'Charity begins at home' - promotion was the second thing on Andrea Radrizzani's agenda when he first talked Leeds United to Angus Kinnear

Owner Andrea Radrizzani wanted Leeds United to improve how they worked in the community
Owner Andrea Radrizzani wanted Leeds United to improve how they worked in the community
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Promotion was the second thing on Andrea Radrizzani’s agenda when he first spoke to Angus Kinnear about Leeds United.

The club owner brought Kinnear to Elland Road in the summer of 2017, having made his new managing director keenly aware of his desire to make Leeds more community-focused.

Two years on, Kinnear sees the work the club does for its city as a responsibility and believes it’s a priority for fans, too.

He said: “We did some work with our supporters, went to them and said what is important about your football club, why do you care about it?”

“The answer we expected was it’s about winning, we want our football club to win, that’s the most important thing to us.

“But they didn’t say that, the most important thing they said, for the football club, was that it made them feel proud to belong.

Managing director Angus Kinnear says they have ambitious plans to build on the work of the Leeds United Foundation

Managing director Angus Kinnear says they have ambitious plans to build on the work of the Leeds United Foundation

“And of course winning plays a part of that, if a team’s not winning it’s very hard to feel proud of a club.

“It’s also what the club does more broadly, what it does in the community, with supporters, how it treats its players, employees and how it projects itself to the rest of the world.”

The Leeds United Foundation is the club’s official charity and the vehicle that drives the Whites’ efforts to serve the people of Leeds.

A total of 30 schemes, from schools programmes to anti-knife crime initiatives and social inclusion measures, are expected to reach 30,000 of the region’s inhabitants this year.

According to Kinnear, the Foundation hasn’t always enjoyed the prominence Radrizzani gives it.

Speaking at an event that showcased the Foundation’s work, Kinnear said the owner is passionate about impacting the city: “A football club is in a unique position, with a connection to its fanbase and community, which gives it an ability to influence the community it serves.

“But that’s also a responsibility.

“If I look back on the last five years of the Foundation, it’s a responsibility that has been made really challenging for Alan [Scorfield, Foundation CEO] and his team and the trustees to do the job they wanted to do.

“That was because the previous regime didn’t see the Foundation as core to what the club was – the current regime does.

“Actually, when Andrea spoke to me about the opportunity to come to Leeds, he spoke to me about two things; the second one was getting promoted, the first was making sure Leeds work with the community in a better way than it had done previously.”

In an effort to ensure the club and its charity are intrinsically linked, the Foundation has been brought back into Elland Road offices.

And ambitious plans have been drawn up to build on what Kinnear has called ‘fantastic’ programmes already offered, in an attempt to help areas suffering from deprivation.

Along with work in India and the Middle East, the Foundation is focusing closer to home.

“Our biggest project is the Community Sports Hub, the Parklife scheme we’re looking to open on Fullerton Park,” said Kinnear.

“I’ve been talking about this for two years and it’s really painful because I want to announce it but we’re really close.

“It’s a £7m investment funded by the Football Foundation and the local council to build something we really feel will be the start of rejuvenating Beeston and Holbeck.

“One of the principles we’re working towards is that charity begins at home.

“We have a fantastic brand, a fantastic facility, we’ve had fantastic engagement but we are in one of the most deprived areas of the UK – Holbeck is in the bottom one per cent for deprivation in the UK.

“Our focus is going to be working to make it better.”

Ever the businessman, Kinnear is also keen to see an improvement in the balance sheet.

And he wants the Foundation to rival the very best organisations of its kind: “We’re far from perfect, we’re not delivering the revenues we should and I think we can, but we’re working towards that.

“In three years time we’ll be taking a fantastic Foundation we’re all immensely proud of and saying it’s stepped up to be one of the best football community businesses in the UK.

“And by that stage it is also going to be commensurate with our Premier League status as long as the [team] do their job across the rest of the season.”