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Unread 25-08-2011, 12:00 AM
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Default Emotions running high between Ken Bates and Leeds United supporters


Supporters' Trust responds to chairman's controversial programme notes and criticises lack of investment in players

Four matches into the Championship season and tensions are mounting between Ken Bates, the owner and chairman of Leeds United, and sections of the club's support. The Leeds United Supporters' Trust has issued its second forthright statement in a week, saying "emotions are running high" among supporters at what they describe as "the imbalance between investment in the playing staff and capital projects" and poor communication from the club, including Bates's match-day programme notes.

Unrest has grown during the summer as extensive construction work began on corporate and commercial facilities in the Elland Road east stand, with little spending on the team. The manager Simon Grayson has signed only the veteran midfield player Michael Brown, on a free transfer from Portsmouth, and goalkeeper Andy Lonergan, joining from Preston to replace Kasper Schmeichel, who left for high-spending Leicester.

Bates has sought to explain, including in his programme notes, that he is seeking to improve the club's infrastructure and long-term earning capacity, rather than simply spend money on players. However, at the first home game, a 1-0 defeat by Middlesbrough, which followed Leeds' 3-1 loss at Southampton, around 500 fans staged a demonstration around the statue of the former captain Billy Bremner, protesting at lack of investment in players.

Bates then used his programme notes for the following game, in which Leeds beat Hull City 4-1, to denounce the demonstrators, the Supporters' Trust and several other targets. Bates also set out his views on the recent riots, within an account of his own life; he said he had been born with a club foot, his mother died when he was 18 months old, his father lost his job and Bates was himself brought up by grandparents on "what you would call today a sink estate".

He added: "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".

Bates, a tax-exile resident in Monaco, who owns Leeds United via a company registered in the tax haven of Nevis, West Indies, said: "This is a rather long way of saying that I am unimpressed by the demonstrations of a few morons last Saturday, and I ain't going anywhere soon."

He also dismissed the news that China's 2012 Olympic team is to be based in Leeds, which has been welcomed by the local council, as good only for "increased sales of sweet and sour pork".

Asserting that he had "saved" Leeds in 2005, when the club was taken over by the Cayman Islands-registered Forward Sports Fund, in which he said he had no ownership interest, and in 2007, when FSF bought the club back out of administration, Bates likened his own stewardship of the club as "a bit like sex". He said: "In an age of instant gratification, Leeds United is having a long, drawn-out affair with plenty of foreplay and slow arousal."

In response, the Supporters' Trust issued a statement: "We do not feel it is acceptable to refer to Leeds United fans as morons."

Questioning, "What it is that Ken Bates saved the club from", the Trust's statement included complaints that Leeds still do not own Elland Road or the Thorp Arch training ground and that, "Some of our most promising players [have been sold] without any obvious investment of the proceeds in the playing squad."

The Trust also took issue with the comment about sweet and sour pork, saying they welcomed the news about China's Olympic team.

In its second statement, the Trust said it had canvassed its members and concluded that growing dissatisfaction is due to the fans not understanding "the imbalance" in investment at the club.

"The growing unrest amongst Leeds United supporters is as a direct result of a lack of clear communication between the board and the football club's supporters. From this response we conclude that the programme notes are not working as an effective communication tool."

The club declined to comment.
David Conn

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