WE’VE almost come to see it as a routine for new owners of Leeds United. Get in the door, address the supporters and talk about buying back Elland Road.
I suppose it’s only natural to try and win the crowd but promising grand gestures is the easiest part of ownership. Delivering on them is something else entirely.
Conversations about the private ownership of Elland Road were going on while I was there, which brings home the reality of how long it has taken for someone to buy it back. The fact that Andrea Radrizzani has done the deal in a matter of weeks does wonders for his reputation.
I knew nothing about him when he first appeared on the scene but this deal tells you that he’s not here to dance around in the limelight for a couple of months. In his head, this has to be a long-term project.
Buying Elland Road is a sound business decision and when you get to the crux of it, that’s why he’s done the deal. The PR aspect of the announcement is obviously significant – a massive commitment which every supporter will be delighted about – but Radrizzani is doing this because it makes sense financially.
He’s hardly going to throw £20m into the air for the sake of a few pats on the back. That’s not how people as successful as him work.
Buying Elland Road is a sound business decision and when you get to the crux of it, that’s why he’s done the deal.David Prutton
Aside from anything else, it gets rid of a payment in rent which the club can really do without. I know £1.7m sounds like nothing in football these days but figures like that add up.
Save on the rent, increase your ticket sales and your income from things like merchandise and corporate deals and you’re potentially talking about a sizeable pile of cash.
It’s cash you can put into the academy and it’s cash that you can spend on new players. I’m not going to pretend that Radrizzani is a die-hard Leeds fan – and neither is he – but it’s counter-intuitive to spend £20m on the ground and then keep the spare money to himself.
Something tells me this will be a drip effect in terms of the squad: a gradual increase in expenditure in the transfer market with the aim of getting out of the league as early as possible, but without blowing everything Radrizzani has on players. When you think about it, it’s a sensible strategy. I say that despite the fact that when I was at Leeds and we were in League One, I found the talk of building hotels and so on around the ground very odd.
I completely understand the need for clubs to expand their infrastructure, but my attitude was this: Leeds are a League One club. Leeds should never be a League One club. Let’s worry about the football before we worry about people coming to spend the weekend at Elland Road.
What Radrizzani has done is tee Leeds up for expansion at the right time, or in the Premier League. I’d guess that the council will be more willing to work with the club now Elland Road has been bought back and when Leeds finally get back into the Premier League, the scope for more facilities and so on will be endless. We’ve all seen the land around Elland Road. It’s basically derelict. In the right circumstances it’s in everyone’s interests to totally transform that area.
For me, the key here is credibility. Radrizzani has shown himself to be credible and that reputation filters right through the club. Players couldn’t care less about who owns a stadium. Players want to play and get paid. But stability matters to them and so does ambition. If you’re signing a three or four-year deal you want to feel sure that in three years’ time the people who made you promises at the beginning haven’t packed their bags or left the club to rot.
Essentially, you want to know as the bare minimum that the club you’re joining won’t get worse. Radrizzani has pretty much answered that question by doing a deal which many probably thought would never be done. The positivity that comes from this will carry him and Leeds for a long time.