Leeds United supporters’ trust chairman Gary Cooper speaks to the YEP about the current situation at Elland Road.
On Monday, the Leeds United Supporters Trust put out a statement on behalf of our members, reflecting the concern that all of us feel about the future of Leeds United and the state of the club.
The response which came back – and it was absolutely massive – showed two things. Firstly the strength of feeling and anger towards Gulf Finance House and the way the bank is running Leeds United and secondly, the worry fans supporters have about the financial situation at Elland Road.
I’ve not seen the mood as volatile as this since the Trust marched on Elland Road to call for change in January 2012. I don’t think it goes too far to describe the atmosphere as one of outrage.
This isn’t a knee-jerk reaction on our part; the resentment’s been building for a while and what we’ve got at Leeds now is a fanbase at the end of their tether.
You only have to look at the past six months or so to see why. In that period we’ve had the debacle of the failed Sport Capital takeover.
At the moment we’ve got another takeover – this one by Massimo Cellino – which looks like it’s about to fall through too.
There was the scandal of Fiasco Friday and, bit by bit, a lot of evidence which seemed to contradict GFH’s claim that it was controlling the club in a sound and sensible manner.
It’s probably safe to say that GFH saw Mr Cellino as its ticket out of this. Maybe the bank still does.
I had the opportunity to meet him along with Ray Fell from the Leeds United Supporters Club a few weeks ago, and personally I found him very likeable. His character is definitely on the side of eccentric and he’s a passionate man.
For what it’s worth, I reckon the fans would have warmed to that – although he admitted himself that the way he runs a club might upset us from time to time.
He’s clearly a hands-on guy who likes to exercise control as he sees fit. I can’t imagine him sitting quietly in the background.
And obviously he has money. Money’s what we need at Leeds. But without wanting to judge him personally, it’s pretty obvious that he has a history as well.
I’ve seen reports recently of a dossier which GFH put together raising concerns about Mr Cellino’s past. On the basis of some of what we know, it surprises me to say the least that more alarm bells didn’t ring at GFH and that the bank didn’t take the view that this takeover had quite a serious chance of failing.
With the Football League rejecting him and Mr Cellino appealing.
What we have at Leeds now is a complete shambles.
We’ve all spent the past 48 hours wondering whether the coaching team, the squad and the staff at Elland Road – please don’t forget about them – would be paid, and away from all that, the season’s got badly out of hand.
I see the performance of the team and the manager at the moment from two different view points.
On one hand, if I was working for an employer who was trying to get out, making embarrassing PR gaffes and taking regular loans to keep things going, the worry it caused me might translate into my job and affect my ability to do it properly. It’s naive to say otherwise.
But on the other hand – and a lot of fans are saying this – the manager and the players are professionals and the football recently has been poor.
Some of the performances have reflected the debacle off the pitch but the squad were fifth before Christmas and this is a management team who we all had great faith in last summer.
I’ll never forget the outrage we witnessed on Fiasco Friday when Brian McDermott was sacked.
Even so, they can’t solve the fundamental problems at Leeds. Not immediately anyway.
In the short term, the best we can hope for is a return to something resembling stability which is easier said than done.
Above all else, we need some action from GFH – not meaningless statements filled with platitudes which bring about no progress.
I’m not buying any of it anymore and I doubt whether many of the club’s supporters are.
We’re sick of being told that everything’s alright because frankly it doesn’t look that way.
For example, we’re being told that administration isn’t a possibility.
That doesn’t reassure me because the figures don’t seem to add up.
The loans coming into the club don’t paint the picture of a club who are self-sufficient with a grip on the finances.
If Mr Cellino’s takeover isn’t happening, I’d like GFH to come out and tell us how it intends to pay the various loans back and how it intends to keep Leeds afloat.
The club’s accounts are due very soon and they should give us a much clearer idea of the position we’re in. I’d be surprised if they’re pretty.
I’d also ask the bank to commit itself to speaking to every group with a genuine interest in buying the club, including Together Leeds.
I don’t see any justification for ignoring anyone.
Going forward, if GFH wants to leave any legacy at this club – other than removing Ken Bates – it needs to sell Leeds United to a group or an individual with the following attributes: experience in football, money and know-how. I look from the outside and at the highest level of the club I see very little of any of that.
All I see are the signs which make me as worried as the rest of the Trust’s members.
Right from the start, when GFH first got involved at Elland Road, we as supporters have been told how great we are, how loyal we are and how much we’re valued.
None of it means anything. It’s mere words.
The only way GFH can show its respect for us now is by doing right by us and sorting this mess out.
We’ve all had enough.