Which was not as R-rated as you might imagine, though Gary Cooper’s eyes did light up momentarily at the mention of custard. The Leeds United Supporters Trust held another meeting on Wednesday evening and ended up discussing (predictably) mostly the proposed takeover of Leeds United. LUST revealed some basic information about the interested parties they have spoken to, explained their decision to agree to pass on players’ disillusionment to the fans, and updated members on the various legal proceedings currently leeching Leeds United of money.

 

Brick Walls

LUST were asked when the last time they had had meaningful contact with the Club’s board was. Gary Cooper responded:

The last meaningful contact I had with the Leeds United Board was when Mr Harvey kindly told us he would only sell tickets to whoever he wished to. Other than that, was probably Mr. Bates’ last diatribe about the club where he called us “rude” “ignorant” and… “a camel”. I’m not sure what he meant by that – many people ask! In terms of meaningful, the last meaningful contact I had with Ken Bates was when he called me “an enemy of Leeds United”.

We had an interesting conversation with Peter Lorimer before the last game of the season outside the Pavilion. Mr. Lorimer made an offer to us that he would like to come to one of our meetings and address us all. We wrote to Mr. Lorimer and thanked him very much for his kind offer and openly invited him to any meeting at a time and date of his choosing … he hasn’t answered.

The Trust then went on to mention a conversation with stewards after their “end of season party” in the newly refurbished East Stand:

The debrief the stewards got before the event was that we were all going to be classic hooligans. …We went there made some noise and blew balloons.

One audience member mentioned that the stewards had confiscated one of the Trust’s balloons off his eight year-old son. Presumably, this is not then one of the regular children to phone club-owned Yorkshire Radio and proclaim what a nice man Mr. Bates is!

 

Motives

Gary Cooper gave his personal opinion on Ken Bates’ motives as chairman of Leeds:

I don’t think Ken Bates is in it for the glory of Leeds United. I think Ken Bates is in it for the glory of Ken Bates. And fair play to him – that doesn’t make him right, wrong, left, right up or upside-down.

LUST also drew upon the research of some of their more financially-minded volunteers to echo our own conclusions on the accounts:

You don’t need to be [an expert]: it’s quite clear to see that there are cashflow issues at Leeds United.

A lot of businesses in administration are profitable businesses. One of the biggest killers of businesses are cash-flow problems.

The Trust also mentioned the apparent necessity of a £975,000 loan from Outro Limited (connected to Mr. Bates) to the club to avoid deficit in the 2010-11 accounts. This was in a season the club finished 7th, held outstanding talent very cheaply on the books (Max Gradel, Jonny Howson, Robert Snodgrass, Bradley Johnson, Kasper Schmeichel), and the year before the club embarked on a development project costing over £5m. An audience member noted the coincidence of the sale of Kasper Schmeichel and Max Gradel in the summer after the accounts.

The Supporters Trust then mentioned the loss-making companies owned by Leeds United, for example Yorkshire Radio and the Pavilion. LUST concluded:

The football side of the business is a cash-cow that is funding numerous loss-making businesses.

The football side is funding failing businesses.

 

Vision

LUST’s chair said:

I came across an obscure channel on Sky recently, called Leeds TV. What struck me about the channel representing this city, was the person representing Leeds United was one Jonny Howson. I think that says it all, really.

[Regarding the recent approach from disillusioned players] We wondered should we give the players a voice the same way as the fans, the council and West Yorkshire Police. Should we give them a voice and be criticised? ‘greedy bloody players, stupid bloody board’. We made a judgement call and we stick by it.

We would like to back up the current players with former players and staff … who do not have the worry of a financial penalty.

We felt with potential owners that we would have to show them our mission statement. But a lot of people from a long way away had already read our mission statement, were impressed, and approached us.

The mission statement is a joint piece of work from people who wear that badge on their shirt, on their hearts, etc.

LUST concluded that the mission statement is at the heart of the Supporters Trust and so it must reflect the community which put the statement together. They act according to the wishes expressed by members and will continue to do so.

 

Buyers

The Supporters Trust said that they had spoken to three separate parties regarding investment or takeover of Leeds. They mentioned that there had been firm offers as far back as 2007, which had all been rebuffed by Bates. There were two approaches in February and March of this year by at least two different groups. There are still numerous groups interested in buying Leeds, and all the parties LUST have spoken to appear to be in a better position than Mr. Bates to take the club forward. All the parties LUST spoke to see the repurchase of Elland Road as a priority.

LUST then announced:

When Mr Bates told us there was no money in Yorkshire that wasn’t exactly true. We’ve had some very prominent businessmen and interested parties come from both Leeds and the wider Yorkshire area, as well as groups from all over the world. It’s a best kept secret that Leeds United is a very attractive club and a very attractive brand to buyers.

The one thing each and every person we’ve spoken to has said is that they want to buy Leeds United. They have no interest in working with Mr Bates – that is no criticism of him. But no-one wants to invest money in him. They want invest money to buy the club. Period.

The increasing majority [of LUST members] have said they want to see a change at the top.

 

The Litigation Game

LUST confirmed that they understand that there are two more lawsuits to come. Melvyn Levi will take Bates and Leeds to court again, while Bates (on behalf of Leeds) has decided he wants to sue West Yorkshire Police. The Weston case in Jersey, which “Ken Bates told us was a wonderful victory” is stayed and has been transferred to London High Court, from Jersey. LUST believe Mr Bates probably didn’t want that to happen because different types of evidence can now be used which will probably be more helpful to Weston. These two actions probably spell more financial bad news for Leeds, especially given even successful court cases have still cost Leeds very significant sums in the past.

Meanwhile, The Supporters Trust have had a reply from Ofcom regarding Mr. Bates’ leaking of personal information of LUST board members on the radio (which has parallels to his behaviour against Mr. Levi). Ofcom has made a preliminary decision but LUST are not allowed to disclose the specifics.

Companies House has also taken issue with Leeds’ accounts following ‘remarkable errors’. They have asked Leeds to re-submit the accounts. A set of accurate accounts acknowledged by Companies House will help any due diligence.

You can join the Leeds United Supporters Trust free of charge on their site.

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