Seven-page sob story

thorparchTHE BUYBACK of Leeds United’s Thorp Arch academy has been on the agenda ever since Ken Bates’ takeover in 2005. Last November, Chief Executive Shaun Harvey could be heard over the din of the club’s reported £4.5m profit that exercising its option to buy the facility for a fixed price (believed to be in the region of £6m) was “a priority”.

However, it was recently brought to light that just 31 business days before the October buyback deadline, the club will seek council assistance to secure ownership of the alma mater of – amongst others – Michael Woods and Tom Taiwo (the pair for whom Chelsea paid Leeds United £5m in 2006) plus Fabian Delph (recently sold to Aston Villa for £8m).

Without the council’s help, a document (PDF) reveals, the club’s poor credit rating (sniff!) plus the recession (sob!) will see the buyback option lapse, bringing ever-spiralling rent until the lease ends in 2029 and the jeopardisation of the city’s speculative 2018 World Cup bid (boo hoo!).

Choking back the crocodile tears yesterday, the club were “cautiously optimistic” that Thorp Arch “won’t be in the hands of a Manchester-based property developer by October,” according to its saviour: a Monaco-based property developer.

Today, it’d be much easier to believe that the club really has exhausted its financial avenues – and not wasted time dragging its heels to force a favourable outcome, as attempted so disastrously over the 15 points arbitration and the dispute with Melvyn Levi (who is footing that bill, by the way?) – if there wasn’t quite the emphasis on “progress on other fronts.”

What could that possibly mean? Surely not the L-shaped block? Talk about priorities…

Congratulations, by the way, to Simon Grayson and the lads on a smashing start to the season. There might just be a football club somewhere under all this crap after all.

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