One thing that rankles Leeds United fans, cuts deep into them is the fact that they are merely visitors in a place they see as home. In fact, the tie between Leeds United fans and Elland Road is more than that; Elland Road to Leeds fans is simply ‘The Church’ and following Leeds United is a way of life, it takes on an almost religious significance to the fan on the terraces. However, in a West Yorkshire Sport programme to be aired this evening, there could very well be some encouraging news for long-suffering Leeds fans.
Leeds United have not been in charge of Elland Road since 2004 when the then board, under Gerald Krasner, sold both the stadium and Thorp Arch to property developer Jacob Adler for £8m. These funds were then used to repay a substantial and looming loan. In outlaying £8m, Adler, according to the Yorkshire Evening Post, negotiated a 25-year lease and gave the club the right to repurchase the ground at any time before 2029. THe sipulation was that the rent and buy-back fee was to rise by 3% per annum; Leeds currently pay around £1.44m rent per annum to ‘hire’ Elland Road from now owners in Teak Commercial Limited, an offshore firm registered in the British Virgin Islands. Elland Road has been in the hand of the anonymous “shareholders and beneficiaries” since the deeds were transferred in early 2005.
The situation of Leeds playing in a borrowed house embarrasses current owner Massimo Cellino who has gone on record as saying it is of vital importance that the club have the ground back in their own hands. Indeed, according to a report in The Guardian in August last year, Massimo Cellino said that he’d put an offer in to rebuy Elland Road. Cellino told the Guardian,
“We sent a letter yesterday. My accountant sent a letter because we want our stadium back. I hope it will be done soon. Before November 100%, because in November the rent will be raised. We have to pay. I have to buy the stadium, then I have to fix a lot of other things. It’s our house and our home, we don’t want to be guests in our home. I knew that to buy the stadium back we needed £16m.” Massimo Cellino: The Guardian – August 3, 2014
However, it came to nothing, Leeds United still dress in borrowed robes behind four walls that they cannot call their own. When it was announced that Cellino hadn’t bought back Elland Road there were cat calls of derision. However, could things be about to change though?
In an interview with Adam Pope for West Yorkshire Sports season preview on Leeds United, Leeds’ Executive Director Adam Pearson said something that might rekindle that hope, once slim, that Leeds fans may soon be visiting a church that they own again. Speaking quite frankly and candidly to West Yorkshire Sport, Pearson said the following that could give hope to Leeds United fans.
“There only remains the stadium to bring back within its [the club’s]portfolio of assets and I’m sure that will be…it’ll certainly be happening within the year will be my guess.” Adam Pearson: West Yorkshire Sport interview (BBC iPlayer Radio excerpt) – August 5, 2015.
With news such as this, and said with such surety, is it time for Leeds United fans to start hoping that this could be the time when Elland Road can finally be reclaimed as one of our own. One club, one fanbase, one home.