Indemnity. Replacing ‘imminent’ as this summers buzzword, indemnity is basically the would-be owners guarantee that Ken Bates will be financially liable for any skeletons found lurking in the Elland Road closets after he departs.
In short, indemnity is compensation awarded if a pre-determined event occurs – say, for example, Leeds United are taken to court over something the previous regime was responsible for.
If the latest reports from the Yorkshire Evening Post and the Leeds United Supporters Trust are accurate, the indemnity clause is the final hurdle before an agreement is sealed and Ken Bates relinquishes control of the club.
The only problem is, Ken Bates appears to be stalling.
Like most Leeds fans (I suspect), my mind immediately jumps to the conclusion that the buyers have stumbled across a very specific skeleton in Ken Bates’ closet that he fears is bound to resurface sooner or later.
When you’re dealing with a man more notable for deception, court cases and dodgy offshore banking than he is for his contribution to football, it’s only natural that you start to fear the worst. After all, this is a man who managed to rig an administration process so that he cleared substantial debt whilst managing to retain control of the club (allegedly).
However, it could just as easily be something genuine. Perhaps Ken Bates feels the terms of the indemnity agreement are too vague and could make him liable for things that weren’t his doing?
The truth is, no one really knows. Or if they do, they’re not telling us.
If the TOMA thread on WACCOE has taught us anything, it’s that an absence of verifiable facts is conducive to wild speculation.
When you have a reputation like that of Ken Bates, wild speculation will seldom serve you well. If this takeover does fall through, the truth will be irrelevant. False hope, broken promises, anonymous individuals and incredibly poor communication only serves to remind fans of previous failings and the struggle for information Ken Bates’ reign has been synonymous with.
In less than 3 months, fans have gone from pondering the implications of a Manchester City-esque takeover, to plotting further protests. The club have only themselves to blame for the latter.
Whilst it’s true that the speculation was created by fans and it was they who let themselves get carried away, the club did little to stop them. Save for a few incredibly vague statements (1, 2, 3) that served only to heighten speculation and feed the madness, the club hid behind a confidentiality clause and continued to keep fans in the dark about the future of their club.
I’m sure Ken Bates doesn’t lose a second of sleep over the concerns of fans/customers, he’s made perfectly clear in the past that he feels they have no business knowing what goes on behind the scenes at Leeds United Football Club. As owner, that’s his prerogative. As fans, the right to protest and withdraw funding is ours.
That’s why compromise is key to running a successful football club. As Ken Bates is slowly coming to realise, an unhappy fanbase means the Leeds United turnover he so highly covets begins to diminish. A drop of 4,000 on our average gate last season represents a loss of around £3m on the season previous – that’s before you take into consideration the additional funds those 4,000 would have spent in the ground.
If this takeover does fall through, there will undoubtedly be a further reduction in gate receipts. There’s only so much false hope a fan can digest before they become cynical and start to question the chairman’s motives.
Fans want to believe that everyone at their football club is pulling in the same direction. They want to be valued as loyal supporters and see the hard-earned money they spend on supporting the club, reflected in the quality and ambitions of those they pay to watch.
I don’t doubt that Ken Bates wants to see Leeds United in the Premier League just as much as I do – why wouldn’t he? The club is worth much more to him as a top flight team. My concern is that he seems incapable of achieving that goal and he’s made no effort to convince me otherwise, and therein lies the ultimate problem.
The takeover seemed to be a concession of sorts. I never expected him to admit it, but in my mind, Ken Bates had accepted he was incapable of taking Leeds United to the promised land so had sought out investment from those who could – no doubt encouraged by the cashflow problems Leeds United’s latest accounts suggest.
If Ken Bates was to come out tomorrow, admit he couldn’t take this club any further and promise to find a new owner, I’d hold my hands up and help him in anyway possible. Most fans would. Frank honesty and a little humility are highly valued commodities in Yorkshire, it’s the secrecy, lies and excuses our fans simply cannot abide, and it’s the secrecy, lies and excuses causing our fans to walk away.
All Ken Bates really needs to do is be straight with supporters. If he genuinely has the club’s best interests at heart, then what has he got to lose? The alternative is getting him nowhere.
Unless the members of Leeds United’s boardroom are a secret chapter of the Illuminati, sworn to protect the world from unspeakable evils who will be punishable by death if they utter a word of what goes on inside, the very worst they could face is a little embarrassment. I don’t care that they may have got it wrong – in fact, I’d respect the honesty of such an admission – I only care that they have a solution.
If there’s nothing to hide and you’re supposedly working in the best interests of Leeds United Football Club, secrecy serves no purpose. Is it seriously too much to ask for a little communication and some long overdue honesty? If so, allow me to apologise in advance on behalf of all those who vote with their feet if this takeover isn’t completed successfully.