The People’s Republic Of Elland Road

32 By SJMaskell  |   The Ball  |   October 4, 2011  |     20

What on earth is happening at Leeds? I was at Elland Road last Saturday among 600 Pompey fans and the change in atmosphere since last season was palpable. Last year, the atmosphere impressed with fans in good voice and scarves whirling. This year, though, Elland Road is not a happy place, evidenced by the draconian, 1980s style crowd control methods and the strangely messianic images of the club’s chairman in his seat flashed onto the big screen above our heads. It somehow felt we had intruded onto someone else’s battlefield. Ken Bates seems to be stirring up something of a furore among the Leeds faithful since somehow finding the cash to name himself owner of the club at the end of last season. In a flurry of accusations regarding, “The scaremongering arising out of the football governance enquiry” in The Guardian last May, the suggestively pictured Mr Bates did the right thing and married his name to the club. All very well and good you might think – at least he’s made an honest club out of Leeds and maybe now it will be a case of happily ever after.

Since then Mr Bates has seemed keen to stamp his authority on the marriage. He is unhappy with media intrusion into the matter and, having taken a side-swipe at the already banned Guardian’s David Conn, ‘the ‘international enemy of Leeds United’ last May, in August he banned the BBC from reporting on the club. Clearly Mr Conn, the Guardian and the BBC really shouldn’t be delving into the  arrangements behind Mr Bates’ ownership. Nor should they be trying to unravel the strange obfustication of that ownership before the forced marriage. Indeed, how very dare they? Speaking on Yorkshire Radio back in May, Mr Bates was insouciant about that Government thing. To him it was,  “as trivial a hearing that I have ever heard, all obsessed with the ownership of Leeds United, which of course was stirred up with people who claim to be interested in Leeds United but they are not, they are actually more interested in causing trouble. ” That’s the coalition for you – bunch of bother causers.

Yorkshire Radio is the in-house station for Leeds United. Mr Bates doesn’t talk to anyone else other than LUTV, their in-house TV channel, it seems. But don’t worry if you can’t tune in, there are transcripts of his interviews on The Square Ball and interesting reading they make. Particularly the way the interviewer acts as Bates’ straight-man when he wants to jibe at the BBC or other enemies of the ‘Republic of Leeds United.’ Causing trouble in the ‘Republic’ appears to be a cardinal sin, and questioning the chairman seems to be taken as a manifestation of that sin. So the BBC deserve all they get really, given that there is a documentary on the ownership of Leeds United due to be screened in the next couple of weeks. But Mr Bates doesn’t stop at controlling the media, he appears to be worried about the behaviour of the citizens of the ‘Republic’ as well.

There has been unrest amongst the fans of late. Leeds are a shadow of the team they were last season and, judging by evidence of last Saturday, the football has suffered due to the sale of some decent players. Unlike Pompey though, Leeds do not have a CVA to service, but some ambitious building plans. There is a raft of development at the back of the East Stand where a hotel and leisure centre is planned. Many fans feel that the money currently being used to service the club is being ploughed into this development. This, when coupled with the sharp rise in ticket prices this season, doesn’t seem to be an unreasonable conclusion to arrive at. It’s a Chelsea Village comes to Leeds idea – Mr Bates has form on this kind of thing. One might think that such a development would create income for the club in the future but such hope has been unfounded at Chelsea where the current Chairman describes the returns on such a development as ‘slim’ and, given the current economic situation, it might be a hope too far. Indeed the whole arrangement at Chelsea is now proving outdated according to recent reports. Leeds United do not actually own Elland Road, it belongs to a BVI registered company, Teak Commercial Ltd, and the club rent both Elland Road and their Thorp Arch training ground from the company for circa £2m p.a. The owner of Teak Commercial is – unknown. Teak Commercial was established on the 25th January 2005 and acquired Elland Road on the 16th March 2005. Just to remind you, Mr Bates became chairman on 21st January 2005.

Leeds fans were already protesting against Mr Bates’ economic policy in August this year, before their defeat at home to Middlesbrough. This earned them a rebuke from their Chairman who referred to them as ‘morons’. On other occasions, fans that have objected to his rule have been called ‘sick-pots’ and ‘dissidents.’ An underclass in the ‘Republic’ is beginning to form. Ticket pricing across the Championship is a bit of an issue this season across the board. We have our own problems at Pompey, where a £30 entrance fee for Category A matches is much contested as not being value for money. However, at Leeds we were charmed to be graced with the Category A status and then staggered to find we had been allocated the most expensive seating at the ground at £36 a go, £27 for concessions and £25 for children. This is for an area of the ground that Leeds have found difficult to sell to their own fans in the past – could it be that this is being regarded by the club an easy earner by allocating the area to fans who have no choice?

We did have a nice view of the refurbished East Stand though. Not such a good one of the football, which may have been a blessing, given the mediocrity that both teams served up for the majority of the match – thirty-six pounds’ worth of entertainment it was not. However, we Pompey fans must have given good value for money as there were at least four Police Officers especially assigned to film our antics. The elderly gentleman next to me was most invigorated, apparently they had also filmed him and his equally elderly colleagues getting off the Pompey coach in the car park earlier in the day. I am wondering if we were paying the price for the Manchester United fans’ behaviour a few weeks earlier as the stewards seemed highly vexed by our propensity to stand, sing and jump up and down in support of our team. They certainly seemed keen on getting as many of us out of the ground before the end of the match as they could. Six hundred people must be a difficult number to control. Chants began to swell on the lines of ‘Thirty six quid, we’ll do what we want!’ and acrimony spread as the overt filming became more obvious and intrusive. Leeds fans tell me this unsubtle method of crowd control is the norm.

It does feel as if the well-publicised trouble of the Manchester United and Leeds fans after their Carling Cup match has given the Chairman of the ‘Republic’ a good reason to tighten crowd control at Elland Road. Chairman Bates was quite incensed at this behaviour and used the usual rhetoric to declaim the perpetrators as ‘scum’ who are ‘liars and thugs’ who ‘don’t give a damn about the club.’ The behaviour of fans using the tragedies in Istanbul and Munich to taunt each other was abhorrent, make no doubt. Policing football fans is needed when they behave in this way, of course. What is interesting about Bates’ programme notes for the Portsmouth game where these declarations were printed was his reasoning. No mention of the ethics of such chanting but the question that he wanted to leave fans with was, ‘Who would want to invest in such a club? Consequently the growth of Leeds United will be much slower.’

Just to be clear, in 2007 Bates threatened creditors that he would put the club into liquidation unless he was allowed to buy it back from the administrator. Given the current pattern of investment one is forced to question whether it is Leeds United the club whose growth might be arrested or Leeds United the property asset. There are certainly issues with funding the development behind the East Stand as Leeds Council turned down Leeds United’s request for a £20m loan in August, originally secured in the event of England winning the World Cup bid and requested again despite the bid’s failure.

Awkward questions are being asked by the ‘morons, sickpots and dissidents’ as to exactly where the money is coming from for this development, rumoured to need £7m for its first stage. These are dissidents such as the Leeds United Supporters’ Trust, wonderfully-acronymed LUST, 85% of whose members said they supported the protests against the Chairman. When the club is trading in profit yet the team has declined in quality, the Chairman has sworn under oath that he has put no money into the club and seems anxious about fans repelling investors, questions have to be asked as to the financial security of the club and where the funds for the development are coming from. Short term finance has been quoted as the source and it is possible that increased ticket prices may have been needed to cover this commitment. So yet again, as in so many other cases across the Leagues, fan loyalty is leached so that an owner can profit.

Financial anxiety does wonderful things to the psyche and the events of the Carling Cup game have given Mr Bates the desire to upgrade the club’s CCTV system to ‘concentrate on potential problem areas inside the ground.’ It obviously doesn’t cover the away fans in the West Stand yet, which is just as well, since the police filming last Saturday was highly useful in proving that an ejected Pompey fan accused by a steward of assault had actually done no such thing. The claim that away fans are easier to police in this new position may well be unfounded if stewards are going to be this mistaken in future. Cardiff fans – up at the end of the month for the West Stand – may be less amenable to such treatment.

However, it seems that Leeds are equally as worried about their own fans’ behaviour in the future, despite the lack of potential fixtures against Manchester United. The club has announced “revised measures” beginning with only season ticket holders and members being allowed in the Kop at the Cardiff City game. So not only hiked prices, but an extra £40 to become a member if you want to stand with the most vociferous and loyal of the club’s supporters, or pay up to  £36 to  sit in the East or West stand. A Leeds fan I know suggested that ‘The fact that this area of the ground has been the seat of the loudest, most prolonged anti-Bates chanting this season is purely coincidental, I’m sure.’ The club will have a record of all those in this area on their database and so will be able to identify any dissent or ‘thuggish’ behaviour and subject the perpetrators to sanctions as deemed appropriate. Perhaps the provision of rose tinted spectacles in the mode of Red Bull’s treatment of Initiative Violett-Weiss at SV Austria Salzburg might be appropriate.

Whatever the reason, fans at Elland Road seem to be beginning to view going to the game as a chore rather than a pleasure and, whilst we at Portsmouth only have to visit Elland Road once a year, they have to step into this world every other week. Bates is seen by many as alienating and eroding both the core and casual support of the club ‘in pursuit of perceived financial gain’, as one message board contributor succincntly put it this week. Leeds United are no longer selling out their ground – even the visit of their deadly rivals Manchester United could not fill the seats. Population of the Republic is declining as opposition to Mr Chairman Bates increases. Control the media, rigorously police the people and get rid of the dissidents … now I’m sure that rings a bell somewhere.

You can follow SJ Maskell on Twitter by clicking here.

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  • October 4, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    The Peoples Republic of Elland Road - RedPassion.co.uk - Wrexham

    […] Peoples Republic of Elland Road Another great article from 200% – well worth a read The People’s Republic Of Elland Road Twohundredpercent Bans, unknown ownership of the ground, chairman referring to fans as morons and […]

  • October 5, 2011 at 4:59 am

    michael seredycz

    It’s a shame to see this happen to our great club.All Bates is worried about is MONEY/But remember[BATES]you can’t take it with ‘ya’.There won’t be many at your FUNERAL,BYE.

  • October 5, 2011 at 7:06 am

    EYLEEDS

    Great article. Every Leeds fan I know is a so called ‘moron’ and you’ve summed up the feeling at Elland Road perfectly.

    Bates seems to be finally understanding this and is trying to appease us by being slightly more transparent, but it is too little too late.

    He needs to realise that Leeds is not his business to run as he sees fit – it is OUR club and he is accountable to the fans.

  • October 5, 2011 at 7:21 am

    bash

    Great article, well researched and an enjoyable read! Nice to get an away fan’s view, I have to say I didn’t know they had such draconian measures for the away fans, being filmed in the ground?! Awful. We seem to be left alone mostly at away matches which is welcome. Prices are disgraceful, and to categorise portsmouth as category A was so wrong….

  • October 5, 2011 at 7:39 am

    Oxford White

    Brilliantly written, sadly accurate. MOT

  • October 5, 2011 at 8:32 am

    richard l

    Thanks – from a visiting fan this is a great insight. We’re mid-table with points in hand, but it feels like a really bleak time to be a Leeds fan right now.

  • October 5, 2011 at 8:33 am

    Michael Green

    A decent article undermined by being lazy. LUST’s contribution to the fight against Bates since 2005 has been woeful in the extreme (still less than 150 members after 8 years, never once directly attacking Bates or club policies). They are hamstrung by a fear of litigation and internal issues too numerious to mention. The fight has been lead by no-one consistantly, we had Loveleedshatebates, Tenforken (also known as campaign for change), Clarkeonenil when it was under a old editor (me) and The Square Ball. All have managed to prick the Bates bubble but never once deflated the man. And it will be ever thus until the support comes together and alas it never will (LUST, LUSC et all at fault).

  • October 5, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Mark Murphy

    Terrific article (as per, SJ). I just wish that ANY of it had been the remotest bit surprising…

  • October 5, 2011 at 9:36 am

    S20white

    I urger Leeds fans to do what I have done this season and NOT GO to Elland Rd – hit Bates where he will feel it…
    And before you call me ‘armchair’ ‘fair weather’ or whatever else, I have followed my boleved club acrooss the UK and Europe and the time has come to make a stance and reading the very good article above justifies my decision!

  • October 5, 2011 at 10:22 am

    martin kelly

    Excellent article.

    Season ticket holder at E R for 21 years until 2008. I will not put another penny into the club until Bates has gone.

  • October 5, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Irreconcilable Sickpot

    Michael Green, your comments on the numbers of LUST members are incorrect.

    As of 22nd Sept 2011 LUST had 1134 members.

  • October 5, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Ellie The Elland Road Elephant

    Michael Green – the article is not lazy. What is lazy is continuing to harp on about past failings of LUST, when they are currently, actively and successfully changing, improving and growing as an organisation.

    You’re a ball and chain around the ankle of any chance of progress at Leeds United.

  • October 5, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Matt

    Pretty accurate in general, and numbers are certainly down.

    However, just because Bates is a well-known and outspoken chairman it shouldn’t necessarily put him centre-stage.

    Should Leeds fans care where the away fans sit and how much they pay? Not really. I paid £35 for Ipswich this year with similar seating, so chin up.

    Leeds also have little or no control over the policing. Bates has regularly complained about how much it costs. The level of policing is decided by the police (who coincidentally get paid more by the club as they increase their presence, quelle surprise).

    The issue for Leeds fans is that confidence has dipped and we had a slow start to the season.

    We complained about the lack of signings, but now have Forssell, Vayrynen and Danny Pugh. All of which look like they can do a job for us.

    We have also collected 14 points from the last 7 games including games against West Ham and Brighton who have had great starts to the season.

    Anyone who goes to the games knows that our performances on the pitch are improving. If we can hit the play-offs, I’m hoping the mood will lift and we’ll see a return of optimism (and bums on seats) around Elland Road.

  • October 5, 2011 at 11:36 am

    The voice of reason

    Good article

    I sit next to the new away seats in the ‘posh end’ and both myself and two non-playing players (Sam and O’Brien) asked stewards why Portsmouth fans were being filmed while only chanting

    Good article – however the LUST issue is a moot point… 1000+ members yes – but how many paid to be members? In the 100s

    Sadly there’s apathy among the majority of Leeds fans stemming from no-one wanting to buy the club at our lowest point

    The majority recognise that Bates is a Chelsea Cnut but at least he’s our Chelsea Cnut

  • October 5, 2011 at 11:57 am

    Luke

    Is it a suprise that the average attendance at elland road is down by 4000 on last year….

    The sooner Bates leaves the better.

  • October 5, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Andy, Leeds

    I don’t think you can really blame the club for the fact that away fans are filmed.
    That is more of a West Yorkshire police thing.

  • October 5, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Fi

    Fantastic article! Absolutely spot on! This should be made required reading in Leeds. Me and my dissident mates argue exactly these points with other Leeds fans ALL the time!

    What terrifies me is how some sections of the Leeds faithful have lapped up Bates’ propaganda. We joke that he could teach Al-Qaeda a thing or two about brain-washing propaganda!

    Sadly it won’t be long before, and I can really see this, the segregation at Elland Road will be between pro and anti-Bates factions!

    I’m seriously considering only going to away games as a protest – it’s the ONLY language he understands!

    #BatesOut #LUFCdissidents #WeAreTheMorons

  • October 5, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    EYLEEDS

    I’m not willing to boycott matches yet but I am no longer willing to spend any money in the club shop etc.

    Not got a problem with the club living within it’s means, but Bates has repeatedly lied about the clubs finances and I’m not going to give him any more of my hard earned money until it is transparent where it is going.

    Bates needs a business lesson in looking after his ‘customers’.

  • October 5, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Tyler75

    Very good article. Thank you. Outrageous treatment of away fans; we’ve been subject to similar and worse over the years so as a club, we should know better – but then Bates hates football ‘fans’ full stop – he’s only interested in ‘consumers. However I will take issue with the fact that we are a ‘shadow’ of the team from last season. We have a much better, more consistent goalkeeper, a more enterprising and harder working midfield pairing and potentially a much more solid central defensive pairing. We’ve lost nothing going forward with Ross McCormack stepping up to the plate (worth noting that our top scorer from last season is now fit and only makes the bench)

  • October 5, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    SJMaskell

    @Tyler75
    If you remember we had a ding-dong of a 2-2 draw last season during the Christmas period. No way was last Saturday of that quality. I’m willing to concede, however, that it may have been our team that was more at fault for that than yours!

  • October 5, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Jason

    Extremely well balanced piece SJ. Great work with capturing a new mood at Elland Road.

  • October 5, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    The Scratching Shed

    Matt – You’re falling into the trap of excusing Bates because we’re doing OK on the pitch. THIS is the overarching problem we’ve had for far too long now, that whenever things are going badly on the pitch, it’s OK to question Bates’ motives, policies and nonsense, but when it’s going well, a worrying number of our supporters are too happy to ignore the problems (that sadly still exist) because they believe Bates’ nonsense that it affects the team.

  • October 5, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    Mick

    Bit harsh of people climbing into LUST etc for their lack of leading the fight. There is no more litigious man alive than Uncle Ken and he’ll have every man and his dog in the High Court bled penniless and homeless without blinking.

  • October 5, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Adam

    Excellent article about the plight of our great club. I too am bemused by the filming. Good luck for the season and let’s hope we get a better game at Fratton Park (and the floodlights perform better than last year)!

  • October 5, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    Leedslad

    Can we stop calling the old twat cuddly Ken or uncle Ken, he’s not our Chelsea cunt either he’s just a cunt !

  • October 5, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    Jon

    Very good article, pity M Green had to stick his oar in though. Bates Out!

  • October 5, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    KBEES

    Good Read, soon Bates will stop selling Jester Hats to the kids I chat to in the JC John Thomas’s.
    FKTS

  • October 5, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    KBEES

    Just to add, I no longer go to ER coz of Mr Bates, I travel to as many away games as the Ticket Server allows without crashing.
    FKTS

  • October 6, 2011 at 1:47 am

    Trophy

    Fantastic article. Nail. On. Head. Die Bates DIE

  • October 6, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Graham

    No more of our dough to Monaco ,I will not give him another penny whilst he runs Leeds. 50 years Father and Son lost because of his greed

  • October 6, 2011 at 11:02 am

    HeadLiner

    Hey, be thankful you had concessions and child pricing as an option. When I take my 13 year old daughter into the West stand, where you were housed, I have to pay £36 for us both!

    One would have to question whether Bates has the legal right to not offer me a discounted child seat if it is available to other fans sitting in the same stand.

  • October 7, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    @mike_dale1978

    Fantastic article. Very interesting to see the suspicious dates when Bates took over, when Teak commercial was set up and when it acquired Elland Road. Why on earth hasn’t this been investigated properly?
    Us Saints fans were also filmed and dealt with very aggressively by stewards during our last visit to Leeds two seasons ago. Several fans were grappled with and marched out for the heinous crime of standing up. I live in Leeds and have seen the air of ennui surrounding their fans and Bates’ insidious influence over the local media. Deeply unpleasant.

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