The effect of the hard years at Leeds United has extended far beyond the football pitch. The club’s exile from the Premier League took its toll in other ways; most notably through a lack of investment in the club’s basic infrastructure.
Elland Road is at the centre of that infrastructure, United’s home for almost a century and an iconic venue which was sold to private landlords in a desperate cash-raising scheme 13 years ago. Successive owners paid lip-service to the idea of buying the stadium back and freeing Leeds from a punitive rent. Successive owners aimed to put repurchasing Elland Road on the agenda but ultimately failed to do so.
In the space of a month since his takeover of United, Andrea Radrizzani has delivered the deeds and taken Elland Road back under his wing at a personal cost which will not fall far short of £20m. At a stroke, annual rent of around £1.7m – a millstone around United’s neck – is wiped out and he and the club have full commercial control of a ground which is there to benefit Leeds, rather than hold them back.
It is, by a huge distance, the most significant piece of owner investment at Leeds for the best part of two decades. Repurchasing Elland Road is a huge step forward financially and proof if it were needed that Leeds should be safe in Radrizzani’s hands. Owners of Leeds United are naturally treated with scepticism after so many seasons of disappointment and let-downs. With his tenure in its infancy, Radrizzani has put his money where his mouth is. This feels like the start of a new, positive era for the club – at long, long last.