Will there be six more weeks of Massimo Cellino or has the sun finally shone on Leeds United? Laura Jones asks whether fan ownership of the Whites is a real possibility.
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Everyday is Groundhog Day for Leeds United. Massimo Cellino’s tax bill emerges from where it was buried, the Football League give him a paltry suspension, he seemingly ignores it, sacks a manager and the fans complain throughout. Repeat until bored.
But it’s never sunny when Cellino’s yacht VAT is discussed, which leaves Leeds United with six more weeks of wintery gloominess and a home run that’s seen Blackburn Rovers win more times at Elland Road than they have since March 2015.
This suspension, however, has brought a break in the clouds and possibility of spring arriving early for the Whites. The Leeds owner has admitted that it may be time to move on and an unexpected statement was released from a potential fan ownership group Leeds Fans United.
Leeds Fans Utd has today reached agreement in principle with Massimo Cellino to purchase a majority stake in Leeds United Football Club.
— Leeds Fans Utd (@LeedsFansUtd) October 30, 2015
If I was a Leeds fan there would be three questions I’d want answering. 1) Where is the money coming from to buy this majority stake? 2) When the club has been bought how is it going to be funded? 3) Will the fans be able to agree what the best direction for Leeds United is?
The money for purchasing the club appears to be coming from fans buying a stake in Leeds Fans Community Benefit Scheme that will then be used to buy shares in Leeds United. According to the shares offer letter to fans, their money will be used to “potentially own a small part of Leeds United Football Club.” This crowdfunding approach to purchasing shares clearly started in order to get the fans voice on the board. This slice of ownership mentioned again in the offer letter suggests this would need £2.5million to reach the “small part”.
Questions remain. So where is the money coming from to purchase the majority stake?
Once the club has being purchased, if it does come off, where does the money come from to keep the club running as a business? Where will money for signings come from? Who will raise the funds to pay the catering staff the living wage as promised in Leeds Fans United’s objectives? Will they look to fans to maintain a yearly subscription on top of a season ticket price?
It is inevitable that they will be need to get businesses on side – and quickly – if they don’t want to be living hand to mouth every month. The fans’ group admits that “an acquisition of this size and nature has never before been completed by fans in the UK, and we will be evaluating everything over the next few days and consulting widely with our teams.”
My concern with fan ownership has always been who decides what is best for the club when there are so many differing opinions? You only have to listen to supporters after a match and at times you could easily be forgiven for thinking they’d been watching a different game to each other.
A board will be created with directors but how do you ensure that the right voices are being heard? It’s like becoming a Special Constable, whilst they have the best intentions for volunteering their time for free to help the public, some of them just enjoy the power of wearing the uniform.
Leeds fans have been through enough. At first it was fun to mock but no set of supporters should be subjected to the level of crookedness that the Whites have been in the past. Maybe spring has sprung but it’ll take more than a groundhog to predict the future at Elland Road.
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Follow Laura at @YICETOR