Two decades ago, when Leeds United was lining up for a football match in a Saturday noon like they did last week; we would expect them to play against the elites of the Premier League.
A club so rich in history now feigns in the second division of English football – after having demoted to League One a few years ago.
15 years ago, Leeds competed in a Champions League semi-final against Valencia. The Spanish club beat them 3-0, but it was something they could build on for years to come. However, their progress curve only spiraled down after a successful European campaign.
What happened to Leeds’ young promising squad?
Leeds United’s fall from elites is a subject of comedy for many – but the city has been grieving for the death of a once large club for years now.
For a team full of a mass of benevolent talent, Leeds’ demise in early-mid-2000s must come as a surprise to many.
But the boards’ rash short-term goals cost them a fortune in debt, and they just couldn’t recover from the setback.
Leeds ownership splashed a lot of cash in the summer of 2000 in hopes of Champions League qualification. Their massive spending in the bid of European success cost them a fortune; as a result, they recorded a huge loss in 2002. The error in judgment cost them millions – and the lack of recovery plan put them in turmoil.
At the end of 2002-2003 season, the loss amounted to almost £50m in pre-tax losses- any Premier League club’s biggest loss annually at the time.
As a club who were recording major amount of debt, the then ownership signed an agreement with the creditors to prevent them from going into administration.
The club saw a new owner take control in March 2004 when Gerald Krasner sealed a 30m takeover.
Chelsea’s former owner Ken Bates stepped into Leeds’ supposed revival by buying half of the stake in the club in January 2005. But Leeds fan loathed Bates for his former allegiance with Chelsea.
In May 2007, Leeds’ downfall hit another deficient checkpoint. The club went into administration (despite the debts being reduced to 35 million from 100 million four seasons before) and suffered a relegation to English football’s third tier.
In an attempt to recover the club the club was sold to a newly formed company called Leeds United Football Club Limited. The consortium then bought back the club from the administrators. After the administration period, Leeds were considered “debt-free.”
However, protests against Ken Bates ownership continued to rise in Leeds.
New ownership; drama and more drama!
Ken Bates sold Leeds to Gulf-based equity group GFH Capital who controlled 100% stakes at the club. GFH took over the club for a reported £52 million.
Not every Gulf-based private equity group guarantees success like Manchester City, though.
Leeds continued to become a laughing stock at England, esp. outside the pitch with ownership woes surrounding the club.
On January 2014, a consortium led by Leeds’ main sponsors, Enterprise Insurance, Sports Capital were close to taking over 75% of stake hold. However, it failed due to the alleged lack of financial backing.
The failure led to another fiasco within the club.
Leeds then went onto controversially sack manager Brian McDermott. The manager was reportedly sacked via telephone by a lawyer representing Massimo Cellino. But the Italian business magnate didn’t even own Leeds then, and the Football League overturned the sacking.
The Cellino family, though, went on to finally acquire the 75% ownership of the club only for the Football League to intervene citing “he didn’t meet their Owners and Directors test.”
Throughout all the turmoil, Leeds failed inside the pitch and lingered around the bottom half of league table for the majority of second half of the season.
Consequently, Cellino was successful in the takeover of the club.
Currently, Andrea Radrizzani and Massimo Cellino co-own the club after Cellino sold his 50% stake to the former in 2014.
Lack of stability within the club
Not a lot of club can manage to have success when their ownership sacks manager every season.
Leeds underwent multiple managers in last two decades. The instability has made them inept of mounting any serious promotion challenge for years.
Improvements under Garry Monk
Leeds have fidgety owners who don’t think twice before sacking a manager.
Garry Monk’s tenure hasn’t been any different with the former Swansea manager in scrutiny multiple times over the course of the season.
However, Leeds continue to improve this season and are bidding for a promotion finally.
With a particular cushion in the league table, a play-off spot looks likely for the Yorkshire club which would be vital for their revival.
Extra: Not much of love for Leeds
Leeds have a rich history – but people despise them outside the city.
This dates back to their roots – with them being called fierce and nasty champions.
Don Revie surely made the Yorkshire club champions by promoting the youth and installing physicality within the team. But they weren’t as swift as Manchester United or Brian Clough’s Derby County.
The notion of the fans towards Leeds can be summoned by Leeds’ ex-manager Brian Clough clearly. The English manager said: “You can all throw your medals in the bin because they were not won fairly” in one of his training sessions after he replaced Don Revie.
Leeds should concentrate on future, rather than dwell on the past
Leeds certainly could have been a much well-managed club at this point, had it not been for rash decisions made by the club management during the early 2000s.
But, it certainly doesn’t solve any of their problems.
Leeds need stability within the club now, both on the pitch and off it. There was certainly glorious time for the fans two decades ago, but they aren’t the same club as they were.
The new generation of football fans hardly knows a club named Leeds outside of England except for their portrayal tainted in hatred in movies.
The club possesses a loyal herd of local fans- and a whole city which roots for the club.
There are enough infrastructures for the management to take the club forward and to help them push towards the elites of Premier League again.
But, nothing comes easy esp. in the football world as competitive as now. Leeds can’t make a wrong decision again – or the great wiki page “Doing a Leeds” will lengthen in words every year.