Leeds United’s training ground will lie empty for up to six weeks this summer as part of Massimo Cellino’s plans to cut the club’s costs.
Thorp Arch is to shut temporarily from Monday onwards after staff there were given 24 hours’ notice on Thursday to clear their desks in preparation for the unprecedented closure.
United’s training ground will re-open on specific dates to allow their academy teams to fulfil scheduled games towards the end of this month but day-to-day employees are vacating the complex until pre-season training starts at the beginning of July.
Certain staff are to relocate to Elland Road next week, including the club’s physio and medical teams. A source told the YEP that a number of others have been instructed to “go home on holiday.”
Thorp Arch has been the site of Leeds’ training ground since the mid-1990s and was officially opened in its current guise in 2002.
The facility near Wetherby has never been shut during the summer before but Cellino has enforced the closure amid extensive efforts to cut United’s overheads.
Leeds are losing around £1million a month and Cellino, who took control of the club from Gulf Finance House on April 7, has devoted much of his time to tackling their liabilities and outgoings.
United have been served with a winding-up petition by Sport Capital - a company linked to former managing director David Haigh - and are under pressure to pay back a loan of more than £950,000 before the petition is heard by a judge in London on June 9.
Cellino has already dealt with number of other pressing bills but his long-term plans to steady United’s finances are likely to involve heavy cuts and staff redundancies.
The Italian complained about the cost of Leeds’ Thorp Arch-based academy in an interview with the YEP last month, saying: “The academy at Leeds, it costs us £2m a year and we don’t grow any players or not enough. It’s not giving us enough, or anything.
“We are not a rich club. I have money but this club, it loses money. It’s like an ex-rich man but instead of eating cheese, it still eats caviar.”
Cellino was contacted for comment about Thorp Arch last night but did not respond.
The sudden closure of the training ground will save on everyday expenditure but the cost of renting the complex is a more serious and problematic burden.
Leeds have rented Thorp Arch since 2004 when the property was sold to Barnaway, a firm owned by Manchester property developer Jacob Adler.
The club hold a 25-year lease on the property but their rent rises by three per cent each October and currently stands at around £600,000 a year.
A buy-back clause on the property expired in 2009 after United, then run by Ken Bates, failed to raise a sum of £6m need to repurchase Thorp Arch from Adler.