Leeds United expectations soar as 49ers Enterprises wipe slate clean but new data reveals low bar

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Expectations are sky high for Leeds United's new owners – 49ers Enterprises - but if the Fair Game Index is anything to go by then the bar has been set low.

49ers Enterprises have finally received EFL approval for their full takeover at Elland Road, in a £170m deal for Andrea Radrizzani's 56 per cent shareholding. The club announced the news to great fanfare from the fanbase late on Monday night.

An agreement was reached between the two boardroom parties on June 9 but the league's ratification took nearly six weeks, due in part to the number of individuals who had to submit to the EFL owners and directors test and the fact that this investment model is not as straight forward as a single owner takeover, like the one at Wigan Athletic recently.

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A green light from the governing body was always expected though and 49ers Enterprises have pressed on with their plans in the background, albeit requiring Andrea Radrizzani's say-so for the appointment of Daniel Farke.

Outgoing transfer business - mostly in the form of loans it has to be said - has continued throughout the last few weeks and although incoming signings have been lined up behind the scenes, it was only when it became clear that EFL approval was imminent that news broke of Ethan Ampadu's permanent move from Chelsea.

That £7m deal is the first bit of senior recruitment of the 49ers era and a first glimpse of how the investment group might look to do their transfer business now they've got their feet under each side of the boardroom table.

The fact that news did not break until a deal had almost been struck between the two clubs, was an unfamiliar feeling for Whites supporters. It's enough of a rarity in the modern game, where transfers are tracked and updated almost by the hour from the writing of a name on a list to the signing of that name on a dotted line and its printing on the back of a shirt.

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Whether such stealth will be possible in all their future transfer market manoeuvres remains to be seen, as does Ampadu's suitability for Daniel Farke's football and a Championship promotion bid. If the last few windows of the last Elland Road era have taught us anything it is to stow transfer judgement until a season's trajectory and an individual's contribution has revealed itself.

NEW ERA - Paraag Marathe leads 49ers Enterprises' new regime at Leeds United and must prove to fans it will be an exciting new dawn.NEW ERA - Paraag Marathe leads 49ers Enterprises' new regime at Leeds United and must prove to fans it will be an exciting new dawn.
NEW ERA - Paraag Marathe leads 49ers Enterprises' new regime at Leeds United and must prove to fans it will be an exciting new dawn.

Marc Roca's debut campaign in England held some promise but ultimately, across the piece, was a disappointment. He conked out towards the end, having briefly purred in the earlier stages. Brenden Aaronson and Rasmus Kristensen coughed and spluttered but never got going, not really. All three have already left the building.

What Leeds fans want, more than the excitement that accompanied all of those 2022 summer arrivals, a feeling that slowly but surely died, is a sensation that endures. Season-long satisfaction over temporary transfer titillation.

They want cash to be splashed, yes, and every indicator is that this new ownership group has plenty of that in reserve and plenty to make available for the next three years at least, but they want sensible signings that prove to be worth every penny.

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A £27m 2020 outlay on Rodrigo felt like the kind of fanfare that should accompany a big club's return to the big time and yet it took three seasons for the Spaniard to win a place in supporters' hearts. And when relegation has led to his cut-price departure, can it really be said he represented money well spent?

Say what you like about Ampadu's ability or his experience of relegations but if he turns out to be as good as analytical heads believe he can be in midfield then that £7m could prove a bargain.Profit and sustainability rules will dictate, to a large degree, what 49ers Enterprises can do in their first transfer window and sound financial stewardship is one of the ways in which they will be judged as owners of Leeds United. It's also one of the four pillars of Tracey Crouch's Fan-Led Review and the Fair Game Index.Fair Game say their 2023 Index is the 'most comprehensive survey of English football ever conducted' and seeks to highlight the success of club owners in four areas: financial sustainability, good governance, fan engagement and equality standards.

They used 80 different sets of data to score clubs in each area. A number of experts helped compile data on club debt, solvency and how much of revenue was spent on players' wages to determine a financial sustainability score, with a 40 per cent overall weighting given to this facet of the game.

Fan engagement made up 20 per cent of the overall score, equality standards - scored on publicly available data - a further 10 per cent and good governance the final 30 per cent. The latter stand was a combination of data put together by Fair Game researchers and other bodies involved in the sport.

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What the Fair Game Index decided, all things told, was that Leeds United fared only slightly better off the pitch than on it, placing 17th in the Premier League rankings. A score of 22 out of 40 for financial sustainability put the Whites 16th, 10.36 out of 30 for good governance was second bottom of the table, 4.25 out of 20 for fan engagement was good enough for 18th place and only when it came to equality standards, with 6.10 out of 10, did the club do itself proud. That latter score was the second highest in the top flight, bettered only by Southampton.

No matter the significance of this survey or Fair Game's conclusions on any aspect of Elland Road decision making, it is impossible to argue that Leeds as a club lost the run of itself in the past 18 months or so.

Managerial appointments, succession planning and player recruitment were all suspect enough to have supporters on the verge of protest on a number of occasions. Resentment bubbled in the stands and, at times, boiled over. A happy place Elland Road was not.

Radrizzani opted to stay away from the final game of the season, when relegation was confirmed, and that appears right up there with the wisest decisions he made as majority owner. 49ers Enterprises were in the room, it will be pointed out, when decisions were made but they might just as quickly retort that it was not in their gift to exert control, or have a final say.

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That, and the addition of fresh investors, including some of the biggest names in American sport, could permit the group taking charge at Leeds to quite reasonably ask for a brand new slate. You're never starting from scratch in football, not when a stadium, a staff, a vast fanbase and a squad is inherited, but 49ers Enterprises are starting to do things their way. A new day has dawned at Leeds.

They will do things differently than the regime they are replacing. They must do at least some things better. Scrutiny is never far away and judgement is often hot on its heels but what the owners can be assured is that Leeds fans need no annual indices, surveys or data to tell them how to feel about their club.

They'll set the expectations - promotion, entertaining football, fair ticket prices - and 49ers Enterprises will have to meet them. The bar, though, if set by what has gone before in recent months, can only be raised.