Leeds United have finally been liberated from the clutches of Ken Bates. The former Chelsea owner, whose stewardship of Leeds since 2005 was characterized by a lack of transparency, continuing financial shell games, high ticket prices and ultimately failure on the pitch, has been run out of the club by the owners, Bahrani based GFH Capital.
His premature dismissal from the post of Chairman, which he had been allowed to keep for a three-year period after selling the club, was met by celebrations in Yorkshire among the Leeds United faithful. The former Chairman had long refused to reveal who his silent partners were in the club, twice plunging the team into administration to restructure the holding entities managing the club before finally “buying out” his silent partners (if they really existed) in 2011.
During his leadership, Leeds consistently sold its best players yet continued to regularly increase ticket prices to a level unseen in the history of the Football League. He refused to talk face-to-face with the Supporters Trust and often took to insulting those who cared deeply about the club.
Bates’ tenure was also characterized by megalomania. Under his stewardship, Leeds United failed to buy back its Thorp Arch training ground or Elland Road despite finding the capital to begin and maintain a radio station widely known for its propaganda about the club. When Bates bought the club in 2005 (though claiming at the time he had no ownership interest and just was serving as an executive for the owners), he promised to buy back both the ground and training facilities quickly. Often Bates used this radio station and his favorite tool, his column in the Leeds United official match programme, to attack journalists and enemies on the board.
After the 2011 Tottenham riots, Bates — a tax-exile based in Monaco used his programme notes to attack British society, writing:
“Educational standards have been destroyed by … left-wingers and trendy liberals”… “human-rights laws” should be abolished, corporal and capital punishment should be brought back, single mothers should be put into hostels and benefits slashed, and illegal immigrants and asylum seekers should be “chucked out.”
The final departure of Ken Bates from Leeds United means the club under its new owners can finally properly pursue promotion back to the top-flight of English Football. Leeds last competed in the Premier League during the 2003-04 season, and is the best supported side outside the top-flight in terms of fan support, according to national surveys.