Imagine our surprise this morning when we flicked through the papers and spotted that Leeds United have banned The Guardian from Elland Road. This is on the back of a series of articles bringing the club’s ownership into question by the paper’s David Conn - a sportswriter so good we only went and gave him our Football Writer of the Year for 2009 award.
We’ve already had emails this morning suggesting a Bates banning should automatically guarantee Conn the award in 2010. We couldn’t possibly comment!
Bates, United’s current chairman, is said to have taken exception to Conn’s article which highlighted the mystery surrounding the club’s ownership. Good old Ken Bates is an easy chap to get along with, obviously, so we watch our words not because we’re scared of him (this is a man who wanted fans behind electric fences) but because we don’t want to hurt the fella’s feelings.
The other reason we won’t go into it all in too much depth is the fact the Leeds United’s ownership is a conundrum of epic proportions that has us entirely baffled. Quantum physics is a doddle in comparison.
The Guardian reported that Bates told a Jersey court he jointly owned the club’s holding company with his long-term financial adviser Patrick Murrin. So far, so predictable. But it then emerged in May that Bates told the same court that it had been an “error on my part” to say he was the joint owner of the club. Okkkkaaay.
So who does own Leeds United? Apparently it’s registered to a company in the Cayman Islands that has 10,000 shares. None of which appear to be owned by Bates and he’s yet to tell who does own them. No one seems to know. Not even, as far as we can tell, the Football League.
In an irony not lost on us the mystery company is called Forward Sports Fund – or FSF. Nowt to do with this FSF though, honest!
Anyway, we’re not financial experts by any means. Sometimes it’s hard to work out if we’ve even got enough pennies for a pint AND some peanuts, so we’ll let the ever-excellent David Conn explain his take on Leeds United’s ownership here.
The simple fact is that the ownership of our clubs should always be 100% transparent.
That’s the basic principle and all the complicated financial webs weaved by businessmen looking to make a quick buck from our clubs won’t change it.
Leeds United fans deserve to know the truth. It’s not good enough for any chairman or anonymous owner to expect fans to come through the gates in their thousands without them knowing who owns their club in the first place.
Well done David Conn.