Reg: Listen. If you wanted to join the P.F.J., you’d have to really hate the Romans.
Brian: I do!!
Reg: Oh yeah? How much?
Brian: A lot!!
Reg: Right, you’re in. Listen, the only people we hate more than the Romans are the f**king Judean People’s Front.
Francis: And the Judean Popular People’s Front.
P.F.J.: Yeah, oh yeah! Splitters. Splitters…
Loretta: And the People’s Front of Judea.
P.F.J.: Yeah. Splitters. Splitters…
Loretta: The People’s Front of Judea. Splitters.
Reg: We’re The People’s Front of Judea!!
Loretta: Oh. I thought we were the Popular Front.
Reg: People’s Front! Huh!
Francis: Whatever happened to the Popular Front, Reg?
Reg: He’s over there.
All but the overwhelmingly unenlightened will doubtless recognise the above passage of dialogue as being taken from ‘Monty Python’s Life of Brian’; for those not familiar, it’s lifted from the scene where Brian (Graham Chapman) first approaches representatives of the revolutionary group, The People’s Front of Judea (P.F.J.), seeking permission to join them. The P.F.J. are one of a number of splinter groups, all of whom have the same mandate (to overthrow the Romans) but never appear to get anywhere as petty differences with their peers always seem to supersede their very purpose for being…
Looking back over the last couple of years, it’d be difficult not to draw a compelling parallel between the Python’s commentary on the nature of such organisations and the experiences of LUST and those individuals and parties who appear to resent their very reason for existing.
During a summer where almost every Leeds supporter to a man wanted to see the departure of Ken Bates and the arrival of new, credible owners, LUST were subjected to criticism, some vitriolic, and some that went way beyond the boundaries of decency despite pushing for that very agenda. Despite being the first to reveal stirrings of a possible takeover and repeatedly prompting the club to release press statements by making their own revelations, the organisation and it’s chairman, Gary Cooper, were accused of being liars, self-publicists and troublemakers.
On some occasions, criticisms of LUST during that period could be understood from certain perspectives; some supporters had reservations with regard to the timing, contents or the wisdom of releasing certain statements; others believed the Trust didn’t step back at times when it was maybe best to allow matters to play out behind closed doors; also in retrospect, changes in the nature of the whole takeover process and the parties allegedly involved also undoubtedly served to show that believing that anything in football is certain will make a fool out of anyone. “Dare to dream’ is a statement that continues to taint the body’s credibility in the eyes of certain individuals.
Following the formal announcement, the Trust chose – in line with the wishes of their members – to remain silent, opting to allow GFH the opportunity to settle in, make clear their plans and work through their first transfer window, before making any public comment. On Wednesday evening, the board staged their first public meeting since the installation of the new regime and within minutes the social media criticism and arguments resumed – but can anybody actually justify why this time?
While tweeting from the meeting, it became clear both from the replies I was getting and comments on the timelines that the support remained split; it appears that as skilled as Bates was with his ‘divide and conquer’ tactics, Leeds fans need little encouragement to showboat their divisive tendencies independent of a catalyst. The same accusations of self-importance and trouble causing re-surfaced, but the question is, did those who chose to wage cyber war on the Trust again really listen to what they were saying?
One dominant theme emerged during the course of the meeting, one wish, one desire – simply for GFH to be open and truthful with supporters; should a supporters’ group really be chastised for that? Certainly it’d be hard to fault LUST on their approach to attempting to engage with the new owners – having sent an initial message of congratulations along with an offer to assist the club in any way they can, they have since repeated that offer, making themselves available for whenever would be convenient and they also extended an invite to the club to send a representative to last night’s meeting.
In response, LUST have heard nothing from the club, at least not beyond confirmation that they wouldn’t be sending anybody to the meeting (despite LUFC employing a Supporters’ Liaison Officer) as 3 weeks notice wasn’t considered ample. Rather than make an issue of it, Gary Cooper last night chose not to linger on the point, simply affirming that in line with the club’s wishes, LUST would provide a greater period of notice ahead of the March meeting.
So back to the point of last night’s meeting. What did those present want? Quite simply they wanted to know what was happening at their club. Contrary to the default belief of many of the Trust’s most consistent knockers, people were not demanding that GFH move along if they don’t have billions behind them, simply as supporters, they believe we have the right to know the direction in which the club is moving.
Many suspect that GFH don’t possess huge funds, that they maybe plan to encourage other backers to aid ambitions of a Premier League return, while in the meantime, attempting to make the most of what they’ve inherited. If that is the case, then for the majority, that’s fine and they are happy to back GFH in everything they do if it’s well intentioned – people simply need a vivid, tangible vision before they can truly buy into project.
Dissenters argued that GFH should have the right to play their cards close to their chest, but after 8 solid years of being kept in the dark by the Leeds board and almost always being betrayed in the process, cynicism remains rife and trust a rare commodity – Adam Pearson’s comments in the press today, expressing a desire to take over the club will only add further fuel to the fire. GFH have pledged engagement, but until that extends beyond retweeting photographs of dogs in Leeds scarves and actually communicating with their audience, then it feels like little has changed.
Sending a representative to the LUST meeting would have been a start, a gesture of goodwill and a signal of intent to genuinely take on board concerns from all quarters. There was also hope that the ‘Meet the Board’ event at Elland Road would both illuminate and reassure fans, but that has now been cancelled with no new date provided.
While GFH remain silent, the scope for conspiracy theories only broadens; people naturally question if they have something to hide. If they are, as hoped, as genuine as they portray themselves to be, then they only need take one simple step to dismiss many of the lingering doubts and do as they promised – engage…only truly engage.
Those who were criticising LUST last night did so on the grounds that they believe their actions are continuing to divide the fans, yet I defy any Leeds fan to deny they have no interest in what is going on at the top. If anything continues to spark arguments its opinions on both sides based on hearsay and rumour… surely putting an end to that is a worthy aspiration that is worth backing?
There was no talk of boycotts last night, no attacks on David Haigh and Salem Patel – indeed there was considerable praise for GFH’s initiatives with ticketing – there was only concern, worries that stem from uncertainty, worries that deep down, all Leeds fans must share. Ultimately it is our club, we support it, pour our money, passion and love into it – we did so before GFH came along and will doubtless continue to do so afterwards.
It’s time supporters were made to feel like they truly belong again, that we matter, that we know where the club is heading and what this new blueprint is. If we all know the exact path down which the club is heading, then surely it’d be easier for all to pull in a universal direction?
Now is that really an aspiration worthy of attacking?