Leeds Fans Be Careful What You Wish For… You Might Get It   –   by Rob Atkinson


Fan ownership as practiced at the dizzy heights reached by Dulwich Hamlet

Fan ownership as practiced at the dizzy heights reached by Dulwich Hamlet

Leeds United fans desirous of owning a small piece of their beloved club are in some danger currently of putting that understandable, emotional desire in the way of seeing the big picture of the club’s best interests. It’s entirely understandable that this should be so. Most fans have already made a significant financial investment into the club over the span of their supporting lives, alongside the unquantifiable emotional input required to support a capricious leviathan such as Leeds. It ain’t easy and it ain’t cheap either; no wonder the average fan in the street becomes all starry-eyed at the prospect of buying for themselves a tiny piece of the action. 

Many fans would regard a place in the boardroom at Elland Road as second only to seeing their name on the team sheet and on the back of that world-famous white shirt, or at least a coach’s tracksuit in the dugout. But in more sober moments, when reality lays its cold and bony fingers on the back of your neck, you doubt, deep down, that you have what it takes. You know you don’t have it in you to sniff goals out like Clarkey, or launch howitzers like Yeboah. You suspect that, despite all the tactical acumen you display down the pub or in the internet chat forum of your choice, you might get found out if it were down to you to out-think other Championship managers once a week or so. And when it comes to sitting on that sharp pinnacle of ownership, where the buck truly stops and all the blame ends up – only the über-confident, surely, would back themselves to succeed where so many men and their millions have failed before. 

Leeds Fans United (LFU) seem to be haunted by no such doubts and fears. They’re confident of purchasing from our current, crazy owner a majority stake in United for around £30m – and what’s more, they promise a hostile reception to any worldwide corporation or billionaire individual with the temerity to bid against them. So very opposed are they to the whole idea of counter-bidders, that they are demanding exclusivity as they haggle with Massimo Cellino to persuade him to sell on a no-profit basis. This shows admirable confidence and no small degree of chutzpah – but is it really the right thing for Leeds? Is it the best option for us all, going forward?

Leaving aside the strong emotional appeal of a fan-owned club, is this the right model for today’s game and the redemption of a fallen giant that has spent years in penury, existing on crumbs and unable to compete? The fact of the matter is that, if the fans’ group who want to purchase the club gain their exclusivity of negotiation, then we’re likely to miss out on possibly feasible bids from adequately minted, suitably ambitious and possibly, dare I say, honest parties – or maybe even Red Bull – who might now be interested in acquiring a club for whom the only way should be up. Surely, it is open to some doubt that we should be happy to see such possibilities ruled out in this sort of cavalier manner, simply because some Gelderd Enders and South Standers fancy being in control. It’s not really a model that has been tried with success at the higher levels of the English game. Portsmouth FC, the current largest fan-owned club in the country, are not exactly pulling any trees up in their quest to get back to the top from the depths to which they have so precipitously sunk. 

I’m simply not clued-up enough on the minutiae of the LFU bid to dissect it and debate its merits and demerits. It’s really just this possibly unhelpful (for the rest of us) desire for exclusivity that bothers me. All I want to be assured of is that we are made aware of and have the chance to consider any other bids for the club that might be in the offing. You never know, we might just happen across someone of integrity and ambition who doesn’t think he knows it all about The Beautiful Game, but is willing to invest heavily in those who do. It’s not an immutable law that we’re always going to be saddled with shysters and con-men. Our luck has to change sometime – especially if we’re a bit careful whose money we take. I’m saying we need an open collective mind and a range of options – not exclusivity and Hobson’s Choice.

Don’t get me wrong – I can quite see how this exclusivity thing is in the interests of the fans who would be kings. And I applaud that natural desire to take supporter passion and commitment into the top levels of the club. But, really, aren’t we running the risk of biting off our noses to spite our face, or – if I may be permitted to mix my metaphors – throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Are the best interests of Leeds United really going to be served by this fans’ process – to the absolute exclusion of all outside interests and possibilities?

Call me faint-hearted, or a fan of little faith – but I’m really not so sure they are. 

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24 responses to “Leeds Fans Be Careful What You Wish For… You Might Get It   –   by Rob Atkinson

  1. There should be a picture and article attached Andy. Have you tried the NewsNow link?

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    • Rob, I got your message and replied by email – see above! Hey ho. But what a difference a win makes! Some of the best “fan owned” clubs (e.g. Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona) are only really part owned by members’ associations. I’d be happy to have fans asserting minority shareholder rights at a Leeds AGMs to ensure transparency – and prevent another Bates type hiding assets in untraceable offshore shell companies. But, if social media is anything to go by, I can’t see Leeds fans agreeing an agenda, let alone running a football club.

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      • I suspect that’s right mate, but we seem set to have the classic tail wagging the dog scenario, with a very determined minority leading the masses into fan ownership without all that much of a mandate. Still – democracy IS a bit old hat – isn’t it?

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      • Everyone had the chance to get involved – and still do!

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  2. Once again you manage to eloquently say what I and probably many others are thinking. I don’t have the cash to help out and if the fans buy the club will they/we be able to invest in the team, the ground, Thorpe arch and take us back to the promised land? I wonder,….I would prefer some rich Yorkshire businessmen or Red Bull, someone with financial muscle.
    But if there are no other options it may have to be the fans, anything to get rid of the Italian idiot.
    MOT

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  3. I might be wrong but asking for a period of exclusivity does not stop other interested parties from enquiring about purchasing the business but it does stop them from having access to the accounts and submitting a formal bid. If the Leeds fans consortium have the means to table a bid of 30 million then they should be taken. Very seriously indeed and also they will have the clubs genuine interests at heart unlike most of the other recent owners of the club

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  4. Mike Durham

    Great article Rob but are you sure that defence in the photo isn’t ours? Look how much space they’ve given the attackers!😂

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  5. But it is not just if they have the means to table a30m bid. It is have they got the means to go beyond the buyout. and table bids for the players to take us on. Also to pay off the law suits.

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  6. I think I agree with you Rob. But am I on my own in Seeing that we would be much worse now if not for a mad Italian.

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  7. Mike wragg

    Rob, I like your writing, and the sentiment of this article is apposite to the discussion. However, having spent some time gathering and analysing fans’ comments, I’ve noticed a trend vis. a possible jealousy or envy underpinning the position of those opposed. I agree with you that owning a stake in the greatest club in the history of football is a realisable dream for some, and being in their fortunate position, I’m excited at the prospect. To be less fortunate would make me deeply sceptical. I may well be completely wrong, but the prospect of a better offer looks remote.

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  8. Ideal scenario would be for rich local businessmen to join with LFU and provide the funds necessary to buy the ground, thorp arch and invest in the team

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  9. mrbigwheels

    I agree with your viewpoint emphatically.
    In my view Cellino is being very clever here.
    A masterclass in how to start a dutch auction.
    If Cellino has had enough then fair dues. but whoever buys the Club? and the degree of success of failure that will come with that, Cellino will be able to walk away and declare he gave everyone the opportunity and nothing will be his fault.

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    • Do you actually understand what a dutch auction is? You should visit the bloemenveiling to find out. In a Dutch Auction the seller sets a high price that he would like, then the price drops until someone agrees to pay it.

      So what you are suggesting is that Cellino is giving a masterclass on how to achieve a lower price. And maybe you’re right.

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  10. Andrew Breslin

    Hi Rob,

    Got it! I’m ambivalent about LFU. Fan ownership seems to work in Germany and Spain but, like you, I have serious doubts about it working at LS11. One up-side may be opening the books and seeing what dark doings are traceable!

    I’ll comment later. I feel an unlikely win is due tonight.

    MOT

    Andy

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  11. Mark benson

    So no profit sale. Will he sell at a loss? At best he will want all his money back and owners nowadays lend the club money not invest it. LFU might have a few bob but do you really think they have the capital to really invest in the team, buy elland road etc? And is this really a “fans buyout” or just we got some money and Leeds can become a cash cow?

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  12. White shotgun

    It stinks like the gypsies piss curse we have had for some time … Pipe dreams come to nothing this will only work with someone like Crowe in with us to draw the extra investments from bigger fish … What stinks more is GFH and their rubbish blocking stance it’s easy money from a cash cow for them …. Red Bull can be a saviour to oust them for good and send Cellino packing happy with his stash if not RB someone like them someone honest and British …. The MD of crosswater I have met he sponserS the tunnel hording he is as passionate as I’ve met if only he had the cash , he and people like him… Turning aside Rob Evans needs a gagging order slagging the boys off in the press is not right it should be praise all the way … Yes others have been a little light in shouting us up but he is now worrying me … Hope we get result tonight MOT on on on

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  13. In all the nonsense and reports during the last week I was waiting for your slant on things Rob as you provide a reasoned well rounded hypothesis for debate making an idiot such as I think before I write.
    Cellino is no mug punter. You don’t accumulate wealth by not understanding how business and money works. I’m sure he’ll caveat the exclusivity agreement that if a third party makes a higher offer then he’ll be duty bound to consider that offer or ask the exclusive party to match the offer. Besides, there’s no doubt the exclusivity will be for LFU to review documents, accounts and the like in order to carry out due diligence but it won’t be exclusivity in that only LFU will be able to make a bid, unlike Cockney Ken from the Kings Road who rejected all other offers in favour of his own which is a different kind of exclusivity all together.
    I’m more than happy to invest, but to convince me, or anyone for that matter, surely Leeds Fans United must disclose the financial position of the club on completion of their due diligence and produce a well thought out business plan showing the cash position year by year so everyone is able to make an informed decision on whether to invest and support the club or not as there’s no point in throwing good money after bad. Personally I’d rather see LFU having a sizeable shareholding and a strong voice on the board but a serious financial backer is needed especially if the club is to prosper and get back to the promised land. £30M to buy is all well and good but the monster needs feeding cash. There’s 23 players in the first team according to the “Official Site”. If each one of the players currently masquerading as footballers are on an average of say £10K a week that’s whopping a £12M bill to pay every year before bonuses (granted these may be on the low side this season), then there’s the cost of leasing ER and TA, policing, admin salaries, running the academy etc etc etc. If we were generating enough income then great, but the waters have become so turbid no-one quite knows for sure if we are. If its not generating enough who picks up the shortfall? The Shareholders? Borrow? Sell assets? LFU can’t keep coming back to the shareholders for cash as we all have mortgages, bills and bar tabs to pay. That leaves the latter two.
    Ambition Rob is still alive and well in football and unfortunately takes the form of multi billionaires. Integrity sadly passed away when jumpers for goalposts were removed from the Football Association Laws first amendment in 1866.

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  14. If this happens rob it will be Lord of the flies pt 2

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  15. LFU are just a small minority of some of the fans of Leeds United They now talk about bringing in outside investors so it’s not a fan buyout but a consortium and you can at least double that 30 million when you add in cash flow etc etc! Asking for exclusivety and warning off other possible investors is dangerous and threatening behaviour. My advice to Cellino is don’t sell to anyone presently and certainly not to the rather distasteful Dylan Thwaites. As you said Rob be very careful what you may wish for! If it happened I for one would feel disenfranchised and after 65 years of supporting would not be renewing my season ticket.

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  16. We’ve been led by complete clowns and nutters for the last 15 years and look where that’s left us.
    The expertise of Leedsfans United at Board level and at its immediate disposal, makes the Ridsdale, Bates, GFH and Cellino set-ups look stupid. Which of course, they were/are. All led by crazies with no checks or balances only nodding-dog yes men on the “Boards” to rubber stamp every whim.
    Fingers crossed the club is heading in a fresh direction, and the enormous sums of money it generates will be used for its own good, rather than the filching that’s happened for over ten years now.

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  17. Swiss Martin (MOT Basel whites)

    I also have a bit of an issue with the Fan ownership thing.
    If they manage to raise the 30 million to buy the share of the club from Cellino, then we still have GFH with a 10 or 20 million self made loan sat there, refusing to put any money into the club.
    Where does the money come from then to
    a) buy Elland road back
    b) Buy The training ground back
    and c) and most important to invest millions on upgrading new players.
    I mean the supporters and the club house doesnt make that much money….or am I wrong?

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