Yorkshire based club Leeds United have hit the headlines in recent weeks as their prospective takeover by the Cellino family left fans and neutrals alike in a considerable state of confusion.
The Elland Road club announced on February 1st that current owners GFH Capital had agreed to sell a 75% stake in the club to the Cellino’s company Eleonora Sports Limited, a move which became the apparent precursor to the sacking of manager Brian McDermott.
Events took a further unexpected twist, however, as McDermott was reinstated the next day after it emerged that Cellino had no authority to dismiss anyone until he actually owned the club, in a turn that prompted the Leeds United Supporters’ Trust (LUST) to brand the proceedings a “pantomime”.
Cellino has since gone on record to say that he is willing to work alongside McDermott, with the two having met twice to discuss the way forward, though the extent to which that relationship will be workable is still unclear.
In discussions over the acceptance of the bid from Cellino, who has twice been convicted of fraud (though the first of these was overturned in 2012), a LUST statement read “Our members believe this has damaged the image of LUFC, left the credibility of our current owners in tatters and made the intentions of our potential new owner at the very best questionable.”
The palaver then was yet another exemplification of how clubs have come to represent little more than commodities in the eyes of many owners, with the feelings of fans often taking a back seat, a trait that has become increasingly endemic in recent seasons.
The bizarre affair that saw Venky’s take over Blackburn in 2010 has since resulted in relegation and a host of managers being appointed and swiftly sacked with numerous fan protests seemingly falling upon deaf ears, whilst the debacles that have surrounded the decisions of Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan and his Hull City counterpart Assem Allam have served to remind supporters that being a football fan represents one of the world’s most thankless tasks.
At Cardiff, the decision to switch to a ‘lucky’ red home kit after more than a century as the ‘Bluebirds’, sparked mirth if nothing else, though the more recent actions of sacking Malky Mackay and Iain Moody, the latter of whom was replaced by a 23-year-old former work experience boy, sparked considerable controversy. Meanwhile in Hull, the saga over the switch from Hull City to Hull Tigers rumbles on.
It is evident then that the ownership of football clubs is becoming an increasingly egotistical affair and one largely geared around the accumulation of profit, such as it is, rather than appeasing the fan-base.
That said, whether or not supporters are at least partly to blame for this frequent dichotomy of opinion between themselves and club owners is a subject for debate. Indeed, Allam, in discussion over his proposal of changing his side’s name, has pointed out how he has invested around £65m into the club, a figure far greater than that gleamed out of fans’ pockets.
The fact that the majority of football fans would balk at the prospect of their club making a profit as opposed to investing in the side, most clearly evidenced at Arsenal in recent years, shows that there is simply a difference in agenda in many cases, with supporters often feeling the ones who are hard done by.
The fact is though, that as fans we often paint ourselves into a corner of helplessness, when in fact, if as mortally offended by opinions as we make out, we could simply not go to games, as was the case with Wimbledon fans over MK Dons-gate a decade ago. But, in truth, most of us know that’s not going to happen.
At Premier League level, the necessity of supporter is fiscally speaking, a take it or leave it problem, as the income from television rights makes that garnered from gate-receipts insignificant in comparison.
So alas it seems the culture of put-up and shut-up is one which both Leeds United and football fans as a whole are largely going to have to accept, as we continue to pour money into the football business.