Leeds United's £400m bet breeds uncertainty among Whites' key players

Leeds United's immediate future remains unclear as the threat of relegation contradicts long-term plan

By Joe Donnohue
Friday, 13th May 2022, 7:00 am

San Francisco 49ers chief and Leeds United Vice President Paraag Marathe was present at Elland Road for the Whites' 3-0 defeat by Chelsea.

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Leeds fell into the bottom three for the first time since October last weekend after losing to Arsenal, and Wednesday night's result did nothing to appease concerns over the club's Premier League future.

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SCENE: Leeds United take on Chelsea as darkness falls on Elland Road (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)

Marathe's 49ers consortium are minority shareholders in Leeds United, but minority only in name.

49ers Enterprises own 44% of the club, while there is a reported agreement between the group and current chairman Andrea Radrizzani to buy out the Italian's 56% stake for a figure upwards of £400 million by January 2024, although it is expected that figure would represent a full acquisition, of which 44% has already been secured.

Of course, this valuation may only be ratified if Leeds remain a Premier League entity. Relegation could potentially wipe hundreds of millions from the club's value, decimating any plan Radrizzani may have had to make a healthy return on his 2017 investment.

Relegation would not leave Leeds in as tight a spot financially as an Everton or a Burnley, for example, but nevertheless, approximately £120 million in annual broadcast revenue would be wiped from the club's income statement for the upcoming 2022/23 season.

Parachute payments would soften the blow of relegation, while several first-team players on Premier League wages could depart, thus reducing the club's largest outgoing, but finances aside, succumbing to the drop would create uncertainty over the club's direction.

All the talk of the past two seasons has been of progressing, developing infrastructure and moving forward as a Premier League side.

Increasing Elland Road's capacity, supplementing the first-team and U23 squads, as well as upgrading the club's training facilities would all be projects likely to be shelved in the event of relegation.

Currently, head coach Jesse Marsch is battling with a different 'project' altogether.

"[The bottom three] That's where we are. Someone asked me is it a psychological project? I said it's been like that since I've been here," Marsch said in his post-Chelsea press conference.

The team have two fixtures remaining: at home to Brighton and Hove Albion, and away to Brentford on the final day of the season.

Immediate relegation rivals Burnley and Everton hold a slender advantage on the Whites, meaning points are a necessity.

Several months ago, the summer plan for 2022 was to smoothly transition from Marcelo Bielsa to Marsch, consolidate the club's status as a top flight side with further additions to the senior squad and to move forward with off-field proposals.

One aspect of that plan was expedited in the hope that a swift managerial change would drastically change the fortunes of the side.

The intended effect has no yet been achieved despite a recent five-match unbeaten run, and the 49ers' investment in the club over the past 18 months is in danger of losing a significant portion of its value.