Leeds United investment hopefuls had 'sympathetic noises' from 49ers Enterprises but await clarity
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Leeds Fans Utd [LFU] reached an agreement in principle with former owner Massimo Cellino in 2015 to buy a majority stake in the club but the Italian later decided against selling to the supporters group.
In 2016 at the LFU AGM, members voted to continue with the long-term goal of securing fan ownership and two years later, with the club fully in Andrea Radrizzani's hands, Leeds and the society jointly announced that they had agreed heads of terms to pave the way for supporter investment.
A July 2019 statement from the club confirmed that the investment would 'kick-start' plans for a brand new training facility and sports village at Elland Road, but the unveiling of those plans would be put back to the club's centenary year - 2020. The delay led to investors in Leeds Fans United being afforded an opportunity to withdraw their money.
Two years later however it emerged that Leeds no longer planned to build a training ground at the former Matthew Murray High School site, because expanding Elland Road was a more immediate priority, although redevelopment of the stadium has not yet begun.
On Friday it was confirmed that 49ers Enterprises, an investment group that owns the San Francisco NFL franchise, had agreed a deal to buy Radrizzani's 56 per cent shareholding. 49ers Enterprises are known to still harbour hopes of developing Elland Road and increasing its capacity but relegation to the Championship could put any immediate major plans on the backburner until such a time as top flight status is restored.
According to LFU chairman Brendan Meehan the incoming owners, who first got their feet under the boardroom table in May 2018, are well aware of the society's aims. Meehan would welcome further talks to ascertain 49ers Enterprises' position on fan ownership.
"What is the latest is that we have been in touch with the club for a long time, as our members know, about the process to try and get a stake in the club for fans," he said, speaking just hours before Friday night's announcement of a completed deal between 49ers Enterprises and Radrizzani.
"We've also had some discussions with the 49ers, but obviously this is very early days. The whole thing is uncertain in the light of the current change of ownership, so that's where it is at the moment. Once that is clear then we'll talk again to the 49ers and see how they feel about fan ownership. They've made sympathetic noises to us but that's as far as it's got at the moment. We'd have to see if they are amenable to the type of fan ownership we've been pushing for.
"Hopefully that will become clear shortly."
The LFU will shortly give notice to members of their next annual general meeting.