A Quick Chat with Leeds United
Lots of fans have mentioned on Social Media and to me directly via Tweets and DMs that they find the Club too quiet at the moment. I had chance this evening to have a chat with someone at the Club whose word I respect and, if anyone is interested, this essay contains some of what we discussed.
I won’t name who I have spoken to as this was an informal chat and not an official Club communication. I will say that I contacted the person concerned out of the blue and I asked the questions. If anyone reading this feels they do not want to read from an unknown source please stop reading now, I fully understand that point of view.
I asked about the accounts for last season which will not be published at Companies House until next March. I don’t think it benefits this essay for me to try and detail the specific data but I did suggest that the Club had not invested last season.
With the information in the accounts it is clear that the Club has invested and invested many 10s of millions of pounds. Compared to Cellino’s last season, Radrizzani’s first season has seen a marked increase in commercial and gate revenue of around £8m, Radrizzani himself has loaned and then moved to equity another £8m and cash funds from the sale of Wood, Taylor and Bridcutt flowed into the Club last season. All these funds have been reinvested back into the Club and spent on players and running the Club.
Where did this money go?
Lots of little places is how I could best put it.
Under Cellino the Club were losing money and Cellino used player sales’ money to cover those losses. Radirzzani has had to cover those losses again last season from the money I mentioned above. Radrizzani has also reversed some of Cellino’s cost savings, the number of staff at the Club has risen allowing the commercial revenue to increase and wages for players, staff, coaches and scouts has risen, even the smaller cost savings from Cellino, such as having no contract cleaners at Thorp Arch (which notably led to illness amongst the players), have been reversed and they all add up to a considerable sum. And that’s before we get to talking about the costs of having scouts watching players around Europe and beyond!!!
Suffice it to say, I can see how extra cash has flowed into the Club under Radrizzani and I can also see how it has stayed within the Club and been spent. Nothing untoward. No bonus for Radrizzani or Eleven Sports or anything like that, in fact the opposite – Radrizzani has had to put his own money into the Club.
Money well spent?
This is a difficult question to ask someone at the Club but, just as other people have said to me before, there was no hiding and a frank admission that money was wasted on the wrong players, players who were too young to have the financial impact the Club wanted or didn’t bring the ability as expected and needed for the Championship.
Those mistakes are being rectified by moving on players the Club feels will not bring immediate benefit so as to reduce the wage bill and perhaps bring in some fees. It was admitted that this is proving difficult with a transfer market that is not as active at the levels that will take these players (it wasn’t said but I suspect trying to move on players we deem failures will always be hard).
So that’s last season
I’ve had similar conversations with other members of the Club and this evening has confirmed a lot of what I’d been told: admission that last season’s plan failed but confirmation that the Club invested and invested a lot of money in that failure.
Frankly, from my point of view, now that I’ve had this confirmed again I’m happy to put this angle to bed.
But last season isn’t important
Yes, I did get round to asking about this summer and next season.
The 49ers money has gone into the club recently along with money still to be received from player sales – there has been no delay or hiccup with the 49ers money as some fans have suggested to me. Revenue is expected to increase again next season (if Season Tickets and matchday ticket sales do not collapse!) and all this money will go to pay for the items I mentioned earlier (the underlying losses each season, the large wage bill, the increased costs of running the Club and Thorp Arch) and the new costs, such as Bielsa and new players.
I asked if any money was left over from last season to go towards this season and the answer was no! All money available before the 49ers investment was spent and this summer and next season will be funded by the 49ers plus normal revenues including the expected revenue increases due to better commercial activity and also player sales money received in stage payments – Radrizzani will need to make up any shortfall in cash during the summer and season from his own pocket.
Ok, so if there’s money available but it is not loads of money then the rumours about Vydra must have been false?
It seems that is not the case – the Vydra rumour was correct and the Club are willing to make an exception in his case. This was apparently an exception for Vydra alone and not a general switch for the Club to bring in half a dozen players on large wages.
Was a deal ever agreed as Phil Hay reported?
Yes, apparently a deal was done with Vydra and his agent with everything agreed before Derby finally accepted Leeds’ offer for him.
Just as Phil reported, as soon as Derby agreed the fee Leeds expected to just complete a formality and announce him at the start of this week just gone. Unfortunately his agent then asked for more money, a lot more money.
I’m told Radrizzani “doesn’t do business that way” and the deal fell apart. I’ve got to say, if Radz doesn’t do business that way I’d support him to the hilt, no self-respecting businessman does!
Ok, so that’s the Vydra story talked about, what about others?
Yes, there are other targets, players Bielsa would like to have.
Unfortunately, not all of those players are being released by their current clubs – this was something I’d not thought about before – and for some targets the price wanted by their current club is too high. I couldn’t get a reveal on who those targets are unfortunately.
So nothing is happening now?
It appears that the Club are focussed on, and have high hopes for, three players that Bielsa has targeted.
I asked for clarification and that is three players in three positions and it is all agreed with Bielsa.
I was reminded that it doesn’t mean the Club will definitely manage to swing those deals but a major effort is going into them right now.
Filler players or better?
Those three players being focussed on are all high quality, was the reply. I know such a description is subjective but without knowing their names I could ask no further.
Is Bielsa happy?
A lot of fans are worried Bielsa will walk so that was a natural question. I was assured that Bielsa has shown no sign of unhappiness or disquiet and is totally aligned with the Club.
The players being pursued are Bielsa’s chosen players (ie not players Orta has decided we should have).
How does the Club view the team this season?
I don’t think I expected an answer saying the Club thought that the team was promotion ready and I think I would have laughed if it had been said.
The best answer I got was that the Club felt the team would be “competitive this season”. As it stands now? “We have a young team and we know we need to include two or three new players” to be as competitive as we want to be.
All in all, I felt I’d had a good conversation. No excuses about other teams having parachute payments, no hiding that last season was poor, no hiding that a lot of money was spent last year for little gain.
We talked in business terms, the correct way to handle negotiations, having business principles, working hard behind the scenes, keeping cards close to the chest, ensuring that the Club doesn’t lose too much money, ensuring that any money lost could be replaced by owner investment, being cautious in predictions and not over-promising.
My contact cannot guarantee that the Club will succeed in all the plans but was able to give me comfort that the Club had a plan and was not drifting aimlessly.
After last night’s awful stream that I paid to watch on LUTV I made sure to mention this too. I believe the message will reach the right people. Whether anything can be done about it yet is another matter but at least I got that off my chest!
Mike Thornton 20th July 2018