Corporate Clowns Fighting Over Leeds United as Fans Suffer – by Rob Atkinson


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The interested parties

Finally, the silence has been broken – what we have been waiting for in terms of hard information, or at least a statement from one of the main protagonists, has at last come to light.  It’s a breaking of the impasse – but not in a good way.  What we have heard is an unedifying tale of wrangles over the terms of an agreement apparently struck last November.  It seems that the Flowers/Haigh/Un-named Others “Sport Capital” consortium found something, or maybe several things, not to their liking after the initial agreement for the sale of 75% of the GFH holding.  Various elements, it is said, were “not as originally described”.  Sport Capital therefore made a “revised” (i.e. lower) offer, which GFH have turned down, seemingly preferring to listen to other suitors, with a certain Italian prominent among the names being noised about.

In other words, it’s a mess.  In fact “mess” is really far too kind a way of describing the utter shambles, the embarrassing pantomime, that has been this takeover so far.  Quite apart from the humiliating spectacle of watching our great club being fought over by a bunch of incompetents, there are a few odd matters arising out of all this.  Not the least of these is the Sport Capital statement “We were fully justified in revising our bid because a number of things have come to light which were not as originally described“.  Now that does seem bizarre, because – let’s not forget – the Sport Capital Consortium and the existing GFH ownership have David Haigh in common.  So if Sport Capital have uncovered something nasty about the club, something that would justify a reduction of the offer which closed the original agreement – then why and how wasn’t Haigh aware of this before?  He was, after all, a senior figure in the running of the club this past year.  Even Andrew Flowers, big wheel in the club’s main sponsors Enterprise Insurance, should have had some level of knowledge.  There’s a rotten smell here, somewhere.

It’s a little odd too that Sport Capital, having (as some might say) reneged on the terms of the original agreement, are now accusing GFH of “breaching their covenant” in talking to other interested parties.  GFH are also accused of breaching their covenant with the fans – whatever that means – but it’s unlikely after today’s revelations that those fans will be confining any expressions of displeasure to GFH alone.  To the fan in the street, sick to death of being messed around by a series of chancers playing fast and loose with Leeds United – an institution of the English game, by the way – it would appear that all parties concerned are conspiring to make of our club a laughing-stock, an embarrassing soap-opera which does little but heap shame and humiliation on the heads of its loyal and fanatical supporters.

It’s difficult to take sides on the little information available, even since Flowers decided to speak out.  But the impression that goal-posts have been moved is not easy to avoid.  Flowers also said  “This boils down to much more than money but GFH have chosen to ignore that”.  But isn’t that slightly disingenuous?  To the selling party, it’s always going to be mainly about the money, surely?  Even though GFH were intending to retain a 10% stake, they will still have an interest in realising what they can for the chunk of the club they’re selling.  For Sport Capital to reduce their offer – and then cry foul and scramble for the moral high ground when the sellers refuse to lower the price – seems, to say the least, a little naïve.  And after all – if it boils down to much more than money – why have Sport Capital reduced their financial offer after an agreement had been reached?  There is much more here than meets the eye, much that we still don’t know on the basis of Flowers’ statement which – let’s face it – is only going to represent a one-sided point of view.  So when he, and Haigh, dismiss rival bids as being bad for the club and the fans – can we really trust their objectivity in a matter where they indisputably have a vested interest?

Meanwhile, hard on the heels of this new storm, Brian McDermott has had the task of trying to field a team that will stop the on-field rot by getting a result at Elland Road against Ipswich.  To say that the prevailing circumstances are not conducive to team preparation is a masterly feat of understatement.  I will try to raise the enthusiasm to write something about the Ipswich game later, but it’s hardly my prime concern right now and I freely admit that.

McDermott has been looking and sounding distinctly glum this past day or so, and all you can feel for the guy is deep sympathy – the sympathy you’d feel for any professional trying to do his job hamstrung and hindered by the manoeuvres of the crass amateurs in the chain of command above him.  Brian wants the matter swiftly concluded and, he emphasises, in the best interests of the club.  Give the guy an award for common-sense, a quality notably lacking elsewhere in what’s going on.  Reading between the lines, you can tell that Brian is half-expecting to be a casualty of whatever outcome we eventually get.  But he’s got his head down, doing his best in a difficult situation and he deserves the support of every true Leeds fan for as long as he’s at the club.

You honestly wonder how much more the fantastic fans of Leeds United are prepared to take.  If you got a couple of the more cynical type of satirical sitcom writers together, and asked them to pen a series about a football club setting out its stall to take the mickey out of its large and loyal fan-base, then they wouldn’t even be able to imagine or approach the farcical reality that now confronts us.  We deserve a lot better than this; but it’s a situation that has gone on now, with a few changes in the principal cast, for quite a few years.  In this time, we have seen clubs that suffered alongside us in the bowels of League One go on to comparatively great things.  Southampton, Swansea – even Norwich.  For heavens’ sake, Norwich have managed to prosper with three-quarters of our League One midfield and our top-scorer of last season warming the bench.  Reality would be funny if it wasn’t so utterly sickening.  For many, of course – the sad acts out there whose chief pleasure is to see Leeds United wounded and suffering – it is funny, in fact it’s riotously amusing.  And this all adds to the depression and misery for our fans, people who live and breathe Leeds United, people though who seem to be the least significant factor in the thinking of those who are wrangling over a great club.

It has to stop, and stop soon.  Clearly, this transfer window – despite the lies we were told last month and for most of this – is not going to be of any real help to us, and therefore this season is yet another write-off.  The only realistic aim now is to make sure we stay in this league, hoping that the ownership issue can be sorted out to leave us with a regime that can support the club’s immense potential and the fans’ justifiably sky-high ambitions.

That should be the bottom line, but right now it appears nothing more than a pipe-dream.  The clowns fighting over Leeds do not deserve any more of our faith or patience.  They don’t deserve to be associated with such magnificent support.  So step aside, clowns – and let’s have somebody in who knows their football, loves the club and has the will, imagination and financial muscle to take us forward.

There must be somebody like that out there, surely.

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25 responses to “Corporate Clowns Fighting Over Leeds United as Fans Suffer – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Well as you can see i’m not there tonight. I’m convinced that if we stay away,gfh shares will plummet. It’s the only way to do it. They’re so out of touch it’s unreal,a pint of muck(fosters or john smiths) and a pie for “JUST” a fiver? Hardly an enticement,they’re showing excactly the same needy desperation as bates did. Liars,cheats and wankers.

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  2. Guess this means a deal has been struck with someone else as I get the feeling Haigh and co were holding out in a last ditch hope to still take over, hence being quiet throughout so much speculation with the Italian.

    Can’t help think he met Haigh and thought, muppet’s or Muppeto’s however it’s spelt and decided to go in dIrectly to GFH. If he has indeed made a bid.

    I half expect an imminent announcement on an actual takeover now I have seen the way they have come out kicking up a fuss. Let’s hope it is and works out for the best of LUFC.

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    • Agreed, Flowers wouldn’t come out and slate GFH unless their bid was shot to hell…… Looks like the insane Italian will be the new manager and Leeds will become an Italian colony overnight

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  3. I can’t remember a time when I felt more disengaged from the club. I almost don’t care anymore, and after over 50 years, that’s well scary.

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  4. Great post and well put.Its a sham really when a consortium agrees a price and has had time(november)to dig deep.seems to me they dont have the backing leeds fans had hoped.they even groveled to the italian for help.no the buck stops with sports capital.either pay up or get out of dodge.

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  5. ropey wyla

    well said, your articles are fastly becoming the only ones worth reading. One has to wonder what it was that made sports lack of capital drop their offer? Brinkmanship or another nasty financial issue perhaps?

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  6. The statement is put out to rile the supporters into taking action with their feet to put pressure on GFH.we did that already.the team is suffering why should they suffer anymore we have to stand by the team..our manager and the staff.MOT

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  7. they think so low of us to bribe us with a pie and a pint, this is the respect they have for the supporter

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  8. Grenville Hair

    December 1973 my first game – they’ll bury me a Leeds fan. But there has to come a point where one accepts we are just a plaything for asset strippers and embezzlers. Haigh has well and truly shot his bolt – but what did one expect? He works in a private equity house – churn and earn – and there’s never been any convincing evidence he’s a Leeds fan at all. Enterprise Insurance, Cellino? Where’s the money Rob? Where’s the £30m that will get us out of this terrible league (i can’t believe there are 12 teams worse than us by the way – never in the 1980s did we field players of Sunday League standard.)
    Ten years this has been going on. We are reverting to what we were before Revie: a nothing club making up the numbers. A whole generation has passed us by. big club with lots of fans? Time is running out now.

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  9. Reality Cheque

    Really feel for Brian Mac. His visionary model of success which as its foundation required everyone to be unified and to be moving in the same direction is now in absolute tatters with our current and all prospective owners pulling in opposite directions. A tug of war in fact but not involving a rope but a wallet containing OUR football club with its fantastic history, amazing support and potential. It appears that none of these idiots have anything approaching the financial clout required to fund even basic team strengthening let alone the re-purchase of ER and TA. Flowers’ statement is by no means a revelation it simple confirms pretty much all of our suspicions regarding this endless takeover fiasco. I think it boils down to absolute selfish GREED!!! on their part, indeed, football isn’t even secondary it’s purely about making as much money out of our supporters as quickly as possible. I would not seek to influence anyone else but I will not be attending games or buying merchandise again until there is a monumental shift in the attitude toward us and investment in our club by any owners. Good luck to you Brian and all your staff-hope you can keep focused on football and bring some joy to any die-hard supporters who choose to keep funding these cowboys.

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  10. Whiterhino

    We think we’ve seen it all: it can’t get worse, even more embarrassing, foolhardy and down right amateurish…….and then it does?
    I actually use my Leeds Utd induced depression as a badge of honour now – far be it from quoting our former glories, I instead wallow in self deprecation ” your not nearly as bad as us mate” I rant at acquaintances who follow other clubs and “you’ve no idea!?” to the ones amongst us with well run, ambitious, successful clubs to follow.
    Hardly worth patting myself on the back for my observation,but,alas I’m absolutely right!
    I feel a million miles from Leeds Utd tonight.

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    • You are right, and such a state of mind, induced by what has in the past been such a source of pride and glory, is a bitterly damning indictment of those who have controlled our club since it all went tits-up at the turn of the century. So this is where we are now, and this is how we feel. But we have to hope there is a saviour out there somewhere, someone who’s not just looking to make a name and a fast buck. Other clubs find these people and, all false modesty aside, we are not just another club.

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  11. What is going on? I keep expecting to see our board to appear on Jeremy Kyle. Our club is fast becoming some unloved bastardised love child. We need help & fast. Lord knows what the hell is happening with this Italian trickster? I am really starting to fear the worst. Even Varney is preparing to jump ship 🙂 BM is starting to resemble the proverbial deer in the headlights. Help!

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  12. Well maybe there was something nasty that Bates got away with. If so, Haigh must have known about it or is it just clever clogs brinkmanship gone wrong.
    McDermott sounded very down tonight, but I have to question some of his team selection this evening and it is obvious the uncertainty has spread to the management and players.
    Well Rob, we have all wondered for years why the right person or people have not bought the club. I can only think the big money is in Asia, Russia and the Middle East and these guys just don’t understand the potential of this Club being outside the worldwide viewed Premiership. If we can’t have an owner with serious money to invest then we might as well stay as we are and grind our way out of this division.

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  13. john palmer

    good read Rob but ithink you are being rather kind to Brian,All this take over squabble shouldn’t be an excuse for terrible signings and selections of crap above better players.Ilike the guy but as a manager ? look forward to reading the next news( and the Huddersfield game),credit to you to find the time and enthusiasm to keep writing,

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  14. Rob, there IS a “saviour out there somewhere, someone who’s not just looking to make a name and a fast buck”. In fact there’s probably hundreds of thousands of them, across the globe.
    I’m not saying I could organise a fan-participation share/ownership scheme, or even know where to start, but these ownership models are tried and tested at no less than Barcelona, Bayern Munich in fact all Bundesliga clubs I believe. Somebody somewhere must know what’s required to get these things off the ground.
    Something needs to be done to keep majority control of Leeds United with the fans, rather than the next thief or smarmy conman that wanders along.
    We’ve all had enough.

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  15. No deal and no new signings…excuse me, but what else was anyone really expecting?!! Season over

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  16. Steve.Trebert

    So true. I live in hope

    Sent from my Windows Phone ________________________________

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  17. Kevin Wilson

    Great (if not depressing) article as usual Rob, BUT does anyone know what the Football League’s ‘fit and proper person’ test actually consists of? Granted if Bates can pass it then anyone can but surely Mr Haigh and his chums should at least be alerting them to The Italians criminal record of fraud and embezzlement on Sardinia? Finally, is your picture of the fighting clowns copyright? I’d like to nick it for my Facebook page!

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    • The FAPP test needs nailing down right enough. But looking beyond all of the rumours of Cellino’s shady activities, he did OK for a small club in Cagliari over an extended period, establishing them in Serie A after a previously poor spell. The turnover in coaches does concern me though. You need stability to succeed in English football.

      As for the clowns image, I just took it off a Google image search. Nick away and welcome – just mention the blog if you would be so kind! #LLUUE

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  18. Pingback: Leeds Boss McDermott a Welcome Beacon in the Fans’ Gloom – by Rob Atkinson | Life, Leeds United, The Universe & Everything

  19. Your point about Norwich just highlights how bad Grayson was and you see him as a hero.

    The fans have to take as much responsibility as anyone. They bought into Grayson and have bought into McDermott.

    If 30,000 people turn up and sing the manager’s name then they are endorsing what’s happening at the club.

    McDermott isn’t a manager with a great track record for us who is being hampered by new owners. He is the choice of owners, just like Grayson was.

    A lot of the problems are of McDermott’s own making. You may have to drive down a bumpy road, but you don’t have to reverse down it.

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  20. john palmer

    \agree with BMD but Grayson was a top manager here and on brink of prom. again

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