown quagmire of Batesism, that whole paradigm of whether frugal management of the club’s finances is the only way to take this club forward v. the straw dog that is the recklessness of the Risdale years and ‘Living the Dream’. Purposefully, an analogy exists with the current British political paradigm between the Coalition Government and the Labour opposition: either slash the public expense back in order to one day stop paying debt interest and maybe even balance the fiscal deficit v. maintain public provision as this takes up the slack of the private sector during the recession and maintains a level of growth that will at least service the country’s debts and keep people happier if in employment. ‘Why are you bringing all this politics McGuffan into Leeds United’s financial strategy?’ you may ask. Well, because that’s exactly what Ken is doing in order to justify paying a low-end Championship wage to our squad members. In returning to Ken’s Yorkshire Radio interview about the unnamed player’s unnamed agent demanding exactly £15,000 per week, Bates followed on to say: All the chairmen I have been speaking too in the last few months are all cutting back. As we point out, there is a recession and we have the fans writing in to complain about the pricing. It seems that player’s agents seem to think they are immune. Laughable as it may be that a millionaire tax-exile such as Ken Bates feels for the plight of the common man in this time of great austerity, with player’s agent being this weeks stand-in for fatcat bankers, you will have noticed that for all the talk of ‘cutting back’, season tickets have not been reduced, nor the subscription to LUTV, nor the price of a new Leeds top… The language of cutbacks has been hot on Ken’s lips since just before the January transfer window. Back then he wanted to cut back the wage bill and more urgently the number of players in the squad. From another Yorkshire Radio mouthpiece of 14th December 2011, Bates answers the question he’d asked Ben Fry to ask him as follows: We have a very large squad by even Premiership standards. We always used to say two players for every position and an extra one for the goalkeeper. That’s 23. Now we have 28, 29. Roll on five months and the cutbacks strike again. Yesterday, Bates concluded his Yorkshire Radio stint with: We have a squad of 30, we intend to cut it to 21-22, and we intend to get value for money. Fans are entitled to it and it is all we can afford. Depressing as the last sentiment sounds about ‘all we can afford’, however the swinging cuts works both ways. Less players equals higher wages if sourced from the same-sized wage pool. At least in theory! Here’s the maths… Last season (2010-11) we spent £11.6m on wages. Add 4% inflation for what we can guess we spent this season (2011-12) and 4% again for our supposed wage budget next season (2012-13) and this figure becomes £12.55m. Now, take Bates and his desire of reducing the squad to 22 players and that works out as an average of just shy of £11,000 per week for each of those 22 players. Yes there are the kids to pay too, and they shouldn’t be spoilt on excessive wages, but also consider that we are – hopefully! – not going to be paying so many wages for a string of unwanted and unused loanees as we did in the 2010-12 seasons. Factor in also that there are lads in the current ‘retained’ squad who should be on considerably less than regular team players, and I’m thinking here of Cairns and Thompson as ‘unprovens’ and Bromby, Pugh, and Kisnorbo as ‘bit part squad members’. This only increases the amount of wages available for the first team key players such as Snodgrass and McCormack. At which point you have to ask, is £15,000 per week that unreasonable a wage to demand for a player’s agent to START the opening rounds of a renewed contract negotiation? You see, we aren’t even pushing out the boat when it comes to what we spend on wages in relation to turnover. As TimPM illustrated in an excellent article on The Scratching Shed, we only spend 35.6% of our turnover on wages. That is about half the amount (% not gross) of any other Championship club. Are we being prudent here? Well, yes; but we are being far, far too prudent. Even UEFA’s guidelines states that clubs should aim for spending between 50-70% of their turnover on wages. At 35.6%, and with no debts to service, we are massively under-resourcing our wage options and thus offering a needless advantage to our competitors in the Championship to outbid us on wages offered to the players we are interest in. Even if we only increased our wage bill from 35.6% to 50% of turnover that would allow us to pay 22 squad players each £15,400 per week. At which point you can see that paying Clayton £15,000 per week is perfectly possible. He would be on the average salary at the club, not the top wage. Only then is it possible to argue whether or not we want to pay him £15,000 per week. So why won’t we pay him (or almost any other player at the club) £15,400 per week at Leeds United? The answer is of course ‘Ken’. And the clue is in the quote taken immediately before the January transfer window when we once more failed to sign anyone or note and eventually sacked our manager. Prior to saying his intention was to reduce the squad size to 23, Bates led that idea by pointing out that our “wages bills are very, very high” and need to be cut. And that’s at our current level of only 35.6% of turnover, remember! Therefore it is clear that Bates interest in the squad size is purely about the total wages and not the wage level per player. Less players could mean higher wages for each. It could possibly mean a better calibre of player arriving at the club too. But it won’t. Hiding behind the veil of ‘hard times’ for all, Bates is solely interested in paying less and less for the same old same. The cull of players yesterday was not about improving the squad, it was predominately about lessening the wage bill. Once off the books do not expect the total amount of wages to be used on new recruits – regardless of whether the squad size come August is a slim 22 or a full fat 29-30 squad. Simply put, accusing Clayton or his agent of greed in asking for £15,000 a week, or whoever it was in our squad (if at all) is once more detracting away from the real joke at our club, Ken Bates and his insistent on paying peanuts for wages and getting nothing but monkeys and the odd nutcracker. We should not be party to such a self-purposed individual as Ken Bates in hiding their self-serving actions behind what is truly a time of many individuals’ real financial hardship. Ken, if you want to slash and burn and pocket all our cash, then at the very least do it on the quiet through some dodgy tax haven scheme, but don’t tell us it is in OUR interest for which you purposefully disserve us.