Last year Ken Bates sold Leeds United to Gulf Finance House ending the reign of terror than had ensued for eight unforgiving years. But what came from this fresh new beginning? The takeover last summer – also known as TOMA – dragged on longer than the 5 minutes of Fergie time on that memorable 3rd January match in 2010. LUST’s Gary Cooper famously advised that we “dare to dream”, though such optimism is usually reigned back in by hard-hitting reality at Leeds, so caution has been needed in beginning of the reform-over-revolution GFH days.
The focus of GFH has been starkly different to that of Bates. In fact, it has often been contrasting due to the direct intention to fix problems in order to heal the sleeping giant from its Bates-induced state of decay. The divide and rule tactics Bates employed worked in many ways as the Monaco-based tax-dodging dictator riled the ‘morons’ with a stronger defiance to professionalism than Warnock’s blaming of Tom Lees.
The key aims of GFH have been admirable values such as sustainability, re-engagement, openness and success on the pitch – with the obvious aim of promotion to the Premier League being seen as realistic within three years.
Taking a positive look at the work GFH have done thus far – positivity being the predominant feeling that they’ve brought to Leeds – here are twenty of the best aspects of GFH’s running of Leeds united:
- 1. re-installment of media and bringing BBC Radio Leeds back – Free, diverse and extensive media coverage goes against the power-hungry way that Bates runs football clubs. Various elements of the media were previously banned but GFH have changed that and enjoyed the financial gains of BBC commentary back at Elland Road.
- 2. #Leeds4Less – This early scheme encouraged fans to return to Elland road at a time when attendances were suffering. As an initiative half way through the season, it couldn’t be a regular occurrence as that would devalue season tickets, but it was a good start.
- 3. ‘Taking it to the kids’ training in schools – An extensive primary school football coaching scheme will help the club to give something back to the community and, less altruistically, to raise the Leeds United brand amongst the easily-influenced youth.
- 4. RITGK Interview and official programme column – Being interviewed by Right In The Gary Kelly’s in December was a fantastic way to introduce the new owners with a friendly openness and give insight into their plans. Furthermore, the RITGK column in the match programme gives Leeds fans a sense of their involvement and ownership of their club.
- 5. Cheaper match programme – £4 reduced to £3 (albeit in a smaller size). Still expensive but no longer the most expensive in England.
- 6. Cheaper season tickets – One of the failures of Batesonomics was the ‘Premier League prices for Premier League football’ idea. That failed because we were still playing League One and Championship football when those prices were charged. GFH went further than the popular freezing of prices by reducing season ticket prices giving our loyal support some reward.
- 7. Student tickets – As much as some people might begrudge the favouring of some young lay-abouts, this is another attempt at uniting the city as well as keeping and gaining younger fans.
- 8. Social Media – I believe that Leeds United were the last team in the top two divisions to not have a Facebook or Twitter account. This has changed with a range of Twitter accounts and a Facebook account as the club gets with the times and reaches out to people with the technology they actually use.
- 9. LUFC Pop-up shop in Leeds Trinity – The first LUFC shop in the city centre since 2007 is cashing in on excitement in the city and acting as an accommodating base for shirt signing sessions.
- 10. Talking to supporters groups – GFH have met LUST, the Leeds United Supporters Club and local politicians in an attempt to rebuild relationships with the fans, the city and those who have authority in the city. This is a fantastic way of bringing people back and improving the club’s image.
- 11. Money invested into Thorp Arch – After a request from Brian McDermott, a rearranging and updating of the training ground showed willingness to listen to the desires of the manager and a commitment to his plans.
- 12. Bates out – After outraging GFH with his unwarranted private Jet charges, GFH ousted Bates just before this season kicked off confirming Leeds as a jubilantly Bates-free zone.
- 13. Club ambassadors – Eddie Gray, Peter Lorimer and Dom Matteo have all been made ambassadors. This should advertise the club well and keep a sense of community with former top players. One or two more should follow (e.g. Lucas Radebe).
- 14. Stronger emphasis on families in the East stand – Magicians, local bands, artists and other kids’ entertainment on the East stand concourse will entertain kids who get bored watching Michael Brown. Helping to attract and keep the next generation.
- 15. Searching for investment – Bates never did this. GFH are open to investment. Salah Nooruddin has spoken about his regular contact with investors from China, the US, Europe and the Middle East. They’re not in it for selfish ego-boosting desires, they’re there for cleverly earned profit, and they know what they’re doing.
- 16. Intention to repurchase Elland Road – Returning to one of their initial intentions when buying the club, the latest reports of impending inward investment is a multi-million pound deal which would involve the purchase of Elland road – a move that would increase Elland road’s profitability for Leeds United
- 17. Tiered membership system – The tiered system of membership with Gold, Silver and Bronze levels allows the cheapest price of a membership to be lowered thus making LUFC membership more accessible.
- 18. Leeds merchandise available in non-LUFC shops – Greater availability helps to sell more shirts and widen the clubs already massive brand awareness; good business sense.
- 19. Not a selling club – Ross McCormack is a prime example of how our attitudes towards transfer offers for our players have been strengthened to a state of control and long-term balancing allowing us to keep our best players. The retention of Byram and McCormack won’t draw as much attention as an average signing would, but keeping our quality is far more important.
- 20. The marketing campaign – “The past is the past, let’s be united”. The message is clear and proudly painted around the city with carefully placed signs (which even reached Huddersfield train station!). Re-engaging and uniting the city is key.
By Edward Jones – @BakkeTheNet – Follow him on Twitter!