Infographic UPDATE: Who owns Leeds United?

EDIT: This update of the Who Owns Leeds United? infographic is outdated! Click here for version 3.0, the most comprehensive yet.

LEEDS United have revealed that chairman Ken Bates has acquired a controlling interest in the club via Outro Limited, a company registered in Nevis, the West Indies. This 72.85% shareholding had previously been held by three anonymous, independent discretionary trusts, although the other 27.15% of the club remains in unknown hands.

In light of this development, Leeds United have issued a revised, shorter Ownership Statement. But will it, as the club hopes, reassure its members and bring an end to the recent speculation? We drew another diagram and still aren’t sure. Download it for free and see for yourself.

PDF file: A4 sheet
(To download: right click, save as)

Lessons in Batesonomics

“THE FASTEST growing sector of fans?” asks crack US sportswriter Dave Zirin in his book, Bad Sports. “People who love sports, but hate what they are becoming.” From sofas to the stands, the resentment supporters feel towards their clubs is real and it’s on the up. But who could possibly be responsible for, as Zirin has it, “destroying what took more than a hundred years to build”?

It’s the owners, of course. The escalating cost of going to the game; the courting of the corporates; the fawning of club-branded media: we know how these bigwigs prey on our pockets to fund their follies and energise their egos, but how do they keep getting away with it?

Ken Bates has been doing just that ever since he became the chairman of Oldham Athletic, where he pumped up ticket prices and established a radio station whilst penning regular opinion pieces in which he clashed with adversaries and voiced his vision for football in the lap of luxury.

Sounds familiar? This was in 1967, and Bates’ big idea remains unchanged: despite the fact that much of it now resembles one of those cheesy 60s visions of the future in which we all go round in tin foil suits, wearing wire coat hangers on our heads.

Brasseries, beds, bars. Eat, sleep and drink Leeds United but don’t ask any questions: just keep those coins coming and always listen to Ken. This is football in a world of Batesonomics, where we fans are on the outside looking in, and the more we pay the less we see.

“There’s a time to cheer and a time to seethe,” Dave Zirin reminds us. “We all have a stake in knowing the difference.”

Batesonomics: Lesson One featured in the sell-out issue 9 of The Square Ball magazine. Find Lesson Two in the brand new 64-page issue 10 featuring an exclusive interview with Noel Whelan, on sale from vendors outside Elland Road at Saturday’s home game against Burnley.

For your daily dose of the by the fans, for the fans TSB, see thesquareball.net for the blog, podcast, forum and more.

Howard Wilkinson in The Square Ball

IN THE centre pages of the brand new The Square Ball featuring an exclusive interview with Howard Wilkinson, we roll back the years to a time when a football man set the Leeds United agenda and we fans reaped the rewards.

Issue 7 is available for just £1 from vendors outside Elland Road at Saturday’s Norwich City game. For your daily dose of TSB, see thesquareball.net for the blog, podcast, forum, and details of how to subscribe to the magazine.

Looking for Kitabdjian – Part 2

LIKE MANY cardboard boxes under many beds in many back bedrooms, mine contains a pile of old football magazines. Some are from the 1970s. Some are French. Two reveal a secret about one of the most talked about referees in Leeds United’s history. A lot’s said about Michel Kitabdjian – that he was bribed, that he never officiated again – but one thing’s for sure: Leeds v Bayern wasn’t the only game he let spiral out of hand.

Two stalemates in Tunis and Casablanca meant Tunisia and Morocco would play-off on neutral ground for a place at the 1970 World Cup finals in Mexico. The Mediterranean melting pot of Marseille and its Stade Vélodrome were the natural choice and on Friday 13th June 1969 the scene was set. In unabating sunshine, Tunisian goals three minutes from the start and the end of the regulation 90 minutes cancelled out two Moroccan strikes and the game headed into extra time. Thirty further merciless minutes demanded that the tie would be decided in the manner of the day: the toss of a coin.

Enter Michel Kitabdjian. ‘I sent for a coin of Moroccan design,’ he explains in conversation with Football Magazine in the week of the 1975 final. ‘Alas the Tunisians, already outraged at the state of the pitch, claimed the coin should be in their favour.’ On this occasion he fails to mention what transpired, which was thankfully dredged up by some quarters of the French press in the aftermath of the debacle in Paris.

‘In the middle of about 100 excited onlookers,’ my dog-eared copy of Miroir du Foot reports, ‘Kitabdjian launched the coin and the Tunisian captain Habacha leapt into the air.’ But something fishy was going on in Marseille – and I’m not talking bouillabaisse. Much like Lorimer’s, it was short-lived joy for Tunisia because Kitabdjian ‘changed his mind, annulled the verdict and locked himself in the changing room where the coin “chose” Morocco!’

Well, well, well. Six years later, despite describing the episode as a ‘farce’ the referee remained unembarrassed at his role. ‘It’s the match, I recall,’ he said with a hint of pride, ‘Which prompted FIFA to approve penalties and abolish the coin toss.’

He’s got a lot to answer for, that Michel Kitabdjian. Not only is his name synonymous with scandal but anyone who’s ever won or lost on penalties did so because of him. Yet it seems that nobody outside France – except for us in Leeds or perhaps the odd souk in Tunis – has ever heard of him. He may be ‘that French referee’ to most Leeds fans but he’s the reason that – because my old man could’ve but didn’t – I wish I’d gone to Paris in May 1975 but sadly for me, I didn’t yet exist. C’est la vie.

This article appears in issue 6 of The Square Ball magazine. Buy it online now for just £1.

Looking for Kitabdjian – Part 1

EXACTLY 30 years after the 1975 European Cup Final against Bayern Munich in Paris, I issued 75 limited edition T-shirts to mark the most notorious night in Leeds United’s history. The design featured an image of the referee flanked by French riot police – his whistle on pursed lips, baton beginning to bow under downward pressure. I’d never seen a photograph of referee Michel Kitabdjian’s face so I made it up. It bore a title – The Beaten Generation – that I nicked from a track by the band The The which seemed to sum up much about the night the Revie era ended for real.

The Don was there, in the commentary box speaking to a national TV audience of more than 24 million people. I wasn’t there because I was yet to be born, but this game means a lot to me because, like everyone else, as soon as I became infatuated with Leeds United I wanted to know everything there was to know and my dad told me it. He’d followed Leeds all over the place in the 60s and 70s and had two tickets for the game but didn’t go. Despite my thirst for knowledge I’ve never asked him why, but I know he’s glad he didn’t.

There was a time I would tell anyone who’d listen that as far as I was concerned this was the definitive moment in Leeds United’s history; that the stories surrounding it had to be heard to be believed and that I would tell them. Wednesday 28th May 1975 was my dad’s 35th birthday, and I said I would write a book before mine. I’m 34 now so this article will have to do.

Folklorically speaking, this Leeds game is like no other. By the time they arrived at French ports, several cross-channel ferries – like most of their passengers – were worse for wear. Paris quickly became the scene of a white, blue and yellow invasion where spirits were as high as the exchange rate, so supermarket booze aisles were relieved of their stocks with inevitable consequences.

Encounters with those who did make the trek to the Parc des Princes would see me wring them dry of anecdotes (like the one about the pair who hitch-hiked to Dover with a tent and enough food for a fortnight, were turned back by customs at Calais but on their return to Leeds embarked on a second, successful, trip to Paris by coach), but it wasn’t until I found myself in British Library, sitting in the dark, poring over microfilm of the dailies from that week in the mid 1970s that I finally asked myself: what was I looking for?

I was looking for Kitabdjian. Beckenbauer, Maier and Muller we know and loathe but little’s heard about the Nice-born referee, so inconspicuous when in charge of the first of our two 1970 European Cup clashes with Celtic. So what the hell happened in Paris five years later? Did he blink when Beckenbauer first handled the ball, then tripped Clarke in the box? What sort of offside chat is there to be had with a linesman who’s standing on the half-way line awaiting the restart?

This article concludes here on TBG tomorrow and appears in issue 6 of The Square Ball magazine. Buy it online now for just £1.

Leeds: the back to front, inside out, upside down United

“The first and most constant problem with the City of Leeds is to find it. There never was a more faceless city or a more deceptive one. It hasn’t a face because it has too many faces, all of them different.”
~ Patrick Nuttgens

A WHOLE year ago, in Our New Year’s revolution, I found positives in the notorious unequivocality of Leeds United’s fans. 2010 would be “a year of mass individual expression,” I concluded, “as increasing numbers of bloggers, forummers and social networkers converge with new and existing independent initiatives run in the real world by fans, for fans.”

Visit BeestonAnd so it went. Within days Dan, Michael, Oddy and Moscowhite recorded the first of The Square Ball podcasts and before long this fortnightly fix of the unfettered foursome became as essential to fans the world over as the burgeoning number of blogs like The Scratching Shed, Travels of a Leeds Fan, Keep Fighting, Leeds Will Make You Dance, Dirty Leeds and Clarke One-Nil.

At street level, The Square Ball magazine remained the best-spent £1 around. Visit Beeston, the biggest of my collaborations this year, sprung from the centre spread of the February issue and the rest of its 48 pages were further boosted on a monthly basis by quality contributions from, amongst others, the ranks of the #twitterwhites.

Many club figureheads were using Twitter harmoniously by the time Director of Commercial Affairs, Paul Bell, gave the social networking fraternity “the opportunity to get involved and to make a difference” before rather wishing he hadn’t. Then, having irritated existing LUTV subscribers by snubbing complaints at being charged extra for pre-season friendlies, he tweeted about the virtues of fan engagement while continuing to ignore anything which vaguely resembled criticism.

The club’s serial opacity undermined most efforts in this area, and even an email from a supporter was dismissed out of hand by chairman Ken Bates because he considers them “the equivalent of anonymous letters and treats them accordingly” by publishing the sender’s address (incorrectly, it turned out) in the programme. In off-the-record conversations in April, Bates twice stated that the club still hadn’t received a penny for Fabian Delph just days either side of a fan being forcefully removed from a Q&A for streaming the event from his iPhone.

The pre-promotion form slump precipitated a summit meeting of the devoted and disgruntled which saw Ten for Ken take the questions Ken Bates’ Leeds United won’t answer onto the streets of Beeston. Snuck onto the official website in the summer was an enigmatic statement purporting to explain the club’s ownership structure. It didn’t, and if you don’t like it then lump it, sickpot.

When he wasn’t using it to slam Leeds fans, Ken Bates deployed Yorkshire Radio to attack Bradley Johnson (who had to use Talksport to defend himself) and to ascertain the whereabouts of former director Melvyn Levi so he may be issued with legal papers – on Boxing Day. One wonders more than ever whether the station is in the service of Leeds fans at all, or simply fighting Ken Bates’ corner. He’s still yet to take a single fan’s call live on air.

So thank heavens for those who do whatever they can to provide and take opportunities for Leeds United fans’ voices to be heard. 2010 saw them crescendo into new, authentic forms and in 2011 authenticity’s struggle with authority will intensify.

On top of indefensible season ticket price rises, the club’s cack-handed integration of new technologies will damage further its relationship with supporters, and throwing a spanner in the works of club-branded media this year will be the accelerated development of a handful of savvy, fan-run initiatives who will find themselves market leaders.

Already first ports of call for valued opinion, they will begin to set agendas at Leeds: the back to front, inside out, upside down United where we haven’t a voice because we have too many, yet also we don’t have nearly enough. If you haven’t already, this is the year to start making yourself heard.

It’s a Wonderful Life at Elland Road

IF YOU haven’t already, pick up the new issue of The Square Ball this Christmas and have your cockles warmed by this seasonal retelling of Simon Grayson’s tumultuous reign which began against Leicester City two Boxing Days ago.

All this & more is yours for £1 in TSB issue 5, on sale from street vendors at the Portsmouth game on December 28th and at thesquareball.net. In fact, why not subscribe?

Sickpots in The Square Ball

"You get a few sickpots who support Leeds who blame me for everything and I’m getting a bit tired of it."

The Square Ball 2010/11 issue 4DESPITE the fact he can be heard on there at least once a week, Leeds United chairman Ken Bates has never taken fans’ calls live on Yorkshire Radio. Could it be there are more “sickpots” than he’d care to mention?

So let’s hear it for independence in the best-looking issue of The Square Ball yet, on sale for £1 at thesquareball.net and from vendors around Elland Road at Saturday’s game against Bristol City.

Lucas Radebe on Beeston Hill

The Square Ball 2010/11 issue 3IN THE brand new The Square Ball magazine’s centre pages, TBG re-imagines Lucas Radebe’s recent return to Leeds, inspired by his own account of living with Philomen Masinga in Beeston: the location of Tony Harrison’s epic poem, V.

This fantastic Africa-themed issue goes on sale for just £1 from vendors around Elland Road at tomorrow night’s game against Leicester City, and also online at thesquareball.net.
Lucas Radebe on Beeston Hill

10p from each copy sold goes to The Hospice and Palliative Care Association of South Africa, a charity for whom Lucas is an official voice.

Infographic: Who owns Leeds United?

EDIT: This update of the Who Owns Leeds United? infographic is outdated! Click here for version 3.0, the most comprehensive yet.

OVER yet another boozy lunch with a journalist at “his usual table at the Cafe de Paris” in Monaco, Ken Bates deflected a question from the Independent‘s Brian Viner about Leeds United’s ownership with: “We have complied with Football League regulations, it’s all on the website, and there it is.”

But does anyone understand it? We drew a diagram and still aren’t sure. See it in issue 2 of the 48-page The Square Ball, available in full colour for just £1 from vendors around Elland Road at tomorrow’s game against Swansea City, and also online at thesquareball.net.

PDF file: A4 sheet

Who owns Leeds United?