Around 500 Leeds United fans staged a protest at Elland Road Stadium before the Championship match between Leeds and Middlesbrough on Saturday 13th August, calling for the resignation of the Chairman, Ken Bates. Leeds United fans are unhappy that money is being wasted building executive boxes, and not spent in the transfer market strengthening the squad with new players. Ken Bates reign as Chairman has been dominated by dodgy dealings, and there have been long-running doubts about the true ownership of the club.
Ian Pattison, Leeds City Socialist Party
Many Leeds United fans fear a repeat of the demise of the club in early 2000s. Former Chairman, Peter Ridsdale, speculated and gambled on the success of the club resulting in Leeds United ending up £120m in debt, dropping from the Champions League Semi Final to 2 tiers lower in League One, and going into administration.
Bates has spent £1m renovating the South Stand at Elland Road, building a hotel. Fans also want to know where the £5m that the club received for talented midfielder Fabian Delph has gone. Delph now plays for Premiership side Aston Villa. Much of the anger at Saturday’s protest was directed at Bates for spending £7m on new executive boxes. This expenditure has pushed Leeds United back into the red. These executive boxes will obviously be out of reach for most ordinary working class fans. When Leeds United were relegated from the Premiership to the Championship in 2004, ticket prices actually went up, and have increased every single year since then!
When Leeds United was pushing for promotion back to the top tier of English football in the late 1980s and early 1990s Elland Road was full to capacity. However, while ticket prices are beyond fans’ reach and the club linger in the Championship, Elland Road is rarely full. Bates’ new executive boxes have actually reduced the capacity of Elland Road, meaning that when we do get back to the Premiership, fewer fans will be able to watch our club play. But fans don’t think we’ll be able to get back into Premiership under Bates. While millions of pounds is disappearing into Bates’ business adventures, Leeds United fans rightly asked where is the money going? We demand that Bates opens the books, so fans can see where the money is going and why.
Leeds United fans pay a lot to see our club play, it’s our club, and we deserve to know what’s going on. During the summer, Leeds United has sold our keeper Kasper Schmeichel to promotion rivals Leicester and bought another Andy Lonergan, and sold 2 promising midfielders (Bradley Johnson and Neil Kilkenny), and only replaced them with Michael Brown, who has so far been a disappointment. Leeds United has failed to improve its weak attack, without buying or loaning a striker. A sign of the turmoil at the club was the signing of Darren O’Dea. Even though it was clear all close season that Leeds United needed to buy a new left-back, O’Dea was only brought in on loan 2 days before the season started, and only had 1 training session with the rest of the squad before being put straight into the first 11.
Police cleared the Billy Bremner statue next to Elland Road Stadium where the protest was meant to take place, and kept fans away from it during the protest. Hundreds of fans marched further into the stadium where a crowd of over 1000 gathered outside the West Stand chanting in support of the club and manager Simon Grayson, but against Chairman Ken Bates. After about 1 hour, fans marched into the Stadium expressing support for the club. Leeds United went on to lose the match to Middlesbrough 1-0, and the North Stand began to join in with the protestors’ chants towards the end of the match.