Is The Tide Beginning To Turn At Leeds United?

By on Jan 23, 2012 in English League Football, Latest | 22 comments

We have noted before on this site that football supporters can be considerably more patient than we are ever given credit for. Indeed, some might even say that we are too patient. In recent years, we have put up with increasing ticket prices, the desecration of the atmosphere inside grounds and policing methods that would raise an eyebrow were they to be practiced in a totalitarian state. It is also worth remembering, however, that everyone has a tipping point, a moment at which a penny seems to collectively drop amongst a support base which triggers feelings that may have been suppressed or ignored for a considerable period of time. That moment may just have come for the supporters of Leeds United.

The Yorkshire club has had to tolerate the ownership of Ken Bates for four and half years now, at least. Bates’ hard-headed policy of pushing ticket prices through the roof, using official club media for baseless attacks on those that he deems to be his “opponents” and labelling those amongst his club’s own support that oppose his methods with language that goes beyond being merely derogatory and into the realms of merely being abusive. Set against this, the decision to sell club captain Jon Howson to Norwich City may seem, from the outside, to be relatively small beer. Howson, however, more than merely the club captain at Leeds United.

Born in Morley, on the outskirts of the city, Howson has already made almost two hundred appearances for the club since making his debut for the club in 2006. At a club at which long service was for many years part of the culture – consider, for example, the twenty-one years that Jack Charlton spent at the club or the seventeen years that Peter Lorimer managed – Howson was regarded as a personification of the spirit of Leeds United and, while there has been considerable grumbling ever since Bates’ ownership of the club was completed, it seems as if his sale may well be the moment at which those that had previously chosen to not get involved with protests against his ownership of their club become motivated to act against him.

Against Southampton on the fourth of March 1972, Don Revie’s Leeds United team put in a performance  of such brilliance and arrogance that is has come to be regarded as one of the definitive of its era. They won the match by seven goals to nil and, although they ended up losing out on the league championship at the end of that season to Derby County, the presence of Match Of The Day cameras at Elland Road that afternoon preserved forever a team at the absolute summit of its powers. This March sees the two sides meet again in the Championship, with Southampton chasing one of the automatic promotion places and Simon Grayson’s inconsistent Leeds United side sitting just below the play-off places. The cameras of Sky Television will be in attendance, but the biggest question mark now surrounding this match is how many Leeds supporters will be making the effort. Talk is starting amongst the Leeds United support of boycotting the match against Southampton, and this has been fuelled by a statement made by the Leeds United Supporters Trust (LUST) last Friday, which reads as follows:

The Leeds United Supporters Trust today calls for the Chairman and board of Leeds United to actively look to sell the club to owners whose ambitions and resources more appropriately reflect the stature of the club and its loyal fans. We believe the time is now right for the current regime to step aside and allow the club to move forward. Overwhelmingly the majority of our members have asked us to campaign for this.

 

After 7 challenging years in control, our members believe that it is time for change at Leeds United and we believe the overwhelming majority of Leeds United supporters feel the same way therefore the Trust will be supporting peaceful campaigning for new ownership in the days, weeks and months ahead and we urge the Chairman and the board to listen.

The obvious question to ask at this is point is that of how successful a boycott of this match might be. Protests outside Elland Road have already been airily dismissed by Bates as the work of “morons”, and Bates is a man who gives every impression of someone who relishes the battle against those that disagree with him and there will be Leeds supporters who will wonder what the point of further protest against him is or argue that, with average crowds already having dropped by around 3,500 from last season, the boycott has already started. With ticket prices the highest in the Championship and higher than many Premier League clubs, this is perhaps unsurprising.

Yet what alternative do supporters of the club have? The fact that Bates may not listen to them and almost certainly will deride them shouldn’t prevent them from protesting. Their alternative is to continue to pay through the nose and sit at Elland Road watching a team that seems unlikely to challenge for automatic promotion at any time in the near future. No football supporter has an automatic “right” to anything – not least Premier League football – but when we consider the amount of money that is being demanded of them for tickets, they might expect to see greater investment in the team than they are seeing at the moment, and this before we even to begin to consider the dubious character that Bates is and the circumstances under which he took control of the club. If they don’t make a stand against Bates but don’t wish to continue watching the club, the other choice is to walk away from Leeds United, whether temporarily or permanently – an unsatisfactory resolution for all supporters.

It is positive that LUST have come out to campaign for his removal. As at many other clubs with large support bases, Leeds United’s support is disparate by its nature and it is to be hoped that the concerns of LUST can provide a focal point around which those that want rid of Bates – who has been a cancer upon the game in this country for almost five decades now – can gather. Protest against him may not succeed quickly, but a boycott of the match against Southampton would serve two purposes. It would offend Bates in the only manner that he can, it seems, be genuinely hurt – in the pocket – and would be a visible signal to the rest of football that the supporters of this football club are not merely going to accept stratospheric ticket prices and the systematic sale of players. And if the supporters of Leeds United did manage to dislodge him from our game for good, we would all owe them a debt of gratitude.

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    22 Comments

  1. well, i do dislike ken bates as a person and it genuinely hurts losing our best players for a pittance (howson, gradel, smeichel, beckford, kilkenny, johnson) BUT if we get back to the top flight with bates at the helm then i wouldn’t mind as much. saying that, i would love it if fan power forced him to leave and someone more ambitious, personable and, well, likeable stepped up to the plate with genuine care for the club and the fans.

    ben r

    January 23, 2012

  2. It’s actually seven years we’ve had to cope with Ken Bates. His dodgy buy-outs confuse the best of us though. Excellent piece otherwise, I just hope the efforts succeed this time.

    The Scratching Shed

    January 23, 2012

  3. Best piece on the subject I’ve read. The man has been destroying our club brick by brick for years, and now it’s time to make those bricks worthless to him.

    Stefan Walker

    January 23, 2012

  4. Nobody trusts Bates anymore. Every time we take a step forward, we’re dragged back by him and the Board.

    But we need to keep explicitly backing the players and manager. It can’t be easy for them.

    Bates Out; we all love Leeds.

    Tim

    January 23, 2012

  5. While I beleive the only way we would get back to PL with him is with a lot of luck through playoffs the only winner would be him cos he would rob the money from the final (I beleive its a lot) and let us drop right back down . He is a blight on our club and indeed the world.

    jerry meehan

    January 24, 2012

  6. I have supported Bates up until now, the penny has certainly dropped for me. The breakdown of contract talks, the endless loanees, Bates attitude to the greatest fans in the world, the cloak and dagger and non transparecy of the clubs accounts and why would someone pay 7 million on refurbishments on a stadium they apparently do not own has made me realise the supporters are being shafted by our devious chairman Kenneth Bates.?

    I want Grayson to stay, he has made mistakes but I believe he has still over acheived with a measly tranfer pot that Bates has forced upon him.

    Gary Price

    January 24, 2012

  7. I am not KB’s fan. I was sickened by the sale of Howson. Not that I thought Howson was especially talented. I have read many Leeds United supporters criticising his performances as I have praising them. It just seems that we have a continual flow of disappointing news coming out of the club rather than uplifting news.

    However, I do think that there is an overstatement of the state of affairs. It seems that we go too far when with our optimisim when things are good and too far when they are not.

    I would urge the following views:

    1. Howson was ok but no star. He went missing in a 4 man midfield. £2 million with 6 months left on his contract is not bad,

    2. Delph back – good news,

    3. lets get a good hardened centre back into our ranks – Dunne,

    4. lest realsie that we are 1 point off the play-offs. By my calculations, if we beat Birmingham (who are no great shakes) then we will be 5th or 6th,

    5. lets turn up in numbers and frighten the life out of opponents at Elland Rd again

    6. Mr Grayson – lets have the team in a huddle on the pitch at the start of the game (not in the dressing room as I understand is the case). This would bring up noise levels and hopefully we would start well instead of the half asleep starts we have seen of late,

    7. Lets make Snograss Capt. Lets task him with getting the crowd going by inviting them to respond. They would respond to him.

    8. Lets get promoted – Bates will get the big price he wants to sell then. He will be asking too high a price for a Championship Club.

    steven burkill

    January 24, 2012

  8. I echo TSS’s sentiments…excellent piece. Here’s an email I wrote last week to my family of LUFC fans that backs what you’re saying…

    Leeds United, and any another football club, is not like any other product based business in that they can put a pretty average product on the park, not market that product and still rely upon the passion, desire and loyalty of the buyers (aka fans) to throw money away week after week in the hope that they will see their team triumph. Leeds has the most loyal of fans. In your response, you point that out clearly citing the club’s plight over the last seven years. Not too dissimilar to the loyalty shown by Man City fans during their great depression. Unfortunately, or fortunately as some may look at it, loyalty can only go so far and that very loyalty is being tested right now. That being said, I believe loyalty would be firmly in tact if Leeds United, the club, shared the vision and the product plan. If they openly explained what the aspiration was in terms of the product that we are trying to put out on the pitch and into the community. The product that is Leeds United. Consumers buy products because of the derived benefit. They buy for the features of a product. The derived benefit today is simply frustration. Where are we? Who is Leeds United and what does it stand for? As for the features, the players, I’ll get to that in a moment. On the product that is Leeds United, Bates, Harvey, and Grayson are clearly failing in one critical aspect of business (though they may be falling in more than we know about). They are simply not communicating. They think they are communicating with the politically correct LUTV but it’s a sham and a mockery. We need a vision. We need to know what the product is and what it is going to be is and we will, as Leeds United fans have always done, buy into that product with heart and wallet.

    Now on to those features…features once existed and were synonymous with LUFC (passionate players who lived and breathed Leeds United) don’t exist anymore. I’m not there week-in, week-out but I listen on the radio from afar. Dad would site Hunter, Charlton and Bremner. I’ll throw in the likes of Vinny Jones, Mel Sterland, David Batty and Gordon Strachan as Leeds players that played as if their life depended upon it. As if Leeds United was the only thing that mattered when they were on the pitch. Where is that today? I never thought Alan Smith was a good player in the first place…even way back when. But, one thing he had was a passion for the game and a passion for the club. Just as Scum have brought back Scholes with great effect I’d welcome Smudger back for that reason and that alone. And then I look over at the dugout and while I see desire I don’t see passion or inspiration. It may be there but from what I’m hearing, again from afar, I don’t believe it is.

    The fact that loyal fans are beginning to turn is a sign that Mr Bates et al need to take very seriously. It’s a downward spiral that will gather momentum at an alarmingly fast rate if unattended. It may be a good thing and history may repeat itself. If it becomes reality, revenues will fall due to dwindling attendance and merchandise sales and maybe Mr Bates will seek outside investment (ala Matthew Harding at Chelsea, which eventually became Chelski) and the catalyst for change will begin. I recently met the Chairman of Man City. Top bloke. With a bit of luck we’ll find a similar party to come in and rescue us from the abyss and we can repeat the Man City path back to where we belong.

    MOT

    SuperLeeds

    Dave Richardson

    January 24, 2012

  9. Leeds United was here before BATES ,Leeds United will be here when BATES has gone?

    michael

    January 24, 2012

  10. nice one. we realy need to stick together now at this crucial time. let us rid our great club and the whole football world of this money-grabbing dictator once and for all. MOT.

    billy b

    January 24, 2012

  11. I think we actually need to get behind the team right now, because all this is affecting the team. We all shout bates out and the players heads go down! Don’t we want to be in the pl???
    I als think that moving the away support into the west stand has had tge worst affect. The kop doesknt have anyone to chant at anymore and all that simon and the subs can hear are the away fans. This is what we need to change right!

    martin h

    January 24, 2012

  12. I think STEVEN BURKILL is totally spot on – Ken Bates is pants, and Leeds United are bigger than him, lets raise the team, as we know when they perform to the best of their ability we can beat anyone – keep supporting them!!!

    jaffa

    January 24, 2012

  13. I feel sory for Leeds supporters, what are they suppose to do. Pay extortionate prices and suffer in silence or withdraw financial support by boycotting matches and watch the demise of their team? This is a difficult one! I would say back it both ways. Support the club until the end of the season, but DO NOY BUY SEASON TICKETS unti you actually witness realistic investment in the team for next season!

    Bluesman

    January 24, 2012

  14. Bring back King Canute.

    Getreal

    January 24, 2012

  15. an excellent piece, well done.

    as current chairman of the Trust can i thank you for your support and assure all Leeds United fans this is about finding new owners for the club, owners who share our vision and our ambition, having to remove mr bates to achieve that is incidental, mr bates represents only a part of our history, we prefer to look forward and work on abrighter future.

    it wont be easy and it may take time but if leeds fans can be united not divided this is something we can achieve together.

    MOT

    Gary Cooper

    January 24, 2012

  16. The sale of Howson was when I have turned against Ken Bates. I have already bought my season ticket for next season (before I heard about Howson) and I have been unsuccessful in trying to get a refund. I could kick myself. However it will be the last ticket I buy until Bates has gone because the management have no ambition and take the supporters for fools. I am not responsible for what Bates does with the club but I am responsible for myself. There is a little voice within that tells me to have nothing to do with the club whilst Bates is in charge. It is a sad time for me because Leeds is under my skin but I cannot condone the way Bates runs the club. He salls the supporters morons. But it is Bates who is the moron. He has upset many people in football over the years. I think it was Martin O’Neill who called Bates a cretin. Bates is a contravercial figure who basks in the limelight and enjoys his noteriety. That is all well and good but he will not do it on the back of my money.

    Mr. Cheesed Off

    January 24, 2012

  17. I know it hurts but as i read on another leeds site the old fart is in his 80 he will be dead soon enough then we can move on after the 0.0000000001 secons silence

    sgt wilko’s barmy army

    skint white

    January 24, 2012

  18. LUST, if you really want to help here rather than writing letters on Websites and helping create the poor atmosphere at ER that we have seen this season (and last) why don’t you use your contacts to actively help finding someone that is prepared to buy the club. Someone who clearly has the financial backing and someone that Bates can’t refute as not capable of buying Leeds from him.

    Until we get this we are wasting our time and affecting the team we are meant to love and support. Lets start doing something to find a backer, start supporting the team properly during the game (we can shout Bates out for 20 mins during half time if you like) and not sit like a bunch of moaning ninnies saying we are not going to get behind the team in the effective way we once did!

    Lets do something to show the players why they LEEDS and WHY THEY SHOULD BE GIVING 110%! and potential backers WHY THEY SHOULD BE PUTTING UP THE CASH.

    CRaig Colton

    January 24, 2012

  19. The thing that really worries me is the impact on our global footprint as a footballing super power. The longer we languish in the second tier the longer we allow potential fans around the world to attach themselves to the next generation of high-profile football clubs “marketed” by SKY and other influential international sports broadcasting networks. Thanks to Bates, not only are we losing our domestic fan base but we are becoming a non-entity on a global scale. Look at any of the big Premier League clubs and it’s the global market that underpins their long term financial strategy. Dare I say it, the likes of Stoke City, Newcastle United and even Norwich City are becoming more famous than the “mighty” LUFC. I have friends who worked with Bates at Chelsea and he is every bit as devious, odious and self-serving as sites like this would lead us to believe. The man is a cancer on our club and I don’t need to tell you what the inevitable outcome of this disease is on those unfortunate enough to be afflicted.

    Big Jack

    January 24, 2012

  20. Firstly id like to say great letter …..BUT !! We have to come to terms that Ken is not going to step down or sell unless a non-refusable offer is made. Who would want to buy in to a club that are lacking what seems to me as the ambition, to gain promotion, to play well at home and to go play away from home and show the other teams that we mean business!!
    I think that if we, the best supporters in the championship (and most premiership) should get behind the team we love and want to once again achieve great things, this might even show the old codger some spirit to invest.

    secondly.. I know Delph was a great player for us before and seeing him leave just as he was becomeing a Leeds great was dreadful but getting him baack for a month loan (which cost alot of money) just when he is coming back from an injury is a waste of time in my eyes, i hope he puts on a great show and proove me wrong.

    Now Howson…. first his contract renewels broke down then he wants premiership football, altough like all of us he says he loves leeds i think he forgot about commitment a while ago, he has progressed in to a ‘good’ player but thats all he scores the odd goal when we are desperate and was he really the right choice for the captaincy?? to me he doesnt seem to help get the players motivated or have the influance required for the role. if we got 2 million for him then bonus at least Ken has got some money to keep him happy this January! which means our real hero this season will hopefully stay (Snodgrass)

    Finally…the thing that has upset me the most…. the hotel!!! why oh why oh why build on property hat you rent? it reportedly cost 7 million to build which would have been a great deposit to buy back the stadium which in turn would bring in more money, either that or buy back thorpe arch which is also money spent on the renting of infurstructure instead of players or even wages, which is why we cant get the quality players in because we wont pay and i quote ‘over the odds’, if norwich, bristol city can lure our players away with better wages then how little is the budget???

    In short please get back to our Mecca and get behind the lads, oh and Ken get spening Please

    Ross Gray

    January 24, 2012

  21. Craig thats already a work in progress for us!

    Gary Cooper

    January 25, 2012

  22. Lust…… Any excersise to find a new potential owner also needs to go hand in hand with some form of preassure because im not even sure Bates wants to sell Leeds United.
    The more I see the more I think hes here for the publicity and attention as much as for money. It sounds illogical but nothing about Ken Bates ownership of Leeds United has been logical.
    So preassure from a legal angle perhaps, lobbying the government about fit and proper ownership? Evidently the football league and the FA cant properly manage the quality of owners taking over football clubs (perhaps they should be fined by the government everytime a club goes into administration).
    I accept the fans points about booing and boycotting effecting the team but what else can we do ?

    chareose

    January 25, 2012

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