In a new feature that discusses the recent acquisition of Elland Road, fans will be reacting to the news and discussing their feelings towards the move.
The first article is from David Watkins, who discusses the history behind the sale of Leeds' ground and the importance of having it back.
In November 2004 Leeds United were having to come to terms with life in the Championship, debts piling up all around after chasing but failing to catch the dream of continued Premier League status and the collapse of a white knight takeover by an American consortium led by Sebastian Sainsbury.
Leeds’ then Chairman, Gerald Krasner, took what seemed the only option left to save the immediate future of the club; he sold Elland Road and Thorp Arch; he sold the crown jewels.
The Elland Road sale is said to have brought in £8m with another £4m coming from the disposal of the Thorp Arch training ground.
Thirteen years later and having paid in the region of £20m in rent over that period, Andrea Radrizzani has brought the folly to an end with the repurchase this week of the club’s famous old ground for a reported total cost of another £20m.
The net cost of the financial imprudence that got Leeds into trouble in the first place, chasing that unlikely dream, is therefore around £32 million, just in relation to Elland Road; that was an expensive £8m bail out! That £32 million spent well in the transfer market at various times in the last thirteen years might just have been the difference between so many mid-table finishes and a few shots at the play-offs.
Many folk have promised to repurchase the ground over the years, from Krasner himself to Ken Bates, David Haigh (remember him?), GFH and Massimo Cellino.
All of them knew how damaging those rental payments were to the club’s finances, draining away millions of pounds every year, especially when the Financial Fair Play rules came into being limiting “allowable” club losses, but none had the wherewithal or confidence in their own projects to put an end to it. None that is until Sig. Radrizzani rode into town.
Within little more than a month of wresting complete ownership of the club from Cellino, he’s done the deed and bought Elland Road using the parent company that owns the club.
Moreover, he has said that the club will pay no rent for the ground and he clearly has plans to now modernise the old stadium and extend its use and capabilities, probably to include a new training complex that will ultimately extract the club from that Thorp Arch lease as well as boosting income by making it a more attractive arena for non-football events. Some commentators are saying that Radrizzani has already outlaid £80m on his Leeds United venture and that looks like commitment to me.
It all feels like a corner has finally been turned in our 21st century history and at long last our ship is being captained by a qualified pilot, one who has his telescope firmly fixed on the land of honey that is the Premier League.
For many Leeds fans the repurchase of Elland Road is just as symbolic as financially prudent, it has always felt slightly shabby that we didn’t actually own the stadium that as Jon Howe so appropriately sub-titled his marvellous history of Elland Road is, “The only place for us”.
But we have also levelled the playing field a little too and we are no longer at the disadvantage against other clubs, most of which own their grounds. It’s another part of the jigsaw, so many pieces of which have lurked down the back of our sofa for far too long.
By David Watkins