Fans’ goodwill key for new Leeds United owners

First published in Sport

LeedS United’s new directors promised to mend the club’s broken relationship with its fans and launch a sustained challenge for Barclays Premier League glory when their 100 per cent takeover was formally announced at Elland Road.

Dubai-based investment bank GFH Capital, who confirmed they have bought a 100 per cent stake in Leeds City Holdings, the company that owns the football club, finalised the deal to end a protracted seven-month period of uncertainty and with it, previous owner Ken Bates’ eight-year spell in charge.

Bates, who took control in January 2005, was praised by the new owners, understood to have paid £52 million for the club, for turning Leeds into a profit-making business after its near-collapse following relegation from the Premier League in 2004.

But the 81-year-old courted some controversy with his own fans, at one point calling a faction of them “morons” as the number of dissenting voices about a perceived lack of investment grew.

Bates will remain as chairman during a transitional period until the end of the season when he will take up the role of honorary president of the football club.

Above him, GFH Capital deputy chief executive David Haigh, who became a Leeds director two weeks ago, has been joined on the club’s board by GFH Capital board director Salem Patel and GFH Capital managing director Hisham Alrayes.

Haigh said: “It’s not just always about money, it’s about re-engaging the community, re-engaging the fans. Small steps, as well as investment, can make such a big difference.

“The fanbase is fantastic, not just in Leeds, but around the world in Norway, Bahrain and Dubai.”

The new owners revealed it was a term of their contract that Neil Warnock remained as manager, but were unable to disclose how much money would be made available to him in the January transfer window.

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