While I was checking Wikipedia for some background information for this post I came across a heading that read: ‘Financial implosion and relegation’.1 It wasn’t referring to Birmingham City F C but to Leeds United from 2001-2007. In recent years both clubs have had their problems, which include owners disliked by the fans.
It’s four years since Carson Yeung completed his takeover of Birmingham City, which is half the time that Ken Bates was involved in running Leeds. Bates bought a share in the club in 2005 and two years later it went into administration. He then led a consortium that bought the club back from administration and was the sole owner by 2011. He sold it to GFH Capital in 2012 but stayed on as chairman until the end of the 2012-13 season and then became club president. However, he didn’t last long as president and parted company with Leeds following a dispute about payments for a private jet.
I asked Gary Cooper, Chairman of Leeds United Supporters’ Trust, if he could summarise the Ken Bates era at Leeds. He said that was hard to do because things kept changing but the one constant was that Ken Bates would not engage with supporters. The trust tried to work with him but got nowhere; he didn’t understand why supporters wanted to know what was happening at their club. It was a difficult eight years; there was no investment in players and the best young academy prospects were sold. Gary said that after Ken Bates parted company with Leeds the situation improved and “for the first time in four years I felt welcome at my own club.” The new owners do realise that their supporters are an important part of the club and that they need to communicate with them. A recent post2 on the Leeds United Supporters’ Trust site reports on Gary’s meeting with the club chairman. Wouldn’t it be nice if the chairmen of all football clubs were willing to talk to their fans!
For those watching our game at Leeds on Sunday, Gary suggested that young Alex Mowatt3 is one to watch. He has only recently become part of the first team squad but has great potential. He has vision and can deliver a pass that splits a game open. If Ken Bates was still in charge he’d probably be sold in the January window, but with the present owners there is hope that they can hold on to him for longer.