Leeds Fans Need to Seriously Consider 4 Month Away Games Boycott – by Rob Atkinson


Leeds United's massive away support

Leeds United’s massive away support

This article was originally published on April 8 this year, at a time when Life, Leeds United the Universe & Everything, in common with all other fans and bloggers with the interests of Leeds United at heart, could clearly see that the FL, smarting from defeat in the High Court, remained determined to “get” Massimo Cellino eventually. This was true then and it’s been proven true on Monday, with the League decision once again to disqualify the Italian under its Owners and Directors Rules, the so-called “Fit & Proper Test”.

It remains the case, clearly, that the League see a dubious conviction on some relatively petty import duty transgression as being far more serious and worthy of action than, say, a conviction for rape (Oyston at Blackpool FC), money laundering (Yeung at Birmingham City) or chronic and serial mismanagement of its biggest and most celebrated member club (Ken Bates, Sean Harvey and GFH Capital at Leeds United over the past decade). This incredibly perverse set of priorities serves to characterise an organisation that has unfailingly demonstrated its naked hostility to Leeds United (its premier member club, let’s not forget) and has utterly failed to abide by its implied duty of care to this club and its fans.

The original article, reproduced below, called on various bodies and all fans to consider an away games boycott, effectively hitting other Football League clubs in the pocket and striking at the central financial interests of the League itself. This remains, in my opinion, the best way forward. The idea received a mixed reception at the time and may well do so again; the idea of giving up those beloved away trips is not easy to stomach for some of our hardier fanatics.

But consider: the League has today acted to bar Massimo Cellino, yet this sanction has to be finite, lasting only until March, when the conviction it’s based on will be spent. So now my call is not for an open-ended boycott, but rather a refusal to buy tickets for away games for the duration of this Football League sanction. I believe that this would be feasible and a high-profile way of making a point by a set of fans who normally turn up in their thousands, lining the pockets of the very people who are against us.

The Football League, having lost an appeal against its disqualification of Massimo Cellino in front of an independent QC, are now showing their true colours in the wake of that humiliating defeat.  Rather than personifying dignity and acceptance of the outcome of a judicial process, they hastened to point out that they were “disappointed” and stated they would be considering the judgement. There is no humility, only arrogance.  There is no recognition of the duty of care they have towards their largest member club and its thousands of long-suffering fans – only naked malice and an avowed intent to plunge that club back into the crisis from which it appears to be on the point of emerging.  It amounts to a vendetta.  Two facts above all have emerged from this over-long saga.

  1. The Football League do not have the interests of Leeds United at heart.
  2. Leeds United are too big for the Football League.

Item 1 above is the mildest way of putting what is increasingly obvious – that the League regard the Leeds takeover situation, not as a chance for a famous old club – exercising its own judgement and right to secure a stable future – to get back onto an even keel, but as an opportunity to hammer that club further into the mire. How else to explain the zest with which its lawyers conducted their side of the appeal argument before Tim Kerr QC?  They resorted to trying to discredit the independent Italian legal expert because of a harmless if misguided comment on a social media platform.  Yet, in the same breath, they were relying on the portions of that witness’s evidence which aided their case.  Kerr rightly threw such selective pleading out of the window – but the underlying message was of a determination to deny Leeds United their rich new owner that amounted to vindictiveness and malice.

The background to this attitude is odd, to say the least.  One of the League’s member clubs has as a majority shareholder a convicted rapist.  The son of that unsavoury character sat on the panel which originally decided that Massimo Cellino was not a fit and proper person to act as a football club owner or director.  The irony is immediately apparent, as is the stench of arrogant hypocrisy.  Really, you couldn’t make it up – if you did, it would be dismissed as fanciful.

Any fan of Leeds United, if of long enough standing, will have witnessed examples of the Football League going through back-breaking contortions to make life as difficult as possible for the Whites of Elland Road.  It’s a tradition that dates back to Alan Hardaker and his rabid hatred of Don Revie.  Hardaker is dead now – but the ugly attitude towards Leeds lives on, through the unctuous reptile that is Brian Mawhinney, as he did his worst in 2007, to the present day with Shaun Harvey in charge – the same Harvey who, in cahoots with Ken Bates, did his level best whilst employed at Elland Road to fulfil his master’s 1984 vow to see Leeds and its fans banished, destroyed, erased from existence. Lest we forget: “I shall not rest until Leeds United are kicked out of the football league. Their fans are the scum of the earth, absolute animals and a disgrace. I will do everything in my power to make sure this happens.” So said Ken Bates, and he came pretty close to success – aided by then Leeds CEO and current FL CEO, Shaun Harvey.

A salute to the League

A salute to the League

The fact of the matter is that Leeds United are simply too big and too historically important for an antiquated and inept organisation like the League.  This is, after all,  a body that embraces failure and the presence of also-rans as core values.  The members of the League are, by definition, clubs who have either failed to stay in the Premier League, or who have never been good enough to get there.  It’s a has-been or never-was League for bit-part players, chorus members.  The stars, the principals in the pantheon of English football, ply their trade outside of the jurisdiction of the FL. At the moment, Leeds United form part of the Football League’s brigade of failures.  The events of the past few months have shown us clearly how vital it is for United to shake the dust of this two-bit organisation from their feet, and move on up.

Meantime, we are necessarily subject to the rules and attitudes of an outfit that has shown itself beyond reasonable doubt as “not fit for purpose”.  Until Leeds can drag themselves out of the Football League quicksand, they will have to fight their own corner as best they can.  As things stand, Massimo Cellino is in – he is the new owner of the club.  He has the wherewithal and the experience and determination to bring success in a higher sphere to Elland Road, whilst at the same time restoring that famous old ground to club ownership and bringing it up to 21st century standards – the same applies to the training complex at Thorp Arch.  These are good and necessary steps for Leeds – and they are initiatives that the League would prefer to see nipped in the bud, as they remain openly determined to oust Cellino if at all possible.

The fans are in a unique position here to have their say and to vote with their feet.  Those fans are rightly famous throughout the country as providing a travelling army of away support which brings atmosphere and vast income to every ground they visit over the course of a season.  Home clubs keep all of their gate receipts these days, so that away support – so vital to our competing clubs – benefits Leeds United only in terms of vocal encouragement.  The clubs in the Championship – and, by extension, the Football League – benefit financially to a great degree, from the loyalty and commitment of the Leeds United away fans.  Now those fans should put club interests before their own, and be prepared to make a significant sacrifice in order to make an unanswerable point to the Football League – who they have propped up with their hard-earned cash since 2004.

For, surely, it is now time to consider a boycott of ALL away games by ALL fans of Leeds United FC.  The only way of influencing such blind, uncaring officialdom as we are up against, is to hit it hard, in the pocket, where it really hurts.  I would now like to join those voices calling for the Leeds United support to do just that – by withdrawing attendance at away games and letting the other clubs and the League bear the brunt of greatly reduced income as a result of such a boycott.  I should like to see Leeds United Football Club, if possible, refusing to take allocations of away tickets for the duration of any such action.  If the Football League wish to act against the best interests of Leeds United – and its fans – then let fire be fought with fire.  It wouldn’t take long for impoverished Championship clubs to start squealing and complaining to Shaun Harvey and his corrupt crew, as they see their income plunge without that Leeds United pay-day.

Supporters groups such as LUST could be instrumental in backing and organising an initiative such as this.  It seems drastic, and there will be many who would baulk at the removal of one of their lives’ major preoccupations, even if only temporarily.  But those people should ask themselves: why do we have to settle for such unremittingly harsh and malicious treatment from the Football League and its member clubs – think back to the self-interested clubs vote that confirmed the 15 point deduction before the start of 2007/08 – and yet continue to line the pockets of those club and the tin pot League to which they belong?  Why should Leeds United tolerate this situation any longer?  Drastic situation call for drastic measures.  It’s time to fight back.

I should like to see, initially, at least some wider debate about the merits and demerits of an away games boycott.  I’m sure it’s an argument that would rage hot and heavy.  But I believe, at this stage, that such a boycott is our one good chance of having our say and of the powers that be simply having to listen.  The alternative is that they will smile smugly at any peeps of protest, and carry on regardless in their business of keeping Leeds in crisis – to the approval of their rapist and embezzling cronies in Championship boardrooms who continue to be regarded as fit and proper against all justice and logic.

I’d like to call upon LUST, and the MPs of Leeds constituencies, to take up cudgels against the treatment being meted out to Leeds United by the incompetents at the League.  They should be putting the question – why should a football club, alienated and ostracised by the League of its current membership, continue to contribute so massively to the financial well-being of that League?  I believe it’s time to call a halt.  The gloves are off now; if the League want to batter us, then let’s batter them right back.

That’s my say.  What do the Leeds United fans out there think? 

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114 responses to “Leeds Fans Need to Seriously Consider 4 Month Away Games Boycott – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Hi Rob
    Watching from Sydney (but a lifelong supporter dating back to 1969), the stench of hypocrisy from the FL really is something to behold.
    Simply from a governance perspective, any organisations with pretensions of credibility would wish to ensure that there is absolute consistency in how it discharges its responsibilities. As with law, justice must be seen to be done.
    On top of that, the irony of seeking a ban when that very same ban has a relatively short window. To paraphrase, “Why bother?”
    It is very hard to see any other motivation behind the decision beyond pure vindictiveness – borne out of the frustration that they couldn’t nail Cellino previously through due legal process.
    Holding the moral high ground is one thing, and can be easily ignored. Squeezing the jugular of the most important away income stream in the FL is likely to be more effective. And for me, it’s all about what is likely to be most effective in practical terms.
    Mark

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  2. just read your article, what a fantastic suggestion. I live in Australia so unfortunately can’t join the cause. I have supported Leeds long enough to understand the logic. I took my 12 year old to Watch a home game last year, that was priceless for me to watch him absorb the fantastic supporters! Keep well to all of you……. merry Christmas.

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  3. Another great read Rob and what the vast majority of Leeds fans were thinking on Monday and over the last god knows how many years really where the Football League are concerned. The judgement makes absolutely no sense at all. All it is doing is hurting the football club. If it all goes belly up at Elland Road, what will the Football League do then?

    Regarding a boycott of away games, whilst it is a nice idea, it is one that will never happen. I always believe if you are making a stance it needs to be everyone or no-one at all. As some one who does nearly every away game, fans just wouldn’t give it up and when you think, the opposition are guaranteed the money of around 300 away season ticket holders already. What it would probably do is see a lot of fans infiltrate the home end to make it look like they are not attending the game.
    We have two very high profile away games coming up at Forest and Derby that will both be shown live on Sky. I think these two games are the ideal opportunity to get something across to the Football League. What, I am not sure.

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    • Daz, your right but you should be…….these ideas never got off the ground because someones always got a better one and so it gets diluted………we should just do it, no arguments, no dissecting it….JUST DO IT. BE DECISIVE

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  4. Absolutely agree with you Rob,

    However I would go further and instead of going to away games I’d picket the football league headquarters instead

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  5. wetherby white

    I hope no fans were fooled by the fact that “allegedly” Harvey didn’t vote on this issue. That reptiles hands are all over this, he simply didn’t even have the courage to sign something of his own making.
    Cellino will survive and these fools will look even more foolish again (if that’s possible) Im sure Redfearn and the boys will storm on and no matter what the FL try and do, our day will come very soon.
    Still remember with relish the howling hatred directed at Malwhinney at the play off final against Doncaster, brother lost his voice even before the game started – then sadly the game did start…
    Like your idea of getting local MPs involved. Get them doing something useful for the City for once, something that really matters to the people of Leeds.

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  6. enquiries@football-league.co.uk

    We could always express our opinion directly to the Football league – e-mail address above. would be a shame if they received 30,000 e-mails and their server crashed wouldn’t it…….

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  7. Well I’m doing my own boycott rob. No longer going to buy the MANCHESTER GUARDIAN with the glee at which they’ve engineered / broke / hounded this story.

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  8. I wonder whether MC could hand his share over to LUST as a 4 month bond for a nominal fee of £1 to be handed back at the end of its term for a handsome £2 and a promisary that the GFH share would be offered to all Leeds fans at an agreed share price. The proceeds of this could be used to hire a firm of top barristers and investigators to do a number on the FL (F@@@@@g Leeds I believe it stands for). One can but dream I suppose, at least the b@@@@@@s can’t take that away from us!

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  9. The Leeds fans now have the perfect opportunity to go on tour (away games) with their banners of support for both MC and the team. Boycotting the games will only take away our voice. I would recommend we do exactly the opposite and come out in more strength for away games, 10,000 plus, and show the FL and general public the passion we have and bring this farce to the public attention, week in week out.

    The FA and FL would loves us all to be quiet. Hide away and hopefully not draw attention to the stupidity that they have created.

    We now have the perfect stage to be seen and definitely heard

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    • The clubs who lose 100k a game will become our voice. Or you could sit back and take it, like you probably did with bates………..
      “Well, they always need binmen, they’re crying out for them”

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  10. For once I agree. No away trips, and banners at home games. Flood every radio phone in with calls and protestations, and ban egg whangers from football lads sites so that he can concentrate on marshaling his followers. “Well, they always need bin men, they’re crying out for them”

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  11. Completely agree, I think your blog is the only one that has represented Leeds fans true feelings on this subject. Certainly LUSTS reaction was pathetic

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  12. I don’t understand the reasoning. The FL is hardly going to go bust, despite our impressive away support, which at the end of the day is only a few hundred more on average than the following pack. And back when this blogger was a supporter of Ken Bates, we had an unnofficial boycott at Elland Road which saw average attendances slump from just under 30k to just 21k, including an unsold out playoff semi. The FL didn’t seem to care about that either, and that was an average of 9000 very expensive lost ticket sales a fortnight, not just under 3000.

    Good effort, but I’m unconvinced, and love away games.

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    • This blogger has never been a supporter of Ken Bates, though there was a time when he used to divert himself by winding up certain boneheads on a certain right wing pro-FV website. This blogger remains astonished that said boneheads swallowed such obvious bait together with the hook, the line and the sinker. Perhaps this is consistent with the inability of said boneheads to comprehend the difference between unofficial withdrawal of home support, harming the supporters’ own club only, and an organised, well-aimed campaign to boycott away fixtures, harming the clubs concerned but NOT (in a financial sense) Leeds United. The effect, given sufficient publicity, would be to send a clear message to the League that Leeds fans are not going to take their vendetta against Cellino and United sitting down, and have chosen to implicate other clubs rather than go the self harm route of the unofficial home boycott which targeted Bates and which the League could just blithely ignore.

      Wake up and smell the coffee. It’s time you Neanderthals on the SC Forum grew up and started putting your energies into supporting the club rather than sighing for the childish playground conflicts of the past.

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      • You used to support Ken Bates on WACCOE and defend his ticket prices. I remember you from when I got banned years and years ago!

        But bygones being bygones, I still don’t get the reasoning of this boycott you’re calling for. Those of us who opposed Bates from day 1 and didn’t pay him to take the piss have been vindicated. It didn’t hurt LUFC one iota. But this is about publicity? We’re in the lower reaches of the Championship and would barely be on the radar of the press after a week, let alone 12! And it would remove the best bit about supporting Leeds. And what about those who paid for memberships?

        Sorry you think I’m a neanderthal (a species modern science has a lot more respect for recently by the way :)), I don’t know why you do, but this seems a pretty glum and pointless idea to me.

        How about something more positive? Like a mass show of support? We rarely get decent crowds at ER these days, if we could pack it out for a meaningless fixture the press would have to cover the question “why?”

        Just a thought from my head made of bone

        Cheers

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      • You’re too easily wound up and somewhat gullible – but I’ll freely concede your head isn’t 100% bone. Sadly, positive manifestations of support won’t hack it – it’s simply not news in the way something more militant might be. In my humble, leftie, Bates-loving opinion, that is.

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  13. Just wasted ten minutes of my life sending the following.

    Sir

    As a long standing supporter of Leeds United I note with some interest your recent decision to ban Massimo Cellino from owning the club, applying a disqualification condition which has come to light, I also note that Mr Shaun Harvey abstained having declared an interest.
    I would be interested to know how this can be viewed as anything other than predjudicial as Mr Harvey sat on the board for the original decision, if Mr Harvey had to declare an interest for the second hearing why was this not applied at the first hearing? Mr Harveys “declared interest” was presumably no less valid then than it is now.

    May I bring to your attention the core values which you proudly display on your website:

    COMMUNITY: We are at the heart of 72 communities across England and Wales, and share the pride and heritage of each.

    AUTHENTICITY: We are the world’s original league and retain honest, open and exciting competitions that are about developing home-grown talent.

    PROGRESSION: We are a modern, forward-looking organisation that is always striving to improve the game, our competitions and the experience for fans.

    INCLUSION: We are committed to making the game accessible to people of all backgrounds.

    I am extremely interested in your views around AUTHENTICITY:

    Would it be possible for you to explain to me how you can claim to be “open and honest” when in your statement RE: Mr Cellino you state the following.

    “The Football League will not make any of its contents public”

    Is this your interpretation of open and honest? As a Leeds United supporter I find this approach diametrically opposed to being open and honest.

    It does appear from an observers point of view that the tenacity which your organisation has displayed in regard to Mr Cellino has been sadly lacking when applied to other owners and boards of directors at other members of the Football league, and no less so than again at Leeds United, something Mr Harvey must be only to well aware of. Mr Harvey has been associated with 3 league football clubs, two of which have entered adminstration, one of them twice. Is this really the best that a proffesional organisation can do?

    Mr Harvey stated in The Guardian on the 29th July 2013 the following:

    “I have the very highest regard for the people who run our football clubs and I look forward to working with them, as well as all those with a stake in our game, to deliver a vibrant and sustainable Football League.”

    I think it a reasonable conclusion that a straw poll of Leeds United supporters may take issue with this statement.

    Mr Harveys judgement can be further called into question when relating it to Mr Ken Bates defence of a libel case brough by Mr Melvyn Levi, Mr Harvey confirmed that during his time as Leeds Uniteds chief executive that he was responbible for the notes written in the clubs official matchday programme, he then allowed Mr Bates to libel Mr Levi in print, not once which could be described as unfortunate, but three times. This in addition to 6 broadcasts made by Yorkshire radio intended to “damage” Mr Levi. And further sanctioned radio broacasts aimed at other people associated with Leeds United.

    It is my view that Mr Cellino has the best interests of Leeds United at heart, he appears to be leading the way in clearing up situations of previous owners making, I do not believe that the best interests of Leeds United are served by your boards harrasment of Mr Cellino, as custodians of the game I implore you let Mr Cellino take our club forward, after all should he fail to do so we could not be left in a worst position than that which our last two owners have vacated.

    Kind regards

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    • I think that’s bloody excellent and in no way a waste of your time. It gets a lot of common sense out there in the open – the FL may choose to ignore it, but that’s just an indictment of their supposed openness and transparency as you say.

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  14. An excellent post Rob, I wish I could put my feelings on paper as well as you do. I have sent a non abusive email to the FL, saying that it seems to be more of vendetta and are they that good to be judging another owner. I asked them to leave us in peace so the club can move on. Also that we as supporters realise that Massimo Cellino is far from perfect but he has been the only person to put money into the club.MOT

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  15. Just read Micks post ‘re email to The FL. My pales into insignificance. I suppose that it is better to participate than stand by. Bad things happen while good do nothing, or something like that.

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  16. Nicely put, Mick.
    I would also remind the Football League of Shaun Harvey’s assertion – under oath, before the FA inquiry at Burnley – that he had “no idea” of the identity of Leeds United’s owners.
    Also, I vividly remember Shaun admitting that the vindictive legal actions of Ken Bates had “cost the Club a fortune” he said with a smirk.
    Shaun obviously learned from Ken’s example of how to get someone else to pay for your own criminal activities and petty vendettas.

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  17. Honestly Rob, this Football league decision will have zero effect on the running of Leeds. Cellino will be laughing. He’s been ordered to not be the principal figure in charge of Leeds for the next 3 and a half Months. By the time he’s appealed ( during which presumably it will be busines as usual) and the appeal loses ( probably down to a two Month sentence now). He installs number 1 son as Principal and nothing changes and he’s back in March, business as usual.
    I hate the Football league with a passion however in this case it’s a toothless sentence which a man like Massimo will run rings around. I’m actually not giving up on the season just yet. I think its a well intended gesture to say ‘let’s boycott the away games’ however let’s consider the Teams performance with the lack of support turning up. Why advocate something that may ultimately play an adverse part on our results this season?
    I say we just laugh it all off as I’m sure Cellino is.

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  18. In this situation I suppose the football league will be taking the view that it is easier to keep MC out than get him out, we are naive to think this is their final attempt, conspiracy theorists may offer the opinion that from a vindictive point of view there is no poor destabilisation.

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  19. Great article – here’s my email to FL.

    Dear Sir/Madam,
    As a life long Leeds Utd fan i wish to register my disgust and dismay with the way you are treating Leeds Utd, and the owner Massimo Cellino.
    You have no interest in protecting the club as you claim – if you did wouldn’t have let the previous owner GFH buy the club. How can they pass the fit and proper criteria, yet the owner of a top flight club in Italy fails?
    Cellino has saved the club, he has stabilized the financial side, and pumped his own money into the club [unlike another owner, Ken Bates, who looted the club during his tenure, yet once again passed your biased ‘test’].
    I see previous Leeds Utd associate [and serial football club administration expert] Shaun Harvey [friend and associate of previous owner Ken Bates] disqualified himself from the relevant vote last week – yet until that time did vote and discuss the club – why? Why does he decide he has a previous link now, yet previously felt that years of previous ‘associations’ with the club didn’t disqualify him from any Leeds Utd votes, or discussions? I would say Mr Cellino has grounds for appeal purely on that issue!
    All of my friends and fans are behind Mr Cellino, and appreciate what he has done for our club – you chose to persecute him, and make an example once again of Leeds Utd.
    You are unfit for purpose, a shambles, and show you are the enemy of my club.
    Yours sincerely

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  20. Boring Life Over Glamorised

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