Ken Bates’ Grand Game Of Divide And Rule

28 By Ian  |   The Ball  |   March 6, 2012  |     13

Sometimes, the oldest ones are the best – or, in this case, the worst. There are plenty of rogues operating in and around football clubs these days, but the old master, Ken Bates, can still teach others a thing or two about dealing with those that they hold in contempt with an almost breathless degree of disrespect.

 Elland Road has not been a happy place this season. Leeds United are performing much as we might have expected on the pitch. Although it was not enough to save manager Simon Grayson his job in January, the club currently sits just below the play-off places in the Championship in tenth place in the table and there is still all to play for, but crowds are down and discontent is in the air.

For some Leeds United supporters, the tipping point, as far as Bates is concerned, came with the sale of club captain Jon Howson to Norwich City for £2m in January. Howson had come to represent the very best of Leeds United during a period in the club’s history that most supporters would prefer to forget. His sale, in the middle of a season in which promotion ambitions remain on the agenda, has come to represent a toxic culture at Elland Road of cost-cutting and a lack of investment in the playing squad while ticket prices remain very much at Premier League levels. The cheapest season tickets at Elland Road for this season cost £622, more than the cost of the cheapest season tickets at all bar four Premier League clubs.

There had been talk of a boycott of the televised match last Saturday against Southampton, but after the arrival of new manager Neil Warnock this was cancelled as a show of support for him. As things turned out, the crowd that did turn out for this match saw something of a sign of the times play out, with rejuvenated Southampton, whose ascent to the top of the Championship table demonstrates what is possible with sensible investment in the team and a settled, stable manager, winning by an odd goal in spite of a dogged performance from Warnock’s team. News from the club’s supporters trust (the Leeds United Supporters Trust – the LUST), though, has threatened to again break that brittle air of detente that may have settled over the club with the arrival of the new manager.

The LUST have been critical of the way that the club has been run this season, and they co-ordinated a protest in Leeds city centre prior to the club’s recent match against Brighton & Hove Albion. Since then, the gloves have come off in the battle between Bates and the LUST. In an interview with Yorkshire Radio on the fifteenth of February he made defamatory comments in questioning the commitment of the board members of the trust, and this has now been followed up by stopping their membership of the club, which now prevents them from buying tickets to  matches. Gary Cooper, the LUST chair, said that he was “gob-smacked” by the decision – which he only found out about when attempted to buy tickets for this week’s match at Hull City – and stated that, “We are being victimised and it’s insanity.” It is also understood that they are now taking legal advice under the Data Protection Act with regard to specific things about trust board members that Bates mentioned in his rant on the radio.

So, Ken Bates’ traditional tactics of divide and rule begin again, then. It is a familiar enough tactic, of course, to loudly decry those that oppose him using official channels – the Leeds United matchday programme and his weekly radio interview with the supine Yorkshire Radio are his favoured mouthpieces at present – and issuing bans to those who criticise him in public. This time, though, he seems to have scored a PR own goal. Support for the LUST has grown rapidly of late, with membership now standing at around 4,500 people, but some considered the decision to appoint Neil Warnock as the manager an appointment which took something of the wind from the sails of any protest at a club at which getting behind the team will always take precedence over any sort of protest. With the spiteful and petty decision to cancel the membership of people that have the audacity to criticise him – and, moreover, to publically question their support for the club – though, he may well find that the protests against him increase in volume and regularity in the near future.

What has been suggested elsewhere is that the nature Bates’ response to recent criticism – and, more pointedly, the recent upsurge in LUST membership – betrays that he may actually, finally be getting rattled by the Trust’s recent actions. Of course, Bates would never admit this. Such a declaration doesn’t fall into his modus operandum. His behaviour and the reaction it, however, does say something significant about football in 2012 in a more general sense. The more Ken Bates pronounces, the more of a relic he sounds. The days of football supporters turning up, pouring money into the pockets of the likes of him, paying whatever he tells them to pay, shutting up and being grateful for the privilege are ending.

Should Leeds United get promoted to the Premier League at the end of this season much of this discord may be forgotten, but with a dozen games of the season left and the team six points adrift of the play-off places, it seems unlikely that it will happen, and Bates may find that the folly of his pronouncements and steadfast refusal to invest in the team comes back to haunt him in the summer, when season tickets are on sale again for next year. If these slump further at the end of this season, Bates will only have himself to blame. Over the last few weeks he has declared open warfare on a sizeable proportion of the club’s support and, should this particular argument become one of whether the club’s support should stand up for its fellow supporters or whether it should stand behind Ken Bates, it would be unsurprising to see them opt for the former. Against such a background, Neil Warnock could well have his work cut out at Elland Road for the remainder of this season, at least.

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Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

  • March 6, 2012 at 3:25 pm


    The season ticket sales deadline has come and gone…..if you didn’t fancy a price rise the re-newel deadline was the end of January!

  • March 6, 2012 at 3:47 pm


    Come on – what a dreary article! LUST is a waste of space. Ken Bates doesn’t care about it and neither do the vast majority of supporters. Ken Bates has trumped all the moaners with the appointment of Neil Warnock and the backing he has given him.
    Just get on with offering positive support to the club. If we don’t make it this season we will next.

  • March 6, 2012 at 4:06 pm


    Agrred TIM,

    LUST is a waste of time, why risk forcing Warnock out when clearly he is the best manager the Championship has seen in decades. Give him vocal support and financial support which Warncock generally doesnt need much!.

    Then get behind the team and watch us go !!! real Leeds fans understand when to pick there arguments and not upset the applecart.

    So imo forget bates he’ll get bored if we dont keep protesting then when we get promotion he’ll be gone. MOT

  • March 6, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    Other Tim

    At well over 4.5k members, LUST is hardly a waste of space, far from it. Just because Ken gets Colin in doesn’t mean there’s suddenly nothing wrong. We can support the team and call for positive change at the same time, which if you take the time to see what LUST is all about, you’ll find out is what they want too….

  • March 6, 2012 at 4:17 pm


    I think It’s time to stop this protest once and for all…In the end the only thing that will suffer is Leeds United FC !! Leeds have a new manager in Neil Warnock who will get Leeds promoted if not this season then next season…If this doesn’t stop now!! Leeds will end up a Championship club for a long time to come or God forbid a L1 club!! No Leeds fan wants that…Leeds have had Ken Bates as chairman for a long time no matter who says different he saved Leeds Utd from going down the river never to be heard of again…Personally I call for truce and Bates and LUST to sort this out NOW …Think about every Leeds Utd fans all over the World not just 4,000 fans who have no say in this protest that’s not going to go anywhere only into oblivion !!!…

  • March 6, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    Clive Sanderson

    Apart from how well Leeds played on Saturday another good thing was how well the fans supported their team for a change. There was no word from the Bates out mob who have recently ruined the atmosphere at Leeds.

    If you want to look at real rogue owners there are plenty around including the last set of idiots who ran Leeds almost into liquidation.

  • March 6, 2012 at 4:50 pm


    Other Tim, LUST isnt worth investing time in as its mostly little idiots looking for trouble or armchair fans who have more opinions but no follow through as you said. 4.5k compared to 18-20,000 who don’t protest and turn up to support the team, most of us don’t like Bates but at the cost of crippling LUFC………… so i know my facts on LUFC and its cod mate.

    find something else to do with your time……….. like supporting the TEAM.

    IF LUST was that great we would all be in it but most of us have a brain and care for the club.

  • March 6, 2012 at 5:10 pm


    “the last set of idiots who ran Leeds almost into liquidation”… That would be Ken Bates then? as far as i remember he is the only one who has taken LUFC into administration & it was the refusal to accept any other takeover bids except Ken Bates’ that stopped us from using the CVA, getting another 15 points docked &made HMRC try to shut the club down for good. Is this how he ‘Saved Leeds United’???

    Lust Offered a truce, and ken bates responded by canceling their memberships & publically questioning their support

    LUST has become the voice of a lot of disgruntled fans and are far from being ‘a waste of time’ as for forcing Warnock out, it was LUST who stated they were not going to support the protest in light of his appointment, then also issued an open letter publicly backing and supporting him. so whats more likely to force our new manager out, a supporters group who have publically backed him, or a chairman & board with a track record of selling their best players, refusing to offer contracts competitve enough to compete with the likes of ipswich for potential targets and refusing to offer competitive contracts to their better players to keep them at the club?

  • March 6, 2012 at 5:32 pm


    This is an article written by someone who lives in Brighton and is not apparently a Leeds fan. So what’s the article about? Stirring up trouble, perhaps? Fomenting disquiet at a rival club? Maybe a bit of real journalism would have involved finding what proportion of the so-called demonstration was daft kids out for a bit of a lark.

    The very great quiet majority of real Leeds fans think LUST is a pain in the backside, a moaning shop for a few whingers who hate Bates just because he’s Bates, hated him before he came to Leeds, hate him now, and always will hate him regardless of facts. Their hatred of Bates is more important to them than the success and welfare of Leeds Utd, which their morale-sapping antics greatly damage.

    Bates is far from perfect and seems to be determinedly unlikeable, and his ticket pricing strategy is ridiculous, but he’s a great deal better for Leeds Utd and most of its fans than LUST, which is no good at all.

    I’m A Leeds United Supporter, and LUST doesn’t represent me or my views, and I don’t Trust it one bit.

  • March 6, 2012 at 5:57 pm


    Leedsforlife, I wasnt at the march, but from the videos & pictures in the media and on youtube i think it is quite obvious the majority of people there were not ‘kids out for a lark’ as KB would want you to think. aside from going back in time and interviewing everyone present at the march i dont see how you could accurately find out what proportion were kids as you said.
    I dont understand how you can speak so dammingly of LUST and state bATES is a great deal better for leeds than LUST, Whilst not perfect, LUSTs whole purpose of being is to further leeds united and try and promote transparency within LUFC. Ken bates’ purpose is to further ken bates using smoke and mirrors trying to keep as many people in the dark whilst extracting as much money as possible for himself. Who do you think really owns ER & TA, who with a company in the british Virgin Isalnds do you think millions of £s are sent to from Leeds uniteds coffers.
    You wrongly claim that LUST is a buch whingers who always hate him regardless of the facts… i think that the vast majority hate him BECAUSE of the facts. the fact we spend 7m on a ground we apparently dont own, lose our best players on a yearly basis and pay season ticket prices higher than at old trafford to watch a bunch of freebies & loaneesstruggle to compete with the likes of brighton.
    You talk about the ‘very great quiet majority’ so are they the 10-16k (a VERY generous estimate) in elland road that arent vocal about ken bates… or is it 4-10k inside ER as well as the 10k that have voted with their feet and have vowed to no longer set foot inside ER

  • March 6, 2012 at 5:58 pm


    I am a Leeds United supporter and Ken Bates doesn’t represent me or my views, and I don’t Trust Him one bit.

  • March 6, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    Paul Blackwell

    Even now 45 years on it is still the same old story! He came to Latics in 1966, promised the earth and for a time all went well. The club was lying second to the Rodney Marsh QPR at one point in the old Division 3. Then came christmas and the mainspring of the attck , the late Great Frank Large, was sold for £40 k back to Northampton at Bates’s instigation, the goals dried up , the challenge faded and by the following season they were back in familiar ground just below halfway in the third tier. The rants started about the fickle fans etc. He took them on a tour of Ian Smith’s Rhodesia but a fat lot of good it did because by next season they were bottom of the league heading down for division four. Only the astute and grossly underrated management of Jimmy Frizzell in the seventies rescued them.
    You’d have thought by now that he(KB) would have learned his lesson but no, the pattern repeats itself.
    Even now it shouldn’t be too difficult to see that by the end of the year with auto promotion looking more and more unlikely there’ll be a parting of the ways with NW and there’ll be more and more ranting at enemies real and imagined …

  • March 6, 2012 at 7:44 pm



    Bates doesn’t represent me or my views, either, nor me his.

    Who are these 10,000 people who have ‘vowed to no longer set foot inside Elland Road’? Such claims are part of why people who try to consider the situation objectively cannot take the LUST propaganda seriously. Wild claims and a rabid hatred of one man aren’t much of a basis for a credible argument.

    The very great quiet majority are the far greater number and proportion of fans in the ground (and not inside it, since many fans cannot attend every game) who don’t join in with the whingeing and demonstrating, which many of whom find divisive, offensive and harmful. They far outnumber the whingers, demonstrators and LUST members.

    YouTube? No-one could ever possibly put anything biased, unrepresentative or propagandist on YouTube, could they?

    Sorry, John, but LUST does not represent the majority of Leeds fans, and many of us who have no love of Bates consider it to be very damaging to the club. Read the other responses to this article; most are not sympathetic to LUST.

  • March 6, 2012 at 8:54 pm


    Bates reign at Elland Raod will never be forgotten.

    He has delivered our lowest league position ever, and his 7 year reign has been one of lie after lie after lie, which has resuilted as you say in a divided fan base.

    The sooner he departs this mortal coil the better

  • March 6, 2012 at 10:44 pm


    Average Attendances when bates took over 28500. Attendance against southampton – one of the bigger teams in the league with a larger away following than some 20900. so not quite 10k, but the point still stands, fans have left in their droves since he took over. with season ticket renewals down the 10k figure is very possible next year.
    As for your comments about “the far greater number and proportion of fans in the ground” that depends where you’re sitting doesnt it, im sure in the west stand hardly anyone makes any noise about bates (or anything else for that matter) with the kop and south stand nearly everyone chanting bates out every other week. the east stand would probably vary from game to game but having not sat there this season i couldnt say for sure.
    Yes the 8 people on this site do seem to have the same opinion as you, but if you look at the coments on almost any YEP article there are usually 100-250 comments with at least 80% having a similar opinion to myself.
    I dont have a rabid hatred of bates, and had he not rolled into leeds and exploited the fans, I would barely even remember who he was.
    If you feel that youtube videos would be propaganda then have a loot at the YEP photos, or is that propaganda as well now- after all they do have one reporter that speaks out against bates (wonder when he will get banned from ER)
    you speak of “biased, unrepresentative or propagandist ” you mean like banning members of the press that question you, refusing to allow outside companies provide commentary (when bates took over aire fm & radio leeds both had commentary and allowed fans to listen and comment without bates censorship) and then using officail LUFC channels to slander people bates doesnt like.
    of all the leeds fans i know, only one has ever spoke up for bates, and he now goes to headingly instead. you can claim to be part of the majority, but in reality, you are probably outnumbered 9 to 1

  • March 6, 2012 at 11:29 pm


    It’s about time people stopped slagging Bates off. It just doesn’t work. Try laughing at him next time. That’ll rattle ‘im.

  • March 7, 2012 at 12:13 am


    Yes, it’s very much a matter of point of view. It’s also a matter of who you mix with.

    Attendances down really isn’t the same as ‘vowed to no longer set foot inside Elland Road’, now is it?

    Maybe if you’re in that bit of the crowd doing the whingeing you can’t actually tell what’s happening in the rest of the ground, but the numbers are simple enough: 20,000+ in the ground, 4000 in LUST, which is less than 1 in 5 (if all the LUST people even show up) , and there are maybe ten times as many Leeds fans who can’t get to matches, which would make the LUST support less than 1 in 50.

    Of all the fans I know, I can’t think of any who like Bates or his stupid ticket pricing, but there are not many who want rid of him. Many fear uncertainty or the arrival of another Ridsdale, either of which would put the club right back down the tube. Most think Bates is doing a mostly good job of running the club tightly, though quite a lot are worried it may be too tightly. Most don’t give a damn who owns the club. Most don’t trust the knockers any more than they trust Bates. Most think there’s not really reason to believe Bates is taking money out of the club. Most think the whingeing is very bad for the club. Rather a lot think Bates was right when he said ‘morons’, though I’ve not heard anyone say he was sensible to actually say it.

    And most are not interested in saying what they think out loud. They aren’t going to argue with the knockers by actively supporting Bates, so they really are the silent majority. Just because the whingers make the most noise doesn’t mean they are a majority. They are not. It doesn’t mean they’re right, either.

    Oh, there’s propaganda all over the place, and in Leeds more than most places. Bates is certainly a propagandist. But what’s he supposed to do? People say and write all sorts of things about him, mostly rooted in vitriol rather than fact. But when he responds that’s ‘slander’, is it? Seems to me like fighting fire with fire. And a distrust of journalists is a wise thing for anyone to have.

    I’ll tell you this: if LUST focused all it’s attention on ticket prices instead of hating Bates, they’d get a great deal more support.

  • March 7, 2012 at 12:29 am


    And one last thing before bed… the whingers do a great deal of harm to the morale of the team, the club and the fans. If we don’t get promoted this season, as seems likely, a significant part of the blame will be theirs. Those people are not supporting Leeds Utd and, personally, I think it is absolutely right to keep them out of the ground. The team, the club and the real supporters are far better off without them.

  • March 7, 2012 at 3:50 am


    Banning LUST members represents a serious escalation in hostilities from Ken & Co in their ongoing war with the fans of Leeds United… Another sinister development is the clubs foray into psi-ops territory – by that I’m referring to the ‘astro-turfing’ we’re also witnessing (look it up Ken!)… Go through the comments of recent YEP articles and indeed here and see if you can spot the bogus accounts set up purely to push Bates’ agenda!… THIS war on your own clubs fanbase is a war you simply cannot win Kenneth!… I do understand why you’re doing what you’re doing but it is misguided… You may think Warnock’s appointment has bought you a bit of breathing space… To some extent, it has… We, the fans, are 100% behind Warnock & the lads but YOU will have to go!… Everyone says how can we do that, how do we drive this malevolent entity from our club?… Well, I’m here to tell you the answer’s simple!… You’re not getting our money!… It’s NOT just isolated individuals (that you believe you can bully & intimidate!)… NO! There’s a huge groundswell of opinion that realises that if we refuse to renew, if we refuse to spend in your bunco-booths and most importantly drop attendances below 20K you won’t be able to hang on!… Your sponsors and advertisers will be targeted too… Face it Kenny! You’ve run out of spin!… Nobody believes anything you say – we’re ALL on to you!… Having said that, this desperate act just shows how ‘out-of-touch’ Kenny is – by taking on one Leeds fan he’s taken us ALL on!… Hosni, Gaddafi, Saddam & Bates – ‘Sic Semper Tyrannis’

  • March 7, 2012 at 9:12 am


    Well these comments prove that divide and conquer still works… Grim

  • March 7, 2012 at 10:32 am


    1) “Buy” club
    2) Put prices up
    2) Control the media by granting all rights to one source
    3) Buy source
    4) Condemn those who don’t follow blindly as “dissenters”
    5) Withdraw their rights
    6) Issue bans

    And you all swallow all this, and take it lying down because he’s appointed Warnock?

    Thought you YRA lads had some backbone? Arf arf.

  • March 7, 2012 at 2:11 pm


    As a Wimbledon fan I’ll chuck in my tuppnece worth.
    Firstly I will say I don’t trust Ken Bates to do the right thing for any club unless he is to substantially benefit too.

    Secondly, Wimbledon is owned by the fans and as such no one like Ken can come in and dictate as he does. HOWEVER, the MINORITY of our fanbase are dons Trust members. This does not, however mean that the majority of the fans (ie the non DT members) are against fan ownership. On the contrary, the large majority of them believe in it, just choose not to be active members.
    So just because LUST only has 4,500 memebers doesn’t mean that only 4,500 disagree with Ken Bates.

    For those who love Ken and criticise LUST for being moaners I say take your head out of the sand and get behind any fans group that can have an active say in the running of the club before it is too late.

  • March 7, 2012 at 2:24 pm


    Football is awash with chances like Bates, but thankfully they’re a dying breed… Bates is pre-emptively trying to discredit LUST because he knows that there are plans afoot in the background to force ALL clubs to have supporters represented at board-level at their clubs. Obviously, if Ken is forced to comply he’d rather install a puppet of his choosing – his usual MO!… Unfortunately, he realises this is not an option hence the spectacular own-goal!… Like I said though, he’s not the only one – witness the furore over Owen Oyston and Blackpool’s published accounts!

  • March 8, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Nathan Jones

    Can’t someone else just buy these guys tickets instead?

    Or does Cuddly Ken’s Police State now extend to checking the identity of every person who attends his dishonest tax dodge that masquerades as a football club?

  • March 8, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Nathan Jones

    “Football is awash with chances like Bates, but thankfully they’re a dying breed”

    If only that were true Jettatura.

    If anything, it’s getting worse (Crawley, Port Vale etc. etc.)

    The end of Crown Preference in 2003 hasn’t helped.

  • March 8, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Nathan Jones

    “The days of football supporters turning up, pouring money into the pockets of the likes of him, paying whatever he tells them to pay, shutting up and being grateful for the privilege are ending.”

    Do you have even the most remote proof of this rather amazing statement Ian?

  • March 8, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Nathan Jones

    As some of the wiser commentators above have recognised, the only think Ken and his ilk understand or want is your money.

    All the protests, chants, organisations and polite requests have absolutely no effect on him whatsoever.

  • March 13, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Sickpot #1

    Ken has opposed independant fans groups at Oldham, Chelsea and Leeds. He wants your money not your opinions.

    For those that say he saves us, Ken put Leeds into administration and exited the process in such a crooked fashion we were saddled with an additional 15 point deduction (which meant we missed out on promotion).
    Oh and it was Ken that threatned to liquidate Leeds United if he didn’t get is own way wasn’t it, ask any of the creditors who attended the meetings re administration.

    Bates is a horrible man, just look at the way he wanted to partion Anegada in the BVI & the way he treated savers at the Irish Trust Bank

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