Leeds' Thorp Arch Academy

Regardless of how much Ken Bates tries to paint a rosy picture of a sound financial future for LUFC, there’s still an elephant in the room that never seems to be mentioned whenever Ken Bates hails himself as the “saviour of Leeds United” and tells how he single-handedly came in on the back of his blue horse to slash a path through greedy creditors and rescue Leeds United from extinction – failing to recognise he was the only person who ever threatened LUFC with such a fate.

The promises that Elland Road and Thorp Arch would be bought back as a matter of priority when the current owners took charge six years ago still haven’t been delivered. A couple of shiny new bars and some “state-of-the-art” conference facilities have been patched onto the side of the ground and 700 seats miraculously vanished, but our ground and training facilities are still in the hands of third parties, to whom Leeds United continue to pay extortionate rental rates – which are in turn used to justify extortionate ticket prices – to use the facilities our dedicated support paid for in the first place.

Despite Ken Bates’ insistence that Leeds United are running smoothly and operate on a sound financial footing, our club once again went cap-in-hand to the Leeds City Council to try and raise funds for the redevelopment of Elland Road. The funding they seek however, won’t be used to repurchase the stadium and free ourselves from the huge rental bill Ken likes to blame for everything he can, but instead, we will be using any funds the council may approve to increase the size of the ground and stick retail and hotel facilities on the side of it.

Maybe it’s just me that likes to look at these things as being entirely black and white, but surely repurchasing the stadium and then saving the extra income we’re not wasting on rent to improve the facilities would be a much wiser long-term plan? After all, the last thing Beeston needs is a four-star hotel.

If that wasn’t enough to leave you slightly concerned about the priorities of our current ownership, then point your browsers in the direction of the new Square Ball blog and today’s revelation that Thorp Arch has fallen into such a state of disrepair that instead of the club repurchasing what they were describing as “world-class facilities” only a few months back, they will instead abandon Howard Wilkinson’s legacy and start afresh somewhere else.

Since losing the battle to repurchase Thorp Arch on favourable terms, it seems that any hope Leeds United had of reclaiming our training facilities have since dissipated. Rather than accept the ownership failed the club massively, the excuse has been spun to what the club hoped would be a much more palatable explanation. They expected us gullible supporters to believe our training facilities went from world-class to out-dated and sub-standard all in the space of a few months.

The overwhelming concern from my point of view is that the club is getting ahead of itself and failing to build the solid foundation every successful club has beneath them. Take away the playing staff, and ask yourself what assets Leeds United AFC currently has that could be used to prevent future financial collapses? Assets that most clubs use to secure loans that are used for redevelopment and expansion?

Rather than secure a loan against the repurchase of Elland Road and Thorp Arch, the club is instead ignoring the fact we own neither of them and focusing on extending and increasing the value of other people’s properties. It’s like building a conservatory on the side of your semi-detached council house.

It’s time the club started to look at the bigger picture. 50,000 seats and a hotel are the last things Leeds United AFC need until A) we own the ground they’re expanding upon and B) we’re playing in a League where 50,000 seats will actually be needed. It’s also time the club stopped fobbing the supporters off with spun-out excuses, because they fear we’re unable to handle the truth.