Leeds City Council is to discuss the possible construction of a new city-centre training ground for Leeds United in a move which signals the club’s intention to move away from their Thorp Arch base.
The council’s board will meet on Wednesday, October 18, to review a recommendation that it opens talks with United about building a training complex and community sports village on two sites close to Elland Road.
An executive report submitted to the board has urged the council to engage United and the club’s owner, Andrea Radrizzani, over relocating the Leeds’ players and coaching staff from their current home near Wetherby.
Radrizzani, who took full control of the Championship club in May, has previously spoken about moving United’s training ground back into the centre of the city as part of wider plans to develop the land around Elland Road.
Council officials have identified the former site of Matthew Murray High School, which closed in 2006, on Brown Lane in Holbeck as a potential hub for United’s first team and academy players.
Officials also want to use the Fullerton Park land adjacent to Elland Road to create a Community Sports Village and a base for the Leeds United Foundation. Both pieces of land are council owned.
A statement read: “If approved by members of the council’s executive board, the council and club will open talks regarding the former home of Matthew Murray High School in south Leeds potentially becoming the club’s official training facilities for senior and academy players.
“A separate site at Elland Road’s Fullerton Park, which is also owned by the council, has been identified by the club as a potential base for a ‘Community Sports Village’. Used also by the academy for week-night training, this site would become primarily the hub of Leeds United Foundation’s wide ranging sporting and educational programmes and would support the club’s aim to be at the heart of the local community.”
The council said the project would aim to provide Leeds’ academy with category 1 status under the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), the highest grade attainable. United’s academy holds category two status at present.
Its statement added: “If a provisional agreement is reached for both sites, it is initially proposed that the council, subject to planning approval being granted would enter into a lease agreement with the club for a period of 99 years.”
Leeds’ complex at Thorp Arch was the brainchild of former manager Howard Wilkinson and first opened in 1994. Leeds, however, sold the facility on a sale and leaseback agreement in 2004, raising just over £4m at a time when the club were facing mounting debts.
United pay an annual six-figure rent in excess of £600,000, a sum which increases by three per cent annually. A buy-back clause on the property expired in 2009
Thorp Arch is in the hands of Jacob Adler, the Manchester businessman who owned Elland Road until Radrizzani bought the stadium back for around £20m in June.
In response to the council’s announcement, Leeds’ managing director Angus Kinnear said: “We thank Leeds City Council for their consideration.
“We have an ambitious vision for Elland Road and the surrounding area as a centre for elite development and a thriving community sports hub. Our partners at the local council fully understand the extent of the impact a successful Leeds United can have on our city and that any progress we make will be done so in consultation with the local community.”