Andrea Radrizzani will engage Leeds City Council in talks about the construction of a new training ground for Leeds United after stating his intention to buy back the club’s Elland Road stadium this summer.
United’s new owner laid out his vision by signalling that a move from Leeds’ current training ground at Thorp Arch would form part of his strategy to regenerate the club and the area surrounding their stadium.
Radrizzani, who acquired 100 per cent control of Leeds from Massimo Cellino earlier this week, told the YEP he was looking to activate a clause allowing Leeds to repurchase Elland Road from its private landlord “in a few months”.
United’s option to buy back the venue, which was sold by the club in 2004 against a backdrop of financial problems, runs until their lease agreement expires in 2029 but Radrizzani is anxious to regain ownership of Elland Road in a deal which he said “might save £1.5m to £2m every year”.
Leeds pay around £1.5m in annual rent for Elland Road, a figure which increases by three per cent every 12 months.
The cost of buying back the stadium currently stands at more than £17m. Its sale raised £8m when the Gerald Krasner-led Yorkshire Consortium relinquished the property 13 years ago.
Elland Road has been officially owned by Teak Commercial Limited, an off-shore company based in the British Virgin Islands, since 2005 but it is understood to be in hands of Jacob Adler, the Manchester businessman who originally bought it from Leeds.
Adler also owns Thorp Arch but Leeds have no right to repurchase the training ground after a £6m buy-back clause elapsed while Ken Bates was chairman in 2009. United’s lease on the Wetherby facility runs to 2029 and their rent also increases annually.
Radrizzani said either Leeds or his investment company, Aser Holding Limited, would fund the buy-back of Elland Road “maybe before the end of the summer” but he is investigating the possibility of replacing Thorp Arch with a training ground in the vicinity of the stadium.
“In the bigger picture we are working on buying back the stadium, which could happen in a few months, maybe by the end of the summer,” he said.
“We don’t know at the moment if it will be the club (which buys the stadium), me financing the club to do it or buying the property with another vehicle but the club for sure will be lighter and there will be a lot of cost-cutting by bringing the asset within my group, rather than a third-party owner.
“We might save £1.5m to £2m every year so it’s important. Together with Thorp Arch, it (the combined rent) is more than £2m. The club have to pay higher rent every year.
“With Thorp Arch, we have to continue. We can’t get out of that so at least for two or three years we will still be there but we are working on other solutions for the training centre.”
Radrizzani is already in the process of renovating some of the matchday facilities at Elland Road, including the dressing rooms, but the 42-year-old spoke of a more ambitious attempt to develop the land around the stadium and create a new training ground as part of the project, potentially as soon as 2020.
The move would allow Leeds to begin negotiating their departure from a complex at Thorp Arch which was inspired by former manager Howard Wilkinson but has grown increasingly costly since its sale to Adler 13 years ago. The combined rent of Elland Road and Thorp Arch is believed to stand at £2.2m, a significant portion of their £30m turnover.
Much of the land beside United’s stadium belongs to the council and Radrizzani said: “If that will happen we will need of course the support of the city council. At the moment I’ve been very happy that I found a lot of people with an interest in Leeds United in the mayor and the colleagues of the council.
“I’m positive and confident that they can be a good support for the club and hopefully in a few years we can have a new home for our training ground and free ourselves from the additional costs we’re paying at Thorp Arch.”