Tag Archives: Red Bull

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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Thierry Henry to Fire Leeds United to Promotion? – by Rob Atkinson

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Thierry Henry – short term deal with Leeds?

Twitter didn’t exactly go into meltdown last night but, on the basis of one optimistic tweet from Phil Hay, the respected local journalist with his finger on the pulse of Leeds United, it did start to get decidedly warm.  The gist of it was that good things were being heard about the imminent takeover of Leeds United and that good times might just be about to roll.  A couple more juicily-tantalising snippets were added into what became a heady mix, with David Haigh tweeting that he couldn’t wait to be at the Barnsley match next weekend as Elland Road would be “rocking”.  We heard also that Haigh is over in Austria, a country linked strongly to Red Bull who have in turn been linked strongly with Leeds United.

Now, it would be all too easy to take these morsels of information and add them up to make something totally unrealistic.  Then again, the elements do seem to combine of themselves into the oft-talked about “Dare to Dream” scenario.  One particularly exotic rumour that arises out of such an optimistic outlook is the possibility that one of Red Bull’s most marketable assets, Thierry Henry, might be on the point of jumping on board at Leeds United to provide the sort of boost that even a pair of Red Bull wings could hardly hope to emulate.  Even at the age of 36, the French superstar could inflict massive damage in this league, even if mainly from the bench.  Could there be anything in it?

On the face of it – why not?  The team is in good shape at the moment; there are a couple of obvious areas where improvement is needed and all Leeds fans will be hoping to see those addressed in January.  But with the current doubt over the fitness and commitment of El-Hadji Diouf, there may well be a vacancy in the squad for someone who can do something special, someone who can add a touch of class and elevate the profile of the club at the same time.

The combination of Diouf and Warnock was an unlikely one – but it happened.  Let’s not forget either that Dioufy was something of a star with World Cup heroics behind him and a global profile.  Thierry Henry is all this, and more – and at this stage of his career, what could be more of a challenge to him than the task of reviving a sleeping giant, a club where he would catch the imagination of the fans and raise the atmosphere that extra notch or two, giving the whole place a lift and the team new impetus?  That’s a scenario well known to Leeds fans with long enough memories as the “Gordon Strachan factor”.

This week promises to be very interesting indeed.  If those tweets from Hay and Haigh carry what I believe they do in between their lines, then it’s fair to say we might expect some significant news before the Barnsley game.  Just how significant that news might be is anyone’s guess – but my guess is that an announcement is distinctly possible  of further takeover details making that “Dare to Dream” scenario burst into reality.  And what was on David Haigh’s mind when he was talking about “Elland Road rocking” on the pre-Christmas weekend when football crowds are notoriously thinned out by last-minute shopping?  It does make you wonder.

Thierry Henry in a Leeds shirt?  Bizarre.  But how wonderful it would be, what an incredible boost.  It seems too good to be true, of course – but if you’re going to dare to dream, then why not be extravagant about it?  A legend like Henry in the famous white shirt – that’d be a hell of a good dream as far as I’m concerned, but could it actually happen?  You just never know – it possibly could.

Daily Mirror’s Leeds United Red Bull Link is Just Their Usual “Bull” – by Rob Atkinson

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Answer: The Mirror, Sun, Mail etc etc

The ecologically-fanatical Green movement have occasionally waxed lyrical about the possibility of generating energy from methane – using the flatulent output of millions of fields full of peacefully-chewing bovine powerhouses to provide light and warmth for our homes. It’s a nice if slightly smelly idea.  The Mirror newspaper appear to have adopted their own version of this cattle exploitation concept, basing their sports journalism service, for want of a more appropriate phrase, on the more solid waste output of those noble beasts. How else to explain their continual fabrication of outlandish stories concerning Leeds United?

This morning, in a transparent attempt to up the ante after yesterday’s news of additional investment for the Elland Road club, the powers that be at the Mirror have evidently set some hacks to work to find something – anything – to muddy what seem to be unusually clear and sparkling waters for Leeds United.  It’s not difficult to take an old and tired story, polish it up a little and then serve it up as something new and tasty for the kind of undemanding and uncritical readership catered for by the trashier Redtops. Not difficult – but not particularly clever either.  It makes you wonder – don’t the writers on the Mirror have any ambitions to work for proper newspapers?  If they do, then surely their current tenuous relationship with the truth of what’s actually happening will hardly help them on their way.

For the avoidance of doubt, Red Bull are a franchise that have added several sports outfits around the world to their portfolio, but without any real attendant record of success. Their involvement tends to be characterised by getting in there, ripping up most of the traditions surrounding their purchase in favour of the appalling measure known as “re-branding” and then watching a previously independent club or team go swirling down the plughole.  This is not an approach that would be tolerated at Leeds United, a club notorious for the militancy and truculence of its support.  What seems as certain as these things ever can be, is that GFH Capital, the owners of United, are well aware of the limits imposed by that support on their latitude for instituting radical change.  But the likes of the Mirror have never let inconvenient facts get in the way of making up fairy stories as a simple alternative to reporting actual news.

A mere two months ago, this blog was relieved to hear that the Mirror was reporting as fact Leeds manager Brian McDermott’s readiness to quit Elland Road and take over the Ireland job.  Relieved, because of the reliable principle that – when the Mirror reports something as fact – it’s invariably just more of those bovine solids that they seem to find so palatable it’s positively their staple diet. Again, there was a wisp of credibility about the tale – Ireland were looking for a man of ability and integrity (in the event, they got Roy Keane instead), and the Mirror had simply followed their usual policy of adding two plus two, to arrive at thirteen-and-a-half.  You won’t ever go far wrong just by reading the Mirror and disbelieving all of it.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, it does seem that Leeds United may at last be on an identifiable and navigable path back towards the top.  A promising league position – despite yesterday’s blip – and a good manager with a decent squad and some potential to add to it in January – these are as close to good times as we’ve seen at Elland Road for many a moon.  None of which will be good news for the Mirror, the Sun and the other examples of toilet paper at the lavatorial end of the print media.  But frankly – who cares?  The truth is still out there, you just have to know where to look – and be determined at all costs to avoid the pungent Bull you’ll see in the gutter press…

What Price the Soul of Leeds United?

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After the brief optimism of a few weeks ago, when the first post-Bates day saw welcome changes in the boardroom and welcome signings on the pitch – including one for whom we supposedly paid actual BIG money – things have gone a bit gloomy again over at LS11. The pre-season programme has now brought three successive defeats, including a woeful display at Walsall which Brian McDermott described as his “worst day as Leeds United manager”. The perceived wisdom is that we still need quality additions, including a rock of a centre-half and at least one tricky, fleet-footed winger. Brian’s “priority signing” is still unsigned, and unidentified. Clearly, more serious money is needed. Where’s it coming from?

The sequence of news items has been interesting. Once all that early-July optimism started to wane, the Red Bull story surfaced, and it refused to go away. The fans of course immediately started adding two and two to make five, and the scare stories of team rebranding circulated, along with slightly more feasible rumours of stadium naming rights. The battle lines were drawn; one camp stands firm in its traditionalism and will not tolerate the idea of the team playing at the Red Bull Arena, nor even a glimpse of that devil’s colour red on our pristine white shirts (with the fat blue stripe). On the other side there are those who feel we’ve sunk too low to be coy about appearances and naming rights – show us the money, they say, and you can basically do what you like to us. But we need to be talking massive money – we’re not, after all, some cheap trollop of a club you can buy for a song.

Once the Red Bull story had been around a little, and it had been possible to gauge fans’ reactions, Brian started to appear in the media again with his gloomy face on, bemoaning the lack of progress in the transfer market and making pessimistic noises about having to sell before he can buy. It makes me wonder whether, having realised that there would be significant fan opposition to the idea of naming rights to Elland Road being sold off, GFH might just have briefed Brian to get out there and make these dolorous pronouncements, putting the fear of God up the support that another season of under-achievement awaits and basically softening us up for whatever commercial coup they might have lined up. I’m not saying that Brian will necessarily be so ready to dance to the GFH tune, but I do smell a big, fat rat in terms of how our expectations are being managed, and how our instinctive suspicion of corporate influence over our club’s traditions is being dissipated by worry over lack of transfer money.

The fact is that the precedents are already out there for success at any price, and that we will ignore these new trends at our peril. Man City play at the Etihad, and Arsenal at the Emirates. If corporate stadium names are OK at these two grand old clubs, then why not at Leeds? It’s not as if any Leeds fan would ever call it by any other name than Elland Road anyway, so why the big fuss? We can expect to be wound up by opposition fans and the media, but what’s new about that? Surely the priority now is to give Brian McDermott the tools to finish the job.

If we remain too ignorantly proud to go with the flow, then we have to accept that the price of pride might be one we don’t wish to pay. Do we want to play at the Red Bull Arena in the Premier League, or at Elland Road in the Championship – or maybe even in League One? It might just be that the choice is as simple and stark as that.