Opinion: “Trust me, I’m a Leeds fan”: Ownership shouldn’t be this complicated

Elland Road remains under the ownership of a mysterious consortium
Written by Simon O'Rourke

Several owners past and present, have tried to tap in to the primary asset of Leeds United Football Club by masquerading as “One Of Us”. It’s tired, it’s tedious, and simply not required.

We are so proud, we shout it out loud, we love you Leeds! Leeds! Leeds!

It is heard at every game, home or away, and embodies the unique relationship between the players on the field and the fans in the stands. The fans on the terraces really do love the club with an unmatched passion. One could argue the same can be said of some of the players who don the shirt, but as with all great things it can be exploited by those with less scruples than Captain Louis Renault.

Several owners past and present, have tried to tap in to the primary asset of Leeds United Football Club by masquerading as “One Of Us”. It’s tired, it’s tedious, and simply not required. From Ridsdale to Umbers, and all in between, we’ve been told that these men love Leeds United and want what is best for the club. Collectively, they feel the need to convince us they’re Leeds fans as if it gives them extra leeway while they’re bleeding the club dry.

As recently as January, Andrew Umbers rolled out the tired old line that he is a lifelong Leeds United fan and wants to return the club to its former glory. Perhaps that’s why he has personally profited from the club to the tune of a seven figure sum in four years and stands to make even more with the next sale. Ya know, because he loves it so much. Can love be dictated by your bank balance? Just a thought. Can your love for a club shine through when you’re too busy running a “long con” on the majority owner of the club? Step one: convince Massimo you’ve spoken with The Football League, and they have assured you that if you’re named as Chairman, the appeal process will go much smoother. You might even escape with a slap on the wrist. Step two: Play dumb when step one doesn’t quite pan out the way you promised. Step three: Whore the club out to whomever offers the best handlers fee. Step four: sell some more snake oil.

Umbers is not alone; Subway’s resident loud mouth and all-round Cheery Chap Ken Bates often refers to Leeds United in the collective; We, Us, Our. These are not words Ken Bates should be using to describe Leeds United, especially when we Leeds United fans know full well he means they. “I shall not rest until Leeds United are kicked out of the football league”. There’s the Ken we know and despise. Leeds United fans are “morons, dissidents, and sickpots”. Right, Ken?

Recently ousted, and likely to never return President Massimo Cellino has tried and failed with this tactic as recently as early December, standing outside Elland Road with his new Chief Operating Officer and actual Leeds United fan, Matt Child, and mumbling “march on together”. I’d much rather have seen Cellino give a strong and honest statement as an owner, with Matt Child in the background giving a cheeky salute to the onlooking Leeds faithful.

It’s a clever, albeit transparent tactic; get the fans onside, and you’re laughing all the way to the Premier League. Lose the fans, and you may aswell stand in the Elland Road center circle at half time wearing a Manchester United shirt, singing whatever song the Prawn Sandwich Brigade mumble along to these days. Cellino lost me that day in early December. It’s the same day he described Gulf Finance House as “a good group of guys”, just a few days after saying they were basically useless. In December the club went from what could have been a masterstroke in the appointment of Leeds United fan Matt Child, to a complete mind-melt with the eventual appointment of Andrew Umbers.

Since December, I have planted my flag firmly at the feet of fan involvement via Leeds Fans LLP. That doesn’t mean I think the “top dog” needs to be a Leeds United fan. Far from it, in fact. It’s a voice and seat at the table that’s needed though; Someone who can demand, no matter the topic of discussion, that the club’s welfare should be Priority One at all times; a good conscience sitting on the proverbial shoulder of whoever is next in the hot seat. The welfare of Leeds United Football Club has, for more than a decade, been after-thought at best and with so many exciting young Academy Products in our first team ranks it is more important now than ever that future of the club is protected.

The club needs flipping on its head, and only a change in ownership and boardroom structure can achieve that.

About the author

Simon O'Rourke

A lifelong Leeds United fan, Simon moved to Nova Scotia in 2002. Married for seven years with three children, Simon's first love has always been Leeds United. Simon is the owner of 1919 Media, a website design and development company whose name is a homage to Leeds United.

  • Viv Finch

    Good article but I’m amazed it took you until December to see through Cellino.

    • Simon O’Rourke

      I sat on the fence for a good six months. I suppose you could say I fell off it in December!

  • Mick444

    Yes unfortunately Leeds fans are so desperate for a saviour they blind themselves to whoever appears on the scene that might, perhaps be the White Knight. The real tragedy Simon is that we appear to have fallen upon a group of youngsters that with the right coaching and leadership might just get us to the Premier League – and more importantly keep us there. With Cellino sulking and obviously looking to offload the club we end up with another “life long Leeds Supporter” and GFH! I too am following the Leeds United fans group with great interest. As I live in OZ maybe I should try and bump into Russell Crowe and help enlist him to be part of a fans ownership consortium. Trouble is that the Academy gems will no doubt be sold off before the fans have their chance to put sanity back into the madhouse! MOT Simon.

  • Dave Towse

    I think MC just wants his money back – only way that is going to happen cleanly is with someone with v deep pockets – does the Genting story have any wings???

  • gordon

    I was a big Massimo fan but I think he has run his course. if he continues to run the club it will be one problem after another and we will stagnate again. thanks Massimo but it is time to go.