There’s one thing Bates has been able to rely on throughout his time at Leeds United: media. This is hardly a coincidence. One of the first actions of our current majority-owner and chairman was to create “Yorkshire Radio” a local station dedicated to music nobody wanted to hear even when it was released, and more importantly a source of Leeds news and commentary. Bates’ employees – and I say Bates’ employees because Yorkshire Radio technically employed 0 staff in the latest published accounts – covered stories he wanted covering, and ignored certain others. No mention of the Levi court-case that apparently cost the club in the region of £3-4m while I was listening, but jubilant coverage of the WYP case that wins back roughly a quarter of that and cuts some costs on matchday (provided WYP still agree to police us – they don’t have to). Very little coverage of the takeover either. And once their match-day phone-in began hosting fans critical of Bates’ tenure, it became a phone-in with no calls. Why? According to Thom Kirwin, because there was only one call. Then, when told several people phoned in and got an engaged-sound or were cut off, because there was only one operator. I assume this one operator had a one-line switchboard, unlike previous seasons?
That’s Yorkshire Radio, your one-stop radio station for Leeds news and interviews – so long as said news and interviews back Bates. BBC Radio Leeds has been left out in the cold as Bates has refused to work with media that failed to give glowing praise. This has meant practically every national media outlet that shows any interest in the club is banned in some way. The Daily Mail, The BBC, The Guardian – it’s not one end of the political spectrum, it’s anybody Bates can’t control.
The YEP is a local newspaper. Like virtually every local paper, it’s sadly struggling to adapt in the 21st century. Leeds is, I guess, by far the biggest crowd-pleaser in the sports pages, and as such the YEP can’t afford to be banned by Bates either – unlike national media. David Conn of the Guardian rather excellently cuts through Bates’ nonsense on a fairly regular basis, the BBC asked “who owns Elland Road?”, how equally talented journalists like Phil Hay must wish on a regular basis they could do the same? The YEP hasn’t been a propaganda outlet for Bates, I’m not saying that at all, but surely they can’t risk being too critical of him for fear they lose one of their most lucrative markets?
That’s my opinion obviously, and I’m not trying to criticise the YEP at all. They’re a great news-source and more people should consider picking it up and thus supporting the local economy. And they have been critical of the club at times. Perhaps, in fact, they are doing an excellent job of being impartial? In either case, it should speak volumes to Bates that the paper has now seen fit to run this article, which you should definitely read. It confirms a lot, including a few of the rumours and “pub gossip” we’ve heard over the last few weeks:
- Experts on football buyouts say most deals are completed within 2 months, some are completed in a matter of days. This is in its 3rd month.
- In these experts’ eyes, the deal has “strayed into the realms of the ridiculous”
- There is little left to do in the takeover, talks are dragging in the 11th hour over an “indemnity clause”*
- The Middle-East Consortium are said to have funded financially-unstable Leeds throughout the summer.
- The Consortium is now refusing any more funding of Bates’ Leeds.
- Warnock has “nothing” in the way of transfer funds
Bates cannot or should not be oblivious to this. He cannot hear a manager like Warnock claim that his existing squad have “not a cat in hell’s chance” of seeing through a full Championship season and fail to see the problem. Supporters and journalists who offer that view are easy to ignore but not a 63-year-old with seven promotions behind him. The air smells of stagnation.
These are massive issues raised.
“Where’s all our money gone?” will be a familiar cry to Bates, and despite making £3m for Robert Snodgrass, and around £1m on other player sales, the club (who are estimated to have spent £2-3m overall) have literally no money according to Neil Warnock and the YEP.
We said as far back as May that there were money-troubles at Leeds, we showed that the club only makes profit through player sales, while the Leeds United Supporters Trust in a public meeting in June revealed that financial experts had looked at the books and came to the conclusion the club could be – and probably were – in significant cash-flow difficulties. A lot of businesses are profitable, this is the key thing to remember. What pushes many into administration is the lack of money to pay debts at any one point in time. This is the scenario that we believe Leeds is in. And this scenario is backed up all the way by the revelation that the potential buyers, whose agents were pictured at the Wolves game, scarves in hand, have been funding Leeds through the off-season. It certainly sheds light on why Snodgrass said he’d been given assurances last season, that hadn’t materialised, and that he couldn’t trust the club anymore. In fact, it’s easy to forget that several players complained to the L.U.S.T. about their frustration at the situation the club was in, in June. We believe that at least one has since been moved on.
Our signings might well be down to the buyers, not Bates. He couldn’t even afford that paper-thin squad we’ve got. This might make us think back to the Peltier deal of which Warnock declared he didn’t expect the deal could be done, and was quite surprised that it was done. Indeed, at a time when Leeds were able to afford Jason Pearce and then were beaten to the signing of the talented 22-year-old Joel Ward by Crystal Palace solely because Leeds lacked the funds to complete the deal, fans could be forgiven for wondering if any of our signings have been afforded by Bates rather than Middle-Eastern charity, and whether the £3m sale of Robert Snodgrass has not, in fact, been reinvested at all but was necessary for the paying off of the ludicrous levels of debt Ken Bates has once again run up at a football club. After all, a club already facing cash-flow issues must find that £3-4m legal bill over the Levi case awfully heavy, and £3m for Robert Snodgrass would, you would think, go a long way to easing that weight.
And so we are here, now, with 6 days left to complete the takeover if we want any chance of expanding a squad that our own manager says there is not a cat in hell’s chance of making the playoffs with over the 46 game season. We’ve already lost Green, who had looked good, and have been forced to pull Danny Pugh from the transfer list as backup. Neil Warnock has been forced into playing virtually unchanged sides on Saturday-Tuesday back-to-backs and has we have been turned over by Blackpool. There’s no shame in that, Blackpool are a great side, but the performance rang alarm-bells. Not only is a manager famously unconvinced by the loan-market pinning his hopes this season on loaning Premier League exiles in September (Danny Pugh was one such exile last season), but he has complained that his front-four probably can’t give him 100% on Saturday-Tuesday matches and has said he will have to rotate whether he likes it or not for the next one. Thankfully the next Tuesday match is against Oxford.
Rumour has it even Shaun Harvey has had enough. Bates has apparently taken a separate legal team to the club for this deal. All three sets of lawyers (his, the club’s, plus the buyers’) apparently advise him to sign this indemnity agreement, yet he still isn’t signing. Harvey has even met the L.U.S.T. to talk about stewarding issues and been photographed with chairman Gary Cooper. If I’d said a few months ago Shaun Harvey and Gary Cooper would be pictured together smiling, I’d probably not be taken very seriously. There’s a wall of noise, as Phil Hay says, telling Bates to do the deal. The club’s official statement insisted they are only going to sell in the best interests of the club. Yet the best interests of a financially unstable club, losing its customers and facing the end of the transfer window with a depleted squad, are to be taken over by owners who are serious enough to have personally funded the club through the financially difficult off-season. Based on the leaks we fans receive, the negotiations that are going on now are purely for Ken Bates’ personal gain in my opinion.
So we end up where we begun. A team incapable of playing two matches in one week, and now so small a squad that you can’t rotate anyway. A manager asking the Youth Team Coach if there’s anybody at all who could fill the void on the subs bench, looking to loans after his “irons in the fire” melted, upset “sick-pots”, plummeting crowds (our largest income-source) and a negative and faltering start to the season. It didn’t have to be like this; our potential buyers have loaned money to a club that is in financial difficulties and struggles to get any sort of loan from banks even today. The terms of the sale has even been agreed in principle for quite a while. Fans have been falling over themselves to back Warnock’s team. But there’s one thing consistent in all this heartache and the broken dreams of tens of thousands: Kenneth William Bates.
*My understanding of an indemnity clause is that it is a guarantee by the seller that the buyers haven’t missed any skeletons in the closet. Therefore, if they have, he will have to pay. Insurance can be taken out for this, but like with other kinds of insurance, some people will be blacklisted by insurance companies.