The future of Leeds United’s training ground is under the spotlight again after Massimo Cellino warned that he would seriously consider leaving Thorp Arch unless the club succeed in driving down the cost of the complex.
Cellino is to approach the owner of Thorp Arch for discussions about the size of United’s rent payments, saying he could not justify the expense of a facility which he claims costs Leeds around £2.5m a year.
The training ground near Wetherby is currently closed after Cellino took the decision to shut Thorp Arch during the summer and save money as part of an extensive effort to reduce United’s overheads and losses.
Both the club’s Italian owner and his newly-appointed football consultant, Benito Carbone, have indicated that Thorp Arch is likely to open again when Leeds’ first-team squad return from their holidays for pre-season training.
But in an interview with YEP, Cellino raised the option of United making a permanent exit from their long-standing training base.
“At this stage I don’t know what we will do,” Cellino said. “I cannot say ‘yes, we will stay at the training ground’ because that is not certain. But I can’t say ‘no we won’t’ either. I must look at it and decide.
“I need to think about at the money and say ‘can we afford the training ground?’ If we can then we go back. If we can’t afford it then we can’t keep on using it. It costs about £2.5m and it’s too expensive.
“I will speak to the landlord to see if we can save some money because if we can’t afford the training ground, we have a problem and we can’t use it. We can use it at the right price.”
Leeds sold Thorp Arch in 2004 to Barnaway, a company controlled by Manchester property developer Jacob Adler.
The £4.2m deal was agreed by the board of United directors led by Gerald Krasner and, along with money raised from the sale of Elland Road, was used to pay off a loan taken from former Aston Villa and Watford shareholder Jack Petchey.
The cost of renting both facilities rises by three per cent each year and Leeds currently pay around £600,000 annually to lease Thorp Arch alone. The club are entitled to rent the complex until 2029 under the terms of the agreement reached between Adler and Krasner’s board.
Thorp Arch houses United’s well-regarded academy and it has been the site of their training ground since the mid-1990s when former manager Howard Wilkinson put plans in place for a state-of-the-art facility to the north of Leeds.
Cellino said: “My feeling about Thorp Arch is that it’s too expensive and too far away from Leeds. But I’m not saying we’ll leave. I’m saying that at the moment I can’t say yes or no to that question.”
Cellino has targeted the complex as part of his cost-cutting at Leeds, a sweeping exercise which saw a formal redundancy scheme launched among general staff last week.
United were due to begin pre-season training at Thorp Arch on July 3 but Cellino has ordered manager Brian McDermott, his coaching staff and his players to report back to Elland Road at 10am a week today, claiming their holiday entitlement will be used in full by May 28.
The 57-year-old said he was yet to decide whether the squad would be told to start training immediately, admitting: “I don’t know, I work day-by-day. I have to see.
“I need everyone back here, the players, the manager. I need to speak to them. They are on holiday but we need to work for next season.”
Meanwhile, young Leeds defender Charlie Taylor has committed himself to the club by signing a new three-year deal.
The 20-year-old left-back, who is currently on loan at Fleetwood Town and preparing for the League Two play-off final, was due to reach the end of his previous contract next month.