The announcement that Leeds United fans have been desperately waiting for during the past six months was finally made on Wednesday morning. And, whilst it may not fully satisfy the Elland Road faithful, there is hope that a new era may finally be on the agenda. Ken Bates has confirmed that GFH Capital, a group from Bahrain, will take full control of the club from the 21st December this year, bringing an end to months of speculation and frustration.
According to Bates, the first part of the takeover has already been successfully completed, and the remainder of the deal will follow suit in time for Christmas. The downside to this news is that Ken Bates will remain on as the clubs Chairman until the completion of this season, as he oversees the transitional period whilst the new owners arrive, and once this season has subsided he will become the clubs President. Whilst there is confusion as to what this role actually entails, it is certain that his influence and control from this position will be minimalistic, and that the role is more of an honourable one than a working one. In other words, it equates to little more than a fancy title.
Nevertheless, the majority of this news will be welcomed by Leeds fans, who have had to endure a torrid period towards the end of the Bates era. The selling of top players coupled with the failure to adequately re-invest the money back into the playing squad resulted in a backlash from the fans, emphasised by the increasingly dwindling home attendances, this on top of a worrying decline of performances on the pitch.
Simply put, Leeds United football club is in need of investment if it is to achieve its goal of a return to the Premier League, and this takeover is thought to provide it. The figure that Warnock will have to spend in January is believed to be £8 million, and judging by Leeds’ performances of late, this is the kind of money that the club needs to transform its fortunes.
The takeover news is nicely timed, although many have been frustrated at the long drawn out nature of the discussions between the two parties. A run of seven games without a win and a mass of suspensions and injuries has seen early season optimism swing drastically towards genuine fears of relegation. The promise of loan signings never materialised, and Leeds have been left with a squad that seriously lacks in both quantity and quality.
It will be interesting to see how the takeover affects Neil Warnock’s position as manager. Whislt it is correct that he hasn’t been financially backed anywhere near as much as he would have liked, there is a growing consensus amongst Leeds fans that Warnock hasn’t fully utilised the resources that he has been provided with. In the past two seasons, a shaky defence has been rescued by an abundance of goals, but whilst the defence remains as fragile as ever, the goals have somewhat dried up, and Warnock can not be completely exempt of any blame at the clubs current predicament.
The squad underwent a major overhaul in the summer at Warnock’s request, but it is tough to argue that the team has improved. It is certainly far less pretty to watch, and results haven’t been great. Warnock’s contract only runs to the end of this season anyway, so whether he will decide to stay on now more funds have become available remains to be seen. Indeed, it may be true that the new owners have a different name in mind and may choose to exercise this decision once Bates has finally stepped aside.
Past precedence shows that a foreign takeover promising vast monetary resources is far from a guarantee of success. Infact it can often lead to an array of difficulties, as Blackburn and Portsmouth will regretfully testify. Therefore, it is only natural that the takeover is met by a mixture of cautious optimism coupled with a little trepidation and anxiety. What if it all goes horribly wrong? What if GFH Capital don’t have the resources they claim to have? These are the sort of questions that will be nagging away until a clearer picture of their true intentions is painted.
Ken Bates has repeatedly stated that he was only ever prepared to sell Leeds United to an organisation that can prove it is fully capable of running a football club, and one that has the club’s best interests at heart. Leeds fans can only hope that Bates has been true to his word, and left Leeds United in safe hands, and that this is the start of a fresh era that they so desperately need.