Tag Archives: Monaco

Fear and Loathing in Monaco and Dubai as Cellino Goes Forensic? – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United finances under intense scrutiny

Leeds United finances under intense scrutiny

The first thing you think when somebody reputed to be a billionaire – with annual income well into seven figures – takes over your beloved football club, is: brilliant; now we shall have the best of everything. No more poverty, no more crushingly-disappointing transfer windows.  We are back.

This being Leeds United, of course, it looks like it might not actually work out that way – at least, not at first.  The first order of business for Massimo Cellino is evidently to sort out the mess off the field.  And, from all accounts, what a hell of a mess it looks like it is.  Apparently, Massimo’s advisers have described the financial situation at Leeds United as ‘the worst mess they’ve ever seen at a football club’.  So, who says we’re not still the leaders in at least one field??

Still, that’s some going for a club that, over the past few years, has enjoyed some of the biggest commercial revenues of any outfit at this level, charged the highest ticket prices and still attracted among the highest attendances, appearing with monotonous regularity on TV. Yet this same club has paid out wages at somewhat under the top rate for the Championship, as well as displaying very little ambition in the transfer market – whilst selling some of its top talent on a depressingly regular basis.

So how has a club run along these lines managed to embroil itself in such utter fiscal chaos?  Where, exactly, is the gaping hole through which so much money every month is haemorrhaging away? You can point to certain peccadilloes of past regimes – the lavish re-upholstery of the East Stand, for instance, improving part of a stadium that the club doesn’t even own. There may be a certain reckless foolhardiness detectable there, especially if, as is rumoured, future season ticket revenues were mortgaged against the cost of what seems to have been a vanity project, to titivate a ground costing megabucks in annual rent.  The ultimate beneficiary of that has never been satisfactorily identified – but may not be entirely unrelated to certain craftily-advantageous financial arrangements centred around the Cayman Islands part of the world.

Even so, it’s difficult to see how the sums add up to such a distressingly appalling bottom line as has been hinted at by Cellino’s horror-struck people.  Small wonder, then, that the King of Corn is taking the step of recruiting “forensic accountants” to conduct a root and branch investigation.  The image thus conjured up of intense and focused, pale and determined men, poring over every scrap of paper and every byte of data remotely connected to Leeds United over the past decade or so, is actually rather a pleasing one.  Let’s face it, we all want answers – and they’ve been conspicuous by their absence at Elland Road this century.  Excuses we’ve had aplenty, together with some hollow boasts about how things are moving forward.  And yet here we are, in this parlous mess.  Something needs to be done, and Cellino is taking the forensic approach to doing it.

‘Forensic’ might loosely and unscientifically be interpreted as “leaving no stone unturned – and no rat untrapped”.  There are a few rats that immediately spring to mind who may very well be quivering in their lairs right now.  One such lair might better be described as a tax lair – the bolt-hole of a venerable old gentleman whose financial affairs mean that he must perforce spend the better part of every year – better for us, that is – in the sunny climes of southern France.  Does Master Bates have skeletons concealed in his closet?  Are they about to be yanked out and made to perform a Danse Macabre?  These ‘forensic’ types tend to wind up knowing exactly where the bodies are buried, and with a fair old clue as to how they got into that sadly moribund state. What revelations might they have to make concerning Uncle Ken and his Monaco closet?

Those “ten percent parasites” GFH might also be wriggling uneasily, wondering just what salient facts, which they would prefer to remain concealed, are about to be brought, glistening nastily, out into the cold and pitiless light of day.  What will be the story concerning the GFH input into Leeds United during their term as majority owners – as opposed to any financial benefit they may have extracted during that period?  As that excellent investigative organ Private Eye is always saying, we think we should be told – and it seems to be on the agenda that we might be.  And there is a lot of fascination, on the part of the fan in the street, regarding the nitty-gritty of just exactly how these preceding two sets of owners have conducted themselves – and at what cost to the football club and the football fans whose interests they supposedly had in safe-keeping.

Whatever the controversy of some of the measures currently being implemented by Cellino – and whatever the likelihood in the short term of more hard times ahead – it does appear that he is set on cleansing and re-inventing a club that, from all appearances, has been rotten from the top downwards for far too long now.  The Italian seems to have availed himself of pretty much the best legal team Euros can buy in his ultimately successful fight with the Football League to gain control of Leeds United.

Now, it appears that no expense will be spared in securing the services of the most effective accountants to wade through the murk of the financial situation at Elland Road.  Perhaps one day, this “only the best will do” approach might yet be applied to the recruitment of playing staff.  That’s the dream, after all, when you get a billionaire owner.

First things first, though.  From the revelations accumulating day on day, it would appear that the Leeds United edifice is not so much crumbling as dissolving away before our very eyes.  Cellino looks to be dealing with a structure that is on the edge of total collapse – and it’s understandable that this situation has to be addressed before any on-field luxuries can be contemplated – so it may well be a ticking-over season next time around.

That, of course, would be down to the competence and application of whatever players we end up with in the squad, as well as the motivational and coaching abilities of whatever manager is in charge next time around. Comparisons are usually invidious – but look what Sean Dyche and an unheralded Burnley squad did last season.  They had been tipped for relegation.

Things at Elland Road are looking so very unhealthy though, that the on-field issues might well take second place in the minds of United fans, to the even more burning issue of who has done this to us.  Who, when and how – not to mention why.  There are some glaringly-obvious suspects.  Maybe – just maybe – Massimo’s Meticulous Money Men will have them bang to rights before too long?

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Latest Bates Court Case Could Cost Leeds United Over £1m – by Rob Atkinson

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Cuddly yet litigious Uncle Ken

Ken Bates is due back in his favourite arena shortly as the litigation fanatic returns to the courtroom – and this time the quarry in his sights is Leeds United AFC itself.

The latest legal wrangle concerns Bates’ abruptly-terminated role as Leeds president – a position he was entitled to as a non-negotiable condition of the sale of Leeds United to present owners GFH Capital.  Bates remained in an executive position for some months after the sale, and was then due to move into the honorary office of Club President for a three year term ending in 2016.  However, only a matter of months into this arrangement, Bates was dismissed by GFH for “gross misconduct”.

The gross misconduct cited was said to consist of agreeing a contract (worth £500,000) for private jet travel for Bates between Leeds and his home base in Monaco.  The agreement was said to have been put in place without the knowledge or consent of the new board.  Bates will argue that the contract was set up while he was still chairman and therefore had the executive power to negotiate and authorise such a deal.  It has also emerged that, although his term as President came with a £250,000 a year salary – £750,000 over the three year term – Bates had waived this remuneration.  He has, after all, frequently claimed that he “never took a penny out of the club”.

The current legal tussle started when Leeds United sought reimbursement from Bates of costs incurred partly from the private jet contract, together with other expenses in excess of £100,000 including meals and Sky TV subscriptions which the club allege were not used to the benefit of the club.  Bates has entered a defence against that action, and counter-claimed for “wrongful dismissal” in the matter of the early termination of his Presidency.  It is thought that, if Bates were to be successful in a wrongful dismissal claim, he could be entitled to part or all of the £750,000 salary package technically due for the 3 year Presidential term, a sum he had voluntarily waived.  Legal costs on top of that could push United’s bill up over one million pounds.

These revelations come at a time when Managing Director David Haigh – a prospective Tory parliamentary candidate for Northampton South and new Chairman of Leeds United Ladies – has revealed that he has injected “a seven figure sum” into Leeds United AFC, to go towards Brian McDermott’s team-strengthening plans in the January transfer window. The irony of this is plain – should Bates be successful in his courtroom strategy, the club might possibly break even over the next few months, with Haigh’s seven-figure sum probably just about offsetting the amount Leeds could have to shell out to the wily Riviera-based octogenarian.  Swings and roundabouts.

Leeds United fans will have to cross their fingers and hope that the forthcoming court case ends as many have before, with Ken having to retire to his lair and lick his wounds. Ironically, it’s understood that in those previous instances of legal defeat, it’s often been Leeds United who had to pick up the bill, as Chairman Ken was allegedly sallying forth into battle backed by club funds.  We must sit and wait, in the hope that some of those pigeons now come home to roost and that Bates is finally sent packing without having further drained the resources of the club he’s claimed to have twice “saved”.

Old Man Bates Spotted at Elland Road Shock Horror – by Rob Atkinson

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Uh-oh. Bates is back, yesterday

Oh dear. Just when you thought it was safe to go back to Elland Road, and maybe even to part with a few hard-earned shekels in the club Megastore, or in purchasing an ambitiously-priced match ticket for the visit of the Smoggies this weekend – watch out.  Bates is back, and it’s not Norman of that ilk, but the supposedly departed and definitely unlamented Kenneth William.

Now, I’ve no desire to be unnecessarily alarmist, so if that opening paragraph sounded like a revolting mixture of recycled blurb from the publicity materials of Jaws and Psycho – then I humbly apologise.  But it’s been a bit of a shock, you see – such a graphically horrible picture. It’s not what you expect or need to see, large as life and twice as hideously old, strutting about outside our sacred stadium as if – well, as if he owned the place. Gulp.

Theories abound as to the possible reasons for the return of Papa Smurf’s reptilian presence to LS11.  None of them are much good.  This is understandable; people are reacting viscerally, out of disgust and horror at such an awful apparition, they need comfort, reassurance – some reason for this ultimate unwelcome surprise, just when we all thought the old get was consigned to the dustbin of history.  It’s a bit like waking from a nightmare of truly terrifying proportions, bathed in sweat and shaking like a palsied trauma victim, relishing that initial feeling of blessed relief that the shadowy horrors were only a bad dream – and then reaching out to touch some slimy monster by your bedside, poised to sink its slavering fangs into your neck and drink your blood dry.  It’s just not nice, not nice at all.

Some of our more mischievous brethren have already been upping the ante in the nightmare stakes, breezily speculating that Papa Smurf is the eminence grise behind The Chief’s alleged consortium.  But this surely has to be the most tasteless of wind-ups. Lucas is a nice guy and Lucas loves us.  He would not – I am certain of this – have anything to do with such a recent and reprehensible piece of flotsam from the arse-end of United’s history.  Lucas would be about renewed hope and fresh starts, concepts as far away from Bates and all he stands for as the average Man U fan is from the Theatre of Hollow Myths itself.  Any coincidence of Lucas Radebe and Kenneth William Bates in the environs of Elland Road must be just that – a coincidence, if a particularly unnerving and distasteful one.

Others have suggested that rumours of Bates’ departure were greatly exaggerated, and that he never really went away at all, but lurked in some dark corner of his restructured East Stand, like a rat under the sink.  Again, this seems unlikely – his proclaimed severing of ties with the club (and vice versa) was acrimonious and was also followed as day follows night by somewhat of a renaissance at the club; players were signed for actual money, ticket prices became marginally less insane – it was a whole new, brave new world.  Still others have suggested that the being in the picture is not The Dark One himself, but some unfortunate looky-likey, doomed to tread the earth in the guise of Beelzebub, lacking only a 666 tattooed beneath his hairline.

By far the most mundane possibility – and therefore the most probable one – is that this is merely something to do with the Regional Members Club conference.  Apparently, the Beast’s consort Suzannah still has loose ties with the RMC’s – and whither she goeth, so the Dark One will be slithering along not far behind.  It is also bruited about though that Bates has offices over the Subway fast food outlet near the stadium.  All in all, it would appear that he’s not quite so completely departed as we would ideally like to think.

Maybe it’s just that not-so-cuddly Uncle Ken still has loose ends to tie up with GFH, against whom, it was said at the time he left Leeds United, he was plotting one of his forays into litigation.  Perhaps this manifestation – loathsome and unwished-for though it may be – is simply to facilitate some sort of agreement over vexed questions such as private jets and withdrawn Presidential privileges.  It is earnestly to be hoped that this is so; that the whole thing is a hell of a lot more innocent than a picture of Kenneth William Bates could possibly ever look.

The fact is as well that, courtesy of the Taxman (may his name be ever blessed), Ken can still only spend so many days a year in this Sceptred Isle, and has to pass the bulk of his time basking on a rock in the Mediterranean, like the reptile he is.  So, nasty though this has been, his presence about the place must be strictly temporary, and there are likely to be ever fewer reasons for it to be repeated, as time goes on and the stench continues to clear.

And one day, of course, he’ll be as gone as gone can be – by which time we might be back in the Promised Land of the Premier League and acting like a big club again.  And for that glorious day, near or far, we all await in pleasurable anticipation – and with an ever-increasing confidence that sooner or later it must surely dawn..

Bates Leaves Leeds on a Typically Sour Note

Not-So-Cuddly Ken

Not-So-Cuddly Ken

It came out of the blue in a terse statement from Leeds United: Ken Bates would no longer be club president, and all his connections with the club had been severed forthwith. No reasons were initially given – and quite frankly, nobody at first cared. The main thing was, Bates was gone. He was going to be President of the club for life, then it was going to be only three years (there may not actually have been much of a difference between those first two) – but now he was gone, history, end of. Bye bye, Ken. Don’t let the door whack you in the arse on the way out.

Now, though, more details have emerged as to the reason for Bates’ abrupt departure. It appears that Ken – never a man to underestimate his own importance – had committed the club to a £500k contract for private jet flight to and from the Monaco bolt-hole of il Presidente for matchday travel. No RyanAir or EasyJet for Uncle Ken, you see, he was going to do it in style and, as ever, the club – the fans – would be the ones forking out for it. This, then, is the straw that has broken the Dubai-based camel’s back. Ken received a missive, delivered by hand, informing him that his non-services would no longer be required.

Staggeringly, Ken seems to resent this. After all the legal shenanigans that have punctuated his reign of terror in LS11, costing the club a reported £4m, he now feels that he is a wronged party, that Leeds United have treated him “despicably” and that he should be compensated. So, he intends to sally forth to pursue his favourite pastime of litigation – with Leeds United this time in the respondent’s box, as opposed to blindly funding his deluded fantasies. The irony of this is breathtaking, and it is only to be hoped that the British legal system has finally had enough of this irascible old man’s nonsense and will proceed to laugh him out of court. Football’s had its fill of Ken – honestly, hasn’t the whole country?

This, let us not forget, is the man who proposed (quite seriously) that fences enclosing fans on the terraces should be electrified to dissuade those of an eager disposition from getting at rival fans or the field of play itself. Who knows what that might have led to if the whole concept of fencing hadn’t become deeply unfashionable in the wake of Hillsborough? This is the man who declared his ambition to be the ejection of Leeds United and its “animal” followers from the Football League, following the actions of a group of freelance demolition contractors from Yorkshire in disabling the Stamford Bridge electronic scoreboard in 1984. Big Brother was watching us, and he decreed we weren’t fit to be part of the football family. He wanted us out – and he so nearly achieved his objective, didn’t he? This is the man, after all, who presided over the lowest point in Leeds United’s history. Ken Bates is a name that will forever be associated in the minds of Leeds fans with failure, corruption and despair.

Ken Bates and his megaphone mouth, unconnected to anything remotely resembling a brain, has represented everything bad about football for decades now – and it’s time we all had a well-earned rest from him. It is perhaps fitting that Bates and Ferguson – two markedly less-than-pleasant football personalities – should be heading into the sunset at the same time. Having the name of Ken Bates connected to the club I love has been a deeply horrible experience for me and thousands of my fellow Leeds United fans. The final separation looks highly unlikely to be amicable – Uncle Ken is far too self-involved and vindictive for that – but it is nonetheless a most welcome development for anyone with the best interests of Leeds United at heart. Ironically, GFH Capital are now quoting a confidentiality clause in refusing to comment on the reasons for the End of Ken, something the Bearded Gob used extensively during the endless takeover saga last year. So for the time being, Bates is wasting his bile on the desert air and getting no official response. But many thousands of happy individuals in Leeds United colours would be happy to deliver one last message to him.

Sod off, Ken, and take your legal team with you.