It’s fair to say the growth in influence of Leeds United Supporters Trust has been – quite simply – beyond their wildest expectations.
In terms of weight of numbers, LUST – now the fifth largest supporters trust in England following a stunning increase in their membership – have well and truly found their voice.
And it is now resonating among ever-increasing sections of the club’s vast fanbase.
Having played a leading role in breaking the news about several parties expressing a firm interest in the club and letting the takeover/investment genie out of the bottle at the end of May, LUST were afforded instant kudos and increased credibility – a priceless commodity.
Sources close to some players clearly thought so, going straight to their door to articulate concerns about the off-the-field situation at Elland Road early last month following LUST’s vision statement earlier this year which spoke for many.
Derided as trouble-makers in the past by the club hierarchy, LUST now have the trusting ear of many, from players and supporters to, seemingly, prospective new buyers/investors.
LUST chairman Gary Cooper said: “We’re one fans’ organisation that has been lucky enough to be in a position to attract people to come and speak to us.
“Our credibility, as well as our fanbase, seems to have hit the stars.
“People have felt confident to come and speak to us because we’ve managed to keep confidences and demonstrate that.
“Our credibility seems to have grown to such an extent that people in influential positions have come out of their way to contact and speak to us about our mission statement and ambition.
“They want to know what the fans feel and are really wanting.”
With the clamour for information incessant, even moreso following the club’s statement a week ago that they had reached an exclusivity agreement with one potential investor, LUST officials have been inundated with further requests for more news.
The speculation suggests that United are poised to pass into new ownership shortly after a decisive bid by investors, believed to be based in the Middle East, with a deal thought to be on the brink of completion following a period of due diligence on the accounts at Elland Road.
News could follow soon, with supporters anxiously awaiting a further, conclusive announcement.
On the insatiable desire for updates, Cooper added: “We’ve always tried to give the fans as much information as we can.
“Although it’s often not been enough and fans will always demand more! That’s the nature of being a supporter.
“The truth of the matter is we are neither a buyer or a seller. It’s up to the buyer or the seller – and I think in this case, more the seller – to come out and tell the fans what is happening.
“If they don’t want to do that, or there’s a reason why they can’t do that, the fans then really do have to be patient.
“Because the trust has put itself in such a position, and it’s public knowledge that we’re speaking to people, fans think we can say more than we can. I don’t blame them for that; I’d want to know if I was in their position and not chairman of the trust.
“I’m sure the club would say more if they wanted to, or if they were in a position to.
“Maybe, it’s that the buyer wants to remain anonymous for the time being until they announce who they are and announce themselves to the Leeds supporters.
“They have been quiet about who they are, so we’ve got to appreciate there may well be reasons for that and just be patient.
“But I don’t see past this week as an ideal opportunity for the new owners to say: ‘This is who they are.”
What is crystal-clear is that LUST, as a fans’ organisation, are well and truly here to stay, with their number of members and shareholders having grown spectacularly in the last year.
The progress has been at a rate of knots and with their targets last season massively exceeded and pretty much blown out of the water, much to the surprise of the burgeoning organisation.
Cooper said: “We started off this time last year with 294 paid-up shareholders. We’ve now got something like 800 shareholders and 6,500 members.
“It’s phenomenal and we’re way past what we could have dreamed of.
“We set ourselves a target last August of hitting the 1,000 mark – and saw ourselves hit 6,500 by the end of the season. It represents huge growth.
“There’s been a lot of interest in the free membership scheme we rolled out this year.
“While the model of supporters trusts is that you charge a shareholding fee for whoever wants a vote within the trust and that £5 fee ensures the trust stays in existence.
“While attracting 6,500 new members, we’ve also trebled our shareholding membership and our income has gone up.
“Our model now is a very sound one in practice and we’ve now the fifth largest trust in the country.”
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