The Mangle: Running the asylum Gary January 8, 2012 The Mangle 13 Comments By the fans, for the fans. The ultimate dream, right? Right? With the fans at the helm, there could be no danger of the hidden agendas, the ignoring of the need for a competent playing staff, or the breakdown of democratic debate at the club that have seemingly been the norm in recent memory. Ah yes, the idea sits well. Theoretically. It’s worked for some, and will probably work for more as greater numbers of clubs disband, reform or else simply seek more radical business models when the football world order morphs increasingly towards Sheikh/ Oligarch, debt/ fingers crossed, or every man for himself. AFC Wimbledon, Exeter, FC United et al have succeeded in pulling off fan ownership – but they’re AFC Wimbledon, Exeter and FC United. No club of our much-vaunted ‘massive fanbase’ has succeeded in bringing about this governance model in the UK – though there are hopeful examples abroad, often aided and abetted by rules encouraging at least part-member ownership as essential rather than somewhat freakish. But let’s get the basics out of the way first: making LUFC into a fan-run concern would be a logistical hell-hole of epic proportion. Discounting what kind of decision-making model would have to be concocted to avoid a club of our size slowing down to a stop, the aftermath of administrators, mega-debt, lost assets and bits and pieces stored in offshore havens ain’t gonna be a tidy linear narrative to straighten out. And of course there could absolutely no danger that us in charge could end up being worse than what we had before, no danger at all… Hang on. When a group of people collectively run a business, they theoretically take on the liabilities of the citizen. It should therefore follow that the group should have a suitable psychological profile for the job. For all our positive qualities – gallows humour, loyalty, single-minded belligerence to name but a few – the logical conclusion after weighing things up objectively against the bad stuff that we embody would be that we’re probably, overall, a bit of a collective basket case. The Overwhelming pessimism, tendency to knock our own, urge to compare everything to an age of milk and honey around 40 years or so ago and lack of self-awareness for starters. And that’s without touching on the rabid persecution complex. If we’re truly honest, would we, as a group, pass the fit and proper person test? I’m not even sure we could be classed as responsible adults anymore. We’ve been infantilised by years of torment. It’s very possible that we enjoy having pantomime villains to blame too much. The Ridsdale, Krasner and Bates eras have moulded us into righteous finger-pointers. Living and dying by the sword sounds like a beautiful world of accountability never seen before in South Leeds, but on our own collective sword? That could prick a few egos rather horrifically. After years of witnessing what we perceive as the mis-running of our club, I can’t help feeling there’s been monsters made of us all – a mass of megalomaniacs knowing exactly what they’d be doing better, and not willing to compromise when they realise that better isn’t the same better that everyone else envisaged. What’s more, I’m not sure any of us even know what kind of Kafka-esque nightmare we’d be letting ourselves in for once the doors were flung asunder. Hexes, voodoo traditions, creative accounting, alleged player nervous breakdowns and real-life managerial bonkbusters – there’s forever a sense of ‘not quite right’ at Leeds. It’s fair to surmise that having full behind the scenes access could scar us; recoiling horrified by what we’d inherited with all our good intentions. The simple retort to all this rampant hypothesising is that it isn’t at all in line with what the majority of Leeds fans want. Probably right. Most probably aren’t seeking the grind of taking a stake, attending meetings, casting votes, putting more than the cost of a season ticket into the club. They just want to watch a decent outfit do the colours proud – something to hope for every weekend, at least. So what do most folk want in terms of ownership? At an educated guess, probably a rich, but not super-rich, long-term fan of the club who can do fan-to-fan empathy, someone who is willing to put their hand in their pocket when they can patently see that improvements are needed on the pitch. Of course we’ve had plenty characters promise these qualities – the same characters oft winding up in grave corporate litigation years later. Maybe the only hope we’d ever have had for a successful fan-run outfit representing the city would’ve been at the absolute bottom of the pile, if LUFC as we know it had ceased to exist. But he saved us, don’t we all know, so now we’re all left a bit unsure of what a successful or even feasible model to run the club would look like from this stable but somewhat vague viewpoint. Since there’s no sign of any Bates buy-out collection tins being passed round, or barricades being erected in the West Stand car park for an armed coup attempt, anyone know what Mr Sainsbury of Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Mubarak Al-Khalifaup to these days?