Down Down, Deeper And Down
Some of you will probably already read the bile that I poured forth on the subject of Leeds United and their ongoing woes over on Pitch Invasion last week. It’s the story that keeps on giving, this one. Going back seven years to their run to the Champions League, the farce surrounding their financial nervous breakdown and the succession of almost bizarre managerial choices and their inevitable failure, the leaking of the amazing contracts that they signed to chase the dream of winning the Premiership and/or the Champions League and their descent into the Premiership’s concept of hell, sinking through the divisions, haemorrhaging money left, right and centre and with an authentic pantomime villain, in the shape of Ken Bates, plotting to have his nefarious way with them and try to weasle a way of not even having to pay for it.
As I found when trying to write the piece for Pitch Invasion, the circumstances surrounding what is actually going on at Leeds at the moment is so complex that it can barely be explained in one blog post. Suffice to say that one day it will make a brilliant subject for a book. The latest state of play is as follows (pay attention at the back!): Leeds United put forward a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) which proposed repaying one penny in every pound to their creditors. This was then increased to eight pence in the pound, with Ken Bates threatening to close the club as bankrupt if it wasn’t accepted. The Inland Revenue (the biggest single creditors – owed £7.7m) rejected both offers, advising that they would contest the matter in court. The club’s administrators, KPMG, announced yesterday afternoon that the club would be put up for sale with immediate effect, with bids to be received by 5pm on Monday. Potential bidders are less than happy with this. With just three days to formalise a bid, they’re effectively being told to place their bids blind. In fact, the only person with access to make an appopriate offer is… Ken Bates, of course.
What is interesting in all of this is the role of the local media. As you might expect, The Yorkshire Evening Post has been taking a close interest in proceedings, reporting every day on the situation. However, it has to be said that some of the things that they have reported have been somewhat less than factual. Talk of Leeds not starting next season certainly seems to be overstated. They have reported that Football League rules require clubs in administration to have entered into a CVA before the new season starts, but no such rule exists. This is certainly what Bates wants the world to know – such scare tactics will only make it more likely that he can pick up the club for next nothing – but why are the YEP reporting this as fact? You don’t have to be much of a conspiracy theorist to start thinking of alternative agendas. “CLUB IN CRISIS” headlines are more likely to sell newspapers than “NO-ONE REALLY KNOWS WHAT’S GOING ON”. A more worrying state of affairs would be if the club were merely unquestionably reporting the party line as fact. There’s a hell of a lot of spin coming out of Elland Road at the moment, and the local media have a duty to analyse and, where appropriate, criticise the information coming out of the club, and they are being negligent in their duty to the people of Leeds if they misrepresent facts and what is actually going on in what is, by any standards, a ridiculously complex state of affairs.
The prognosis for Leeds United is still very serious, and the supporters are the people that are really suffering. I’ve said before that they must either be unflinchingly loyal or maddeningly stupid to have not broken away and formed their own club. Ultimately, all that matters at the moment is that Ken Bates wants Leeds United for next-to-nothing, and the question is whether he will be able to pull off such a coup or not. Anything else is just so much flotsam and jetsam, and Leeds’ supporters would be well advised to view everything they read with considerable scepticism because what happens at the end of all this will impact seriously on them. There’s still time for them to set themselves free, but no-one can force them to do so.