From Peter Ridsdale through to Ken Bates Leeds United Football Club have endured what can most kindly be described as a rollercoaster ride in recent times. But even by its own incredible standards, this week must go down as one of the most bizarre in the clubs history.
The manager was apparently sacked on Transfer Deadline day, with the club captain going onto the Sky Sports channel to tell viewers of his own personal distress at the news. The following day, with the help of a hat-trick from the skipper, Leeds comprehensively beat Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield by five goals to one. Post match it was announced that Manager Brian McDermott had been re-instated, or perhaps never really, officially, sacked in the first place.
To put the icing on this very messy cake, a winding up petition was issued by one of the clubs sponsors on Wednesday, claiming none payment of fees.
If you are a Leeds fan all of this must be humiliating and extremely concerning. But football supporters across the country should be equally horrified and equally concerned, because it could be your club next.
The number of people who have used the phrase ‘well, it’s only…’ when talking of the decline at the hands of incompetent owners of ‘smaller’ teams like Portsmouth and Wimbledon now need to wake up and smell the coffee.
Blackburn Rovers, West Ham and Coventry City are among a growing list of great clubs who have been grossly mismanaged as the wealth and excitement of the Premier League has disguised some of the more financially questionable activity in and around the game.
It is not only ‘small’ clubs’ who can fall victim to gross mismanagement. Bigger clubs can be hit just as hard, if not harder. Ask Liverpool, who escaped the clutches of two Yankee cowboys by the skin of their teeth. And Leeds – they don’t come much bigger than Leeds.
In the halcyon days of the 60’s and 70’s under Don Revie they conquered all before them in England, and were a whisker away from becoming the champions of Europe too.
As recently as 1992 Leeds were League champions and they won the League Cup in 1996. They were Champions League semi finalists just over a decade ago.
The attendances at Elland Road average around 30,000 even in the Championship and they are genuinely a big club – but it hasn’t stopped them from becoming a laughing stock at the hands of a series of owners who are clearly not ‘fit and proper’ people to run a football club.
It is time that the ownership of our football clubs became an issue. It is time for the Football Association to actually do something worthwhile. And it is time for our politicians to intervene.
I get that football is a business now. But it is not beyond the wit of the powers that be to come up with a set of official rules and regulations that would prevent the further abuse of football ownership in this country. Maybe it is something Greg Dyke should tackle as part of his commission on English football?
Meanwhile poor old Leeds, once the scourge of English football, and hated by supporters up and down the land, await for the next instalment of what is turning out to be a never ending nightmare for a once mighty club. And the rest of us replace that hatred of Leeds with a far more insulting emotion –pity!