In the latest cost-cutting move by owner Massimo Cellino, Leeds United players will now have to purchase gym-membership style passes in order to be able to use the club’s training facilities, reports the Mirror. This radical measure has been taken in addition to previously announced steps whereby the players have to bring their own packed lunches to training, and pay for the privilege of hand-washing their own kit, using a washboard and a mangle, “just like-a Grandmama used to have”.
According to the Mirror, the training fees are likely to be at the higher end as compared to well-known health clubs such as LA Fitness or Nuffield – but the club owner feels that a premium price is appropriate as several of his players are earning quite high wages, some of them well into four figures. The innovation has been coolly received by some of United’s top profile stars, many of whom are now considering their contractual positions with the club – with the possibility even of opting out of the training aspect altogether.
Goalkeeper Paddy Kenny, no longer a first team regular towards the end of last season, is one who has decided that, if he has to pay, he’ll simply not train. “It just doesn’t feel right to me,” the former QPR custodian was quoted as saying, through a mouthful of chips. “Surely, it’s the responsibility of the club to get us fit and keep us in match trim? Luckily, I’m a naturally fit sort of guy anyway and I don’t need all this intensive pre-season stuff. Besides, training just makes me tired.” Elsewhere in the squad, the idea of charges to train have been enough to convince one prospective signing that he should take the desperate option of a move to Ipswich instead.
Future measures communicated to the Mirror include a requirement that the match-day squad will have to hire Elland Road in order to fulfil home fixtures. Again, a parallel with real life is being drawn, and it is being pointed out by the club that no sports centre would simply allow use of its five-a-side hall for nothing, nor yet of its all-weather or grass pitches outside. “Times are hard, and sporting institutions have to make ends meet. Thorp Arch and Elland Road are world-class facilities, and the players have used them gratis for far too long. We have to make respect, my friend,” said a club insider who wished to be identified only as “Big Mass”, in order to preserve his incognito status. This is thought to be a reference, however, to either Signor Cellino, or the nickname for Paddy Kenny himself.
It is thought that all charges incurred by players for using the club’s facilities will, in the first instance, be deducted directly from their salaries. As and when a review of the archaic practice of actually paying the players is conducted, this too may have to be re-thought.
Leeds United are due to open their league programme at Millwall on August 9th (kick-off 3pm as well as a few outbreaks earlier in the day). Cut-price coach travel to the New Den, complete with an overnight stopover and breakfast, is being offered to the first team squad at an unbeatable £399.99 a head. It’s onwards and upwards to a new era at Elland Road.