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Leeds United: A question of identity improvement

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  • by Phil Hay
 

The anonymous owners of Leeds United’s Elland Road stadium could be told to reveal their names under new legislation proposed by Conservative MP Damian Collins.

Collins has tabled a parliamentary bill aimed at forcing English and Scottish clubs to name their major shareholders and the owners of their stadiums and training grounds.

The proposals would demand greater disclosure about the ownership of Elland Road which was sold by Leeds more than seven years ago and is now the property of off-shore firm Teak Commercial Limited.

Both the stadium and United’s training complex at Thorp Arch changed hands in November 2004 when the Leeds board led by Gerald Krasner negotiated their sale to Manchester property developer Jacob Adler.

In 2005, Adler transferred the freehold of Elland Road to Teak Commercial Limited, a company registered in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands.

The directors and beneficiaries behind Teak Commercial Limited have never been publicly declared, but Leeds pay an annual seven-figure sum to rent Elland Road.

The club negotiated a 25-year lease of the ground after selling it in 2004 and retained the lease after Teak Commercial Limited acquired Elland Road the following year.

Collins, the MP for Folkestone and Hyde, told the YEP: “The bill would require more disclosure than just the brass plate on the door. Who are the investors in the company, who are the shareholders and who ultimately controls one of the club’s key assets? Where is money paid to use the stadium going?

“In my view it’s essential that these facts are disclosed to allow for full and proper transparency within a football club. Because of the perilous financial state of a lot of clubs, most supporters I speak to really want to know who owns their club, who owns their club’s key assets and facilities and what their intentions are.”

Collins’ Football (Financial Transparency) bill will be debated by Parliament on Monday, March 13.

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The motion calls for “leave to bring in a bill to require a football club playing in the top four tiers of English and Scottish professional football to disclose the identity of its owner and the identity of the owner of its home playing ground (and) training ground.”

Collins’ private member’s bill will also seek to end the ‘Football Creditors’ rule which requires clubs in administration to pay all football debts in full before regaining membership of the Premier League or Football League.

As when Leeds entered administration in 2007, unsecured creditors often receive a small percentage of the money they are owed as part of a deal to revive an insolvent club.

The ownership of United became the subject of fierce scrutiny after the club were bought out of administration in 2007 by the Forward Sports Fund (FSF), an off-shore firm registered in the Caribbean Island of Nevis.

The beneficiaries of FSF remained a secret and, amid growing public pressure for more transparency, chairman Ken Bates completed a buy-out of Leeds for an undisclosed sum in April of last year.

 

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