An Open Letter to GFH

Dear David and Salem,

First of all, allow me to join the countless thousands of others in offering my congratulations following the news that you’ve finally secured the acquisition of Leeds United Football Club. I’d also like to extend my thanks for the determination, devotion and persistence you’ve shown in pushing through, what doubtless must’ve been one of the most complex takeovers conceivable. Like everyone else, I truly hope that today marks the beginning of a successful new era at Elland Road.

Today, for the first time in a long time, feels like a good day to be a Leeds United supporter; having endured a desperate decade, Leeds fans are ready to back anybody who can offer the sort of hope, belief and ambition that’s been so sadly lacking at Elland Road for so many years. During those times, many have drifted away, especially in the last 18 months; some have been put off by exorbitant ticket prices, but many more have become alienated by the anaesthetising match day experience – a suffocating air of depression and apathy, the product of a succession of broken promises over team building.

This season, the silence in the half-empty stands and the performances on the pitch cannot be divorced from the effect this takeover has taken upon all of us. While an appreciation of the complexity and difficulty in dealing with Ken Bates, and an overwhelming desire on the part of most supporters to be rid of our departing chairman, has afforded you far more ‘slack’ than in any other circumstances, 6 months has tried the patience of almost everyone.

As such, the extended ‘honeymoon period’ that a new owner could’ve ordinarily expected, is no longer something that can be afforded to you – necessity and circumstances dictate otherwise. The prevailing mood amongst most fans seems primarily to be relief, rather than belief; the goodwill is undeniably there; those who have boycotted the club are already buying tickets and planning to purchase merchandise again; having refused to buy tickets for the last two League Cup ties, my first action in the aftermath of today’s announcement was to secure my Chelsea ticket, and on Saturday, for the first time in over two years, I shall return to buying beer and food from inside the stadium.

However, as much as everyone is ready to embrace new owners, to buy into your visions for the club and invest our hopes, belief and money into them,  years of misery have made us a cynical bunch and have also deeply ingrained a tendency to necessarily doubt such promises. Actions have often stood in stark contrast to the rhetoric that preceded them; in order to get every supporter on board and utilise the potential for a phenomenal wave of positive momentum, it is essential that promises are kept and the fans and the club are as one again. As you have stated in the press release, you “know that football is at the very heart of the people of Leeds and the wider community” – if you intend to be true to these words, it’s time to engage supporters, to listen to concerns, encourage them back to Elland Road with initiatives and to reward those most loyal, rather than abuse them.

LUST need to be afforded recognition; a supporters’ group with an 8500 strong membership cannot be sidelined; it is inconceivable that any well-meaning board could have issue with any of the aspirations for the club as set out in their mission statement, while anybody who’s met the board members could not possibly doubt the sincerity and devotion to the club of these people, genuine supporters who’ve essentially given up any right to social lives since May and taken all manner of abuse in the process, just in the name of pushing for a better future.

The first steps towards wider engagement must involve a degree of transparency over the takeover process and the details of the nature of the investment. With the retention of Bates as part of the club, we can appreciate that a frank ‘warts and all’ account of the last 6 months is an unrealistic aim, but a degree of openness would do much to calm notions of mistrust. The source of funding is a far more fundamental issue; for too many years Leeds supporters had to stand witness to the struggles under Ken Bates’ chairmanship, whilst denied any details of those that owned the club – there existed no known party or consortium that could be called to account. While you will doubtless stand as first port of call for any concerns about the running of the club, some assurances about the identity or background of the “very wealthy” backer would do much to put minds at rest and once again make fans feel as though they belong, rather than simply exist as mere commodities to be kept at arm’s length.

Ken Bates stated today when interviewed about the takeover:

“How does this affect the fans? They’re the important ones who need to know what’s going on.”

The reaction to those words was a mixture of laughter and incredulity – can we please move away from this being the norm? While your twitter presence has no doubt represented a pro-active step, any updates provided through this medium have been as repetitively unenlightening as to become infuriating; an acknowledgement of our existence at best, a total disregard for our needs for reassurances at worst.

For too long, Leeds United hasn’t constituted what can be commonly regarded as a football club, the lack of engagement with its supporters represents just one instance of this, the most critical area of neglect though remains investment in the team itself. In its current manifestation, Leeds United stands as no more than a commercial development enterprise that considers matters on the pitch a trivial side product, reduced to one of 17 different departments that compete for fiscal resources. We now need a return to the philosophy where success and wealth accrued through commercial activities are regarded as the natural product of success on the pitch, where ultimately, the fate of the football team once again drives all.

This is where the most immediate challenge of all lies, on the pitch. The protracted takeover process has already destroyed Neil Warnock’s summer transfer window plans and with the closure of the loan window upon us tomorrow, the club essentially stands on the precipice of writing off an entire season. If this campaign is to count for anything, if you want to get the fans on board, if you want to build belief, positivity and momentum, and if you want to keep the season alive, this is your first, crucial test. The timescale is incredibly tight, but sympathy for such a predicament is unlikely to be forthcoming having taken 6 months to get where we are.

Beyond the realms of Thursday night, sorting Neil Warnock’s longer term future is essential; a 12 month contract extension is a ‘must’ if the club is enjoy any degree of stability. Having a manager in place until May, for what is most likely a project that will require at least another season is no way to build the foundations for the coming years. If Warnock is not willing to commit, then a new man for a new era needs to be found.

Then on to January, the month that will do more to define your stewardship than any other in the short term; that is when the small talk and the big promises need to be made concrete. Millions spent in the transfer market will be rewarded in millions more pouring into the club’s coffers through the turnstiles, in the shops, in the bars and through the many corporate facilities and vanity projects that the club have prioritised for so long.

For all our time in the wilderness, Leeds United still remains a famous name in European football and retains a worldwide fan base. Even now, the potential exists for this one city club to return to the lofty heights, for club and supporters to march on together towards a day where we can once again mix in the circles of the European elite. Please embrace it, don’t waste it.


27 responses to “An Open Letter to GFH

  1. Under no circumstances should Neil Warnock be offered a contract extention until he proves he can do the job, the last 7 games have been appalling. Pitch issues not boardroom. NW should be reminded that he must perform now or he will yet again be sacked by a football club.

    • Give it a break John, you have really got your hair off, lol. Thank you for all your messages, which are loud and clear. Can we now move on. MOT

      • Bluesman, your the type that will wonder what when wrong when it is too late. You have your rose tinted glasses. I live in the real world. Is your first name Neil by any chance. Accept other people do not share your views. Warnock is far for innocent for this seasons failings. He is the boss on the pitch, the buck stops with him for crap performances.

  2. I find it difficult not to agree with what you have stated in your letter. It is time though for monies to be seriously invested “on the pitch” and it is here where will all find out if the “almost new owners” can really deliver!!

  3. A number of assumptions which may or may not be correct. At the end of the day all; that need to be said is that a 5,000 increase on the gate probably generates £150 – £200K, so that if an investment of say £10m is required to get a return the club needs to get promoted. You get a return on your investment and we get to see Premiership football. We all win.

  4. Great news and glad that you are going to back NW, if he decides to stay for another season. If not can we have Roberto Di mateous, lol.
    PS: don’t tell John Stanley

  5. Adam you have reasoning in place.. To GFH my message is shorter and metaphor from the football pitch. There is good players and excellent players existing; what is the difference between those two groups: Excellent players conduct and manages time and space other group is just either of those. So you can surely start from the scratch and be open to fans of your views and related action plans accordingly. Tare

  6. Bluesman, stop getting personal if you live in cloud cuckoo land expect someone to try and bring you down to earth!

  7. People may not agree with me but I reckon the fact that bates is staying on for a short while is a good thing !!! It means that if any skeletons escape from any cupboards Bates will be there to answer the questions. The fact he is happy to hang around surely means that their is little to hide??? I hope warnock (IF he is the man to take us forward) can look at players who aren’t in his phone’s contact list rather than purely relying on his ex players. He also needs to find a system that allows Byram to play a more advanced role rather than being wasted in his weakest position in defence. He also needs to stop making Norris his scapegoat for poor performances. Norris is combative but in a more subtle way than Brown. He also gets into more goal scoring positions than our other midfielders (a better goal conversion rate would help though). Quite simply the takeover can only be viewed as ‘a change is as good as a rest’ until we get tangible changes within the club.

    • A well thought out article Paul h. I agree with your words 100%. In short time will tell if Leeds can move forward. We all agree they need to.

  8. Hey you know about theses sca..sorry schemes where you sell your house to a company but you can still live in it..till you snuff it..??
    …..synical……OH.. take a guess??

  9. What a well written piece and my only hope is that it gets to the powers that be and that we can get the ball rolling tomorrow (Thursday 22.11.2012) !!!!!
    Myself and my Son have remained members and attended numerous games during the last decade and only ask for some respect back in the form of passion and 100% commitment from all of those fortunate enough to be involved with our great club.

  10. What a disgrace that parasite Bates remains and will be honoured with the ‘Presidency’ of our club.

    This is another insult to the fans.

    This is the man who took us into Division 3 and sold almost every good player we’ve had in the last 8 years.

    GFH are inheriting a penniless & talentless football club – thier own credibility lies in the gutter after this decision and the time it’s taken to complete the deal. They have along way to go to earn the respect and trust of the fans.

    Hopefully now, Leeds Utd can start behaving like a football club again and move forward after a decade of decline, but after all the wasted years and broken promises, the motto for Leeds fans should be “trust no one”.

    I’m still wavering on next years season ticket – GFH need to prove they deserve me. If they mess up, I, along with many others, will severe my connection with the Club after 40 years of loyal support & season ticket holder since 1982.

    Sort this mess out GFH and ditch parasite Bates!

    Bates Out for good!

    • I know it’s hard mate but keep the faith and lets see what happens. The pain will turn to joy sometime and be all the sweeter for our experience.

    • Jeff, so you have maintained your season ticket throughout the bates years of turmoil but you threaten to cancel it if GFH don’t turn things around between now and the renewal period for next season… I don’t understand. . . Surely you have the passion for Leeds united embedded in your heart… We have an enviable history, we now have a solid infrastructure, we also have massive potential for a exciting future. Keep the faith Jeff !

    • Bates is there as a token gesture with little if any input… As for warnock, his lack of tactical nouse with all those years of experience baffles me. I thought Grayson chopped and changed too much but Warnock is worse. Poyet would suit me !!!!!!!!!

      • Poyet is a good manager. Leeds fell apart after he went to Tottenham. The only problem is that he appears very happy at Brighton.

        Anyhow let us try and find good players not the OAPS that are listed in a certain NW mobile. First suggestion, the guy at Burnley, Charlie Austin.

  11. Great piece, Ken or Adam, whichever 🙂 let’s hope the truce between management and fans holds out longer than your average Middle East ceasefire! I know many have become very sceptical toward GFH during this marathon but maybe we should now give them a chance to show their mettle.

    • I agree with the above. They will need to ensure better players are brought not more poor quality. It is not quantity but qualty Leeds need.

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