LEEDS UNITED assistant boss Paul Raynor has implored Whites supporters not to boycott the televised home clash with Middlesbrough next month – in protest at the controversial rearrangement of the game at short notice.
Fans of both clubs have reacted furiously to the rescheduling, with under four weeks notice, of the game to Monday, February 15 at the behest of Sky.
Meanwhile, Leeds United Supporters Trust are calling on spectators to vote with their feet and make a stand by not attending, with the Boro fixture being the 13th United appointment that has been moved for television so far in 2015-16, with a further three moved from their original time due to a game being televised.
Raynor says that he understands the depth of feeling on show among fans, with those affected including a group of over 100 Scandinavian fans who had made plans to attend the scheduled game.
But equally, he is keen on United not to be handicapped by the key loss of partisan support against the promotion chasers, expected to sell out their 2,426 allocation for the fixture, despite the disruption.
Raynor said: “I’d ask them not to (stop going).
“I understand their frustrations and understand the club’s frustration and ours.
“But we have been dealt this card and are going to have to get on with it and make the best of it. I’d ask the fans to stay behind us and show their frustration in another way.
“We want as many Leeds fans in the ground as possible to support the team. There’s nothing better. We have only been here a short while, but just want as many Leeds fans here supporting the team.
“They have been absolutely brilliant. They waited a long time for a home win and we have given them a few wins in the meantime now and there’s nothing better than a big crowd behind us at Elland Road.”
The switch of the Boro fixture has aggravated the sense of bad feeling felt by Massimo Cellino towards Sky TV and the Football League, with the governing body blaming the late rescheduling on legal action taken by Leeds.
Matters escalated ahead of the televised game with Derby County on December 29, when Cellino threatened to ban Sky cameras after claiming that home matches screened on TV incurred a significant financial loss on United due to falling commercial revenue - with the club professing anger in a statement at an “entirely disproportionate” number of appearances on Sky.
The statement also stated the club’s desire to challenge future TV dates “through the appropriate legal routes”, with the Cellino stating in an interview with a national newspaper that he was “protect the club” amid the disruption to fans, staff and players by the number of rearranged games.
Steve Evans backed Cellino comments, with Raynor concurring that such changes are wholly disruptive.
Raynor added: “In terms of the football side, it is disruptive to our preparations and it is to the club in terms of the revenue that it brings in on a matchday.”