It was back in 1997 when Ken Bates was still in charge of Chelsea that he first decided Supporter’s Club were an unnecessary nuisance. The fact that some fans chose to join the societies that have for decades provided an independent voice for the fans, over Ken Bates’ own initiative – a paid membership scheme of the club – you could argue was the primary source of his hatred.

In order to discredit the independent alternative of his paid membership scheme, Ken Bates set about destroying the reputation of the CISA (Chelsea Independent Supporters Association).

Not dissimilar to the Ken Bates we know today, hypocrisy was never a particular concern of his. First he questioned where the money from this unofficial club went, ignoring the fact no one knew where the £700k a year from Chelsea’s supporters club went before using the club’s media arm against the smaller and less well-funded CISA to manipulate the rest of fans and systematically turn them against the CISA by branding them cowards and raising totally unfounded accusations against them.

Propaganda is a powerful thing, something Ken Bates knows only too well. It didn’t matter that the CISA held a yearly board meeting where there accounts were the primary discussion. It didn’t matter that they hadn’t been afforded the opportunity to respond. All that mattered was that Ken Bates had brought their existence into question. How supporters chose to interpret that information was down to them, Bates would argue, knowing only too well that the mere suggestion of wrong-doing was enough to discredit them and harm their organisation.

Clever stuff from the Bates regime. The media rarely got into battles with Bates because (like The Guardian at Elland Road) he’d just ban them from the stadium and deny them any access to the players and club. Any news and information required from the club came directly through Ken Bates, so manipulating the press wasn’t difficult. Who was going to defend a small supporters club and risk a total ban on coverage from one of England’s most famous clubs? In short, no one was.

Almost 15 years later and Bates is still at war with those that try and offer supporters an alternative to his membership scheme. This time, his target is the Leeds United Supporters Club (LUSC), an organisation that has spoken on behalf of it’s members – the Leeds United fans – offering them an independent voice for many years now. Long before the day Ken Bates’ regime rolled into town.

The tactics haven’t changed much. He questions the existence of the club, and the profitability of The Peacock Pub they bought opposite Elland Road. He compares the profits made by the Peacock to those of Billy’s Bar, failing to mention that The Peacock is run by and for the fans and whose business model doesn’t involve extorting ridiculous sums of money from us for the inferior product sold within Elland Road.

Describing the Supporter’s Club as ‘a somewhat anonymous organisation’ (much like Forward Sports Fund as MoscoWhite acutely added) he attempts to undermine them further by saying he’s seen little evidence of their support of the club despite the claims they’ve made. This would be the same Supporter’s Club that tried to build inroads into Bates-led Elland Road only to have the door slammed in their face by his Lordship.

Yep, fourteen years on and nothing has changed with Ken Bates.

Luckily for Leeds United fans, some things have changed since 1997. For one, The Square Ball Mag costing just £1 offers an alternative to Bates’ propaganda in the Official Matchday programme, and whilst Ken Bates may control the official channels of news from Elland Road (Yorkshire Radio, The Official Site, The YEP who rarely challenge him), the internet has provided us with the opportunity to speak for ourselves.

Since Bates took over at Elland Road, the choice of Independent Leeds United sites has grown massively. And whilst none of the mainstream media will dare to cross swords with Mr. Chairman by standing up for LUSC, we most certainly will.

Whilst Ken Bates’ regime may have been a success in some areas, his attempts to make the voice of Leeds United an inconsistent, mumbling cockney is not one of them. Organisations like the LUSC represent the average fan like you and me, offering an approachable source of opinion to the wider, national media. When the fans were concerned about the downfall of our club, it was the LUSC who these media outlets approached for reaction. In turn, they serve to offer the collective views and concerns of the fans and ensure our fears are heard.

They do other things too, like arrange matchday travel for those living further afield and provide facilities for their members in close proximity to Elland Road.

But for me, the real importance of these independent associations is the collective voice they offer. I don’t want a Ken Bates led Members Club to filter through the fans concerns and display the ones that he feels present him in the best light. I want the big issues, where a majority of fans share similar concerns to be raised by an organisation that won’t filter the headlines to ensure their own agenda isn’t adversely affected.

The LUSC isn’t perfect, nor does it claim to be. A Supporter’s Club is only as strong as it’s members, and if there’s something you don’t like then sign-up, step up and use the organisation to ensure your concerns are heard. Don’t mistake the Ken Bates Members Club for anything close to the valuable service LUSC offers. It’s nothing more than a gimmick set-up to charge you extra for the privilege of booking tickets. A loyalty scheme would have worked perfectly well, but those things reward loyalty rather than accumulate money, meaning Bates wasn’t interested.