Mellowing with age.... As if.

Following the release of the 2010/11 Leeds United ticket prices, there was understandable anger from the fans who felt such a significant increase was unjustifiable for Championship football – especially when a little disclaimer at the bottom explained the ticket prices were subject to change if promoted.

Chatting with myself and Dan from The Square Ball on Twitter, Simon decided to email the club with his frustrations. Knowing that Ken has a tendency to call fans and explain why they’re wrong, we suggested he add his phone number to the bottom of the email just in case he would be the next lucky recipient of a Ken Bates cold-call.

Sure enough, a couple of days later and Simon received a call from Monaco, as he explains here;

Phone Rings Thursday lunchtime, number not known, but I decided to answer it anyway – “Mr Williams?” “Yes I replied”, sort of recognising the voice, then came “Only just got your membership and only been to 2 matches this season?”. Yes you’ve guessed it, our Chairman Ken Bates had decided to give me a call following an email I sent the club on Tuesday regarding the increase in match day and season ticket prices.

With him mentioning my poor attendance this season, it put me straight on the back foot, and as I wasn’t expecting the call, he caught me cold. He started by asking what I did for a living as I’d emailed from my work email address and it had a disclaimer on the bottom, something he complained about as it was a lot of printing (it does state don’t print this unless you really need to…). When I told him what the company I work for did (cash machines, standing orders, direct debits), he complained about them not always working! I could see the way the conversation was about to go.

He then proceeded to tell me about why tickets are the price they are – very expensive club to run, idiots who ran it before selling the ground and Thorp Arch and it costing £100k per match just to rent the two. I asked about expected attendances and suggested making the tickets easier to attract more fans, and ultimately more money, but this he disagreed with stating that they didn’t have an expected attendance per match, which I questioned as this must surely have a bearing on costs and revenue. He also informed me a committee decided on ticket prices and he isn’t on that committee.

We discussed our prices compared to others in the Premier  League, though I was fair enough to concede I knew Arsenal were far more expensive, but that a fair few were a lot cheaper – again dismissed. When discussing match day prices, I did ask why it couldn’t be a figure such as £xx.25, he said others clubs don’t do it and Leeds didn’t want to mess around with pennies!

All the way through the conversation, my attendance was mentioned – if I went to more matches, I’d know what was going on. Every time he said this I referred him to my comments regarding financial and family commitments. To defend myself – I accept not having been many times this season or the last few seasons in fact due to finance, but I’ve attended matches home and away since 1978 and held a season ticket for 15 years. I’m also planning to save the money to get a season ticket again next year, so I think it’s unfair for him to class my as part-time – I’ve served my time!

But back to the call, he did tell me that as of the end of November, against a turnover of £17m we had cleared a profit of £500k, but that Gas, Electricity, Water costs were sky high and Leeds utility bills were massive, I did say, yes so were mine and I had to pay those before I could buy Leeds tickets, but it fell on deaf ears.

As the call was coming to a natural end, I’d stopped replying to his having a go and I think he realised I still disagreed with him, he then said that we should agree to disagree, which I was happy to do, however I did point out that he had been out of order with his comments about my support, and there was no need for him to go on about it. He apologised for offending me, and at that the call ended.

Whilst I thank Ken for taking the time to call,  I came off the call feeling annoyed that he wouldn’t accept any of my comments, views and the way he had dismissed my support. I also felt I should have taken the chance to ask more questions – transfers, ground ownership, hotel etc., but a cold call doesn’t allow for prepared questions.

I think Simon’s final point – that a cold call doesn’t allow for prepared questions – is probably something Ken banks on when deciding he wants to put some supporters in their place.

Regarding the attendances, I find the idea that a business is run without any estimations on future income being factored in absolutely ludicrous. This is the first thing you do at the start of every year, every month and every week (even every day in some cases). It determines everything from the amount of staff you require, to the things you order and so forth. I also seem to recall Ken Bates explaining how the club had budgeted for 25,000 a game earlier in the season – or maybe I just imagine these contradictions?

Overall, this is pretty typical Ken Bates. Opinionated, offensive, direct, stubborn, but somewhat accessible. You have to give him credit for taking the time to call fans about their concerns, but the sheer cheek of searching the club records to see how many games someone has attended before phoning, and then using this as ammunition to have a go is a classic example of why he’ll never be liked.

Thanks to Simon for giving us an insight into the Ken Bates cold-calling phenomena. Anyone wishing to get in touch with Simon or ask any further questions can find him on Twitter @SW_Coach