Leeds United: An Open Letter to GFH Capital

To whom it may concern,

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Amitai Winehouse, and I’m a Leeds United fan of 20 years, 6 months, and 6 days. If that sounds like an admission of guilt, it is to an extent. I am to Leeds United like poison to a rat, given the slow and steady decline that has occurred in my lifetime. However, people have informed me that everyone is like that to Leeds United, that very few get to experience genuine joy, so the guilt is with that caveat. Aside from this, to symbolise how fully I am tied to Leeds United, my middle name is Eric. As you are recently involved in the club, you may not know the tale, but months after winning the title (which occurred about 2 months before I was born), we sold Eric Cantona, who went on to do some things elsewhere. I was named in those heady days between title victory and sale, when Chalutz Bakery in Leeds named a bagel after the mercurial Frenchman. Anyway, I like to think I’ve seen many things in my twenty years, from the top to the bottom (well, bottom of League One – I’ve seen that fall at the very least). The reality is that I’ve been thinking about several things since you took over the club, and was intending to send them in an email to that address. Given the Becchio incident yesterday and our recent form, however, I’d like to put them in a public place, where fellow Leeds fans can comment.

First, some compliments. You’ve done the right thing already in several regards, such as the ticket offer for the Peterborough and Blackpool games. This will be the first time that I, as a student, will be able to pay a discounted rate for a game, for the entire time I’ve been at university. I travel down from Newcastle for every game I attend, and I know others who would be more willing to visit Elland Road on a regular basis if they were charged more in line with their spending ability (as a general rule: zero). As Eamonn Dalton said on our podcast recently, a fan who thinks that the only thing Ken Bates did wrong was selling players is a poor observer of Leeds United. Your zeal to communicate with the fans is commendable. It no longer works to place yourself, as owners of a football club, in an ivory tower. It does not matter if your communication arrives warts and all, it is best to have yourself seen as human beings.

Furthermore, I don’t think your work in the transfer market this window should actually be criticised. Looking at the books, we’ve overcommitted hugely to building projects under the previous ownership, and the finances aren’t in an ideal place. Becchio leaving isn’t entirely your fault either. He’s had very good money offered to him, apparently, by you, and he’s turned it down. He probably thinks he’s achieved all he can at Leeds, so why not chase a pay packet? He’s had no evidence for every year that he’s been here that we can actually hit the Premier League. It is difficult to convince a player that everything will be different, even if behind the scenes you are whirring away to do so.

Aside from this praise, however, there are some points I would like to share. They are based on a thought I read yesterday, which is that Leeds no longer feels like Leeds. This is the thing you must take first and foremost, understand and cherish, because it is simultaneously a blessing and a curse. It can be said, quite simply, that Leeds United is a very unique football club. We are one of very few remaining football clubs that have a heart and soul. This is what is slowly drifting away as time goes by.

My first idea, therefore, is decide what Leeds United means and craft your entire output around it. Too often businesses will look at themselves, copy others, and therefore pitch themselves as “like the market leader, but smaller and very slightly cheaper”. We have had this issue in recent years. We do a tribute act to other clubs who focus on corporatisation and advertising projects, but the simple reality is that whilst we remain a Championship club, this will not bring in the same money that it does for the likes of Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal etc. Furthermore, each of these clubs has a way to sell themselves in that regard:

  • at Man Utd you will (sadly) see them win many things and they can sell themselves on “success”. Leeds cannot sell themselves on success, there has been none in recent years. Monarch Airlines taking an advert on the side of the pitch will not make them “champions of the sky”.
  • at Liverpool they can sell themselves on history until they (probably) win something again. Leeds cannot sell ourselves on history, because despite what Leeds fans know, our history is tainted, both by our reputation in the past as “dirty Leeds” and the fact that our historic periods of success have never actually featured much success. We have not won 18 titles in the past, or 5 European Cups.
  • at Arsenal they sell themselves on “doing things the right way”. They are also a cosmopolitan club in a cosmopolitan city, something that would not appeal to the same extent outside London.

What is Leeds United to our fans? Everyone will answer differently, but to me supporting Leeds United is a form of innocent rebellion. In a world where it is easy to latch yourself to a team that appears every week on the television, one that generally wins and suffers minimal lows and generally massive highs, supporting Leeds requires an effort. You have to listen to the radio, you have to picture it in your head, you have to go to the game if you want to see us play. You can’t just sit on your couch. Why do you do it? Because you know it is worth it ultimately. Or, at the very least, you feel like it is at a the time. You are subverting the norm and you get the reward, because it feels more real.

This is why Leeds fans have secret symbols to identify each other by, such as the Leeds salute. It is why we have such a huge away following, because it is a band of rebels who travel together to games, supporting their club when logic and reason suggests that it is entirely wrong. It is a case of doublethink, where you have to kid yourself that doing it makes sense. But similarly, you don’t, it just does.

So, therefore, there are two routes you can take in the image of the club you want to portray, and I genuinely think that sorting out the image of the club will make a big difference. You can be Man Utd-lite and fail to ever reach them, or you can craft your own ideal of what Leeds United can be. Look at St. Pauli in Germany. In a country where the likes of Bayern Munich make untold millions through ruthless marketing of the brand of being the best, St. Pauli have crafted a niche for themselves by being the outsiders. The reality is that they don’t even have the capacity of Leeds, being a club run in the St. Pauli quarter of Hamburg, population 27,612, a city filled with successful football clubs. Yet they have managed to not only maintain a position of relative on-the-pitch success, they have also managed to draw in fans from around the world with their message of being “The Buccaneers of the League”. Something so drastic does not need to occur at Leeds, but we do need to have our own identity. Right now we are just the club that loans players and sells our best. Why would people travel or bother to see that?

It would be a good idea to look at what has brought success to the club in the past and draw on it. Therefore, idea number two is to develop the Academy further and make this the focus of our club. Obviously we are not going to be Barcelona in terms of developing youth, but our major successes have come with building a team from the beginning and then bringing that through all levels. Look at recent developments like Sam Byram and Tom Lees. There is something about Thorp Arch that, even when neglected, allows us to bring through players coveted by other sides. We need to stop ignoring it, stop papering over the cracks, and instead invest the majority of our money in it. I’ll forgive a lack of ambition in the transfer market if it means a reopening and rebuilding of the residential wing of Thorp Arch. It also draws people into the football club, inherently tying them to a set of players who have the same love of the club that they do. We need to develop a philosophy under a Director of Football that will survive despite coaching changes. In 1988, when Howard Wilkinson first came into Leeds, the club took a risk, spending money it did not have on Thorp Arch, his dream project. Ten years on, when the first fruits were being revealed to the world at large, we began our most successful recent period, culminating in reaching the Champions League semi-final. Take the same risk.

Idea number three comes from a world of idealism, but is, I feel, the best way to bring fans back to Elland Road, which is what we are currently struggling horribly with. It is like a mausoleum when empty, and having a stadium of that size becomes a negative when the life is being drawn out of it. The idea is, therefore, to make each ticket worth what it costs. Look to Germany again, and the fact that Dortmund fans rebelled against €20 (£17) tickets recently. That being Dortmund, current Bundesliga Champions and Champions League contenders. Our fans have sat and taken the ticket prices for a long time, but there is a sense that forgiveness is almost over. The end of the tether is being reached.

I said to take a risk with the academy, and it is here again that I say to take a risk. I genuinely think that a full Elland Road is more important than spending huge on players. Look at our first season after promotion – we averaged 27,000 fans as success was built upon, even at high ticket prices, and those 27,000 would get behind the team, even when it was weak defensively and prone to errors. As John Lennon basically espouses in Imagine, and as might be seen as blind idealism, every philosophy and idea that we hold to be true is only held to be true due to collective belief in it. It’s on a lower level than he spoke, but who is to say football tickets in this country should be £30 a go. If you look at the relative entertainment value, a family can choose between the cinema, where tickets will cost no more than £10 and a satisfying ending is almost certainly guaranteed, or Elland Road, where sadness is the norm. You can buy tickets in Germany, for Bayern Munich, the aforementioned ridiculously successful team, for €9. Not only do they see the football for that, but they also have public transport to the ground paid for. Why not, when thinking about next season, jump off the cliff into that pool of water, know that you can do it, know that you can build a club that can sell out Elland Road at a much lower ticket price, therefore making up the difference. Aside from the increased attendance, it will do wonders for the club.

Leeds is a one club city, with 750,700 people the potential fanbase for your club (this aside from the boundaries up to the nearest club of a relative size either side of Elland Road, which increases that capacity hugely). If you can get a child to attend Elland Road every season, at least once, tying themselves to the club, it will change entirely how much money is spent on the club. Yes, he may only have to pay £5 entry, and his dad £10, but that kid will then want a Leeds kit, he’ll want a Leeds calendar, he’ll want a Leeds gnome and a pair of Leeds slippers. You go from having £40 spent on one disappointing day out every Boxing Day to £15 spent on a day out at a full stadium, plus another £70 spent on things that he needs to have, because he is Leeds.

How do you achieve this shift, whilst cutting prices massively? Firstly you actually advertise, something the previous ownership has been reticent to do, believing the existence of Leeds alone will draw people in (which it does, to an extent, but nowhere near enough). Secondly, you send representatives of the club out into the community. There are always injured players, and if they can walk, they can talk to kids in schools and sell Leeds United. You increase the number of free tickets given out to schools on a game-by-game basis. Forget those who complain about paying when those next to them attend for free – they should know that their experience is greatly improved by that attendance.

What does this all achieve? You look at the likes of Dortmund, where every man in the city is a fan of the club, and you see the success it can bring. For their league game against Bayern last season, where they essentially won the title, they sold out the Westfalenstadion entirely, a capacity of 80,720. Furthermore, however, they had a waiting list of 250,000 fans who all wished to buy a ticket, but could not. You can basically guarantee that those fans who couldn’t be in attendance spent money with the club over the course of the season, probably significant sums. How many individual fans would you estimate actually spend money with Leeds over the course of a season these days? About 40-50,000 at best (given season tickets are in the 10,000s)? Maybe a bit more? Why is it so minimal? Because the others are priced out of ever forming a bond with the team. You can almost certainly draw in each new generation of children as fans of the club, as long as they can ascend those steps whilst clutching their dad’s hand, look out at a sea of white and hear a roar unlike any other they’ve ever heard before. That’s when they know what they are.

Sell the experience that being a Leeds fan is meant to evoke. That’s what this would allow you to do. Having a full stadium, with everyone in the city behind the club, would help massively. We Leeds fans are insane, it is simple. If you get lots of us in one place, i.e. Elland Road, it is an experience like no other, and that solves the marketing issue. If you want to be really impressive, get behind the Safe Standing bid from the Football Supporters’ Federation, because there is no reason why you shouldn’t. You can bring Leeds into a new era or allow it to stagnate. If you bring us forward, the financial reward for you will be unbelievable. The reward for us will be having Leeds back.

All the best,

Amitai Winehouse

Follow Amitai Winehouse on Twitter (@awinehouse1). Do you agree? Comment below or get in touch via Twitter.

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52 thoughts on “Leeds United: An Open Letter to GFH Capital

  1. The cheap tickets idea came from Shaun Harvey not GFH, who basically saved the club from going to the wall again and won’t ever be spending silly money on half decent players. When Becchio goes we will have no-one left to worship and that will be the first time in 35+ years of following Leeds there hasn’t been one. ER is a morgue and the football we are playing is shit. I give up

  2. Immense piece of writing and thought provoking narrative. Spoken from the heart and as a fan of 37 years I propose you join the board. Good luck

  3. Leeds and proud I’m fucked off to get warnock out.. And forGFH a front for Ken BAtes they know nothing about football COND again and we all fell for it HOOK LINE AND SINKER they killed our club ….

  4. We also need to shut down bates fm ( yorkshire radio ) and get footie matches back on the bbc for free like bfor ….and get rid of bates totaly for good …whilst IT is our club then fans will stay away ;)

  5. Well said Amitai … please send a personal copy to David Haigh, Salem Patel and any other GFH executive along with my personal blessing, and no doubt, many thousands of other Leeds United fans.

  6. Good letter, and GFHC if you’re reading, when selling LUFC don’t forget to mention the unbelievable hairs standing on back of neck moment when we all join in with Leeds Leeds Leeds!

  7. Good effort lad! Once Leeds, always Leeds… But it’s not just getting the lads with dads through the gates as new fans, it’s getting all those totally disillusioned regulars back, and like it or not, away attendances are also falling. I personally cannot see our so called “new” owners being any different from our last rogue(s)…dodgy bastard(s)! Sorry mate, think it’s gonna get even worse before it gets better, if we are lucky.
    I cannot see the powers(power) that be at ER taking a blind bit of notice of anything outside of the KB business template, after all he’s still there, nowts changed.

  8. We can start by ditching that horrible ‘corporate’ badge introduced by Ridsdale to ape the scum, and bring back the white rose or ‘smiley’.
    Great article – sell that ‘unique sales profile’.

  9. Yes, I agree. I went as a 10 year old in 1961 with a free ticket from school into the boys pen. I knew nothing of Leeds United, John Charles, the most famous player in the world, was back from Italy and I wasn’t even aware of him. I had never heard of him. I became a life time fan as a result of the free tickets. After the championship win under Wilkinson I bought a season ticket and my two sons had free season tickets. What a great offer and as a result one son has been a season ticket holder ever since.

    • I started the same way you did but 6 years earlier in 1955…free tickets from school into the boys pen. I was luckier than you in that I saw King John before he went to Juventus and what a player he was. LUFC should start with the free tickets from school again….we had to play for the school team to qualify for a ticket so it would not cost that much to provide a dozen or so tickets to each and every school in Leeds. Like you I have been a Leeds fan ever since so in the long term it becomes very profitable.
      Also in addition I would like to endorse what everyone is saying Amitai…a great article.

  10. Great Post, I agree with every word, If Becc goes good luck to him he has been yery good for us. At he’s age he has to look for better wages than we pay to help his future.
    We don’t need to start buying because our money will not get us any decent players. we have 6 or 7 in the youth of our team that needs blooding. (think Don Revie)
    As far as the management sack Mick Jones and promote A.Naylor to help Warnock train skilful players. and if he does ok (naylor) we have a manager for when Neil goes.

    Barry

  11. no more watching dross on a sat afternoon , got better things to do than spend another penny on some fat cat draining the club dry ! Im off fishing , its more fun .

  12. Great reading,we all think the pricing is ridicules most supporters are fed up ,that’s why we take so many away it’s a fun day even if we loose ,most pubs in Leeds full off fans who rather stay there than travel down to ground .mot

  13. Excellent. I do think what you describe is symptomatic of football as a whole. There will be supporters of clubs all over the country who recognise the issues you eloquantly describe. The overwhelming amount of TV coverage has only served to undermine the bond between club and fan. What you describe as precious to us as Leeds supporters is the visceral collective experience, and that is what is currently being undermined. GFH not only have a massive job on their hands to undo the damage done over the last 8 years, but also to swim against the general tide and bring the club back to its supporters.

  14. Good post and something for them to think about but i don’t think just doing that is going to get the fans back. To many players have been sold and the only way you will get them back is to spend some money, they don’t have to be 10 millions, probably around 4-5 million on players. Then you watch the fans come back, singing loud and proud. Then over the course of next season, start blooding the up to speed youth in the side, who will only get better by playing with better. To many players have gone to exspect fans to be happy for them to spend nothing or spend what they do have on doing up the rest of T/P. Bates sold to much for fans to want nothing in the way of good players. All this along with lower ticket prices can only make E/R BUZZING AGAIN!!!!
    BEST FANS EVER, YOUR MOVE GFH!!!!!
    mot4life

  15. Good post and yes the Youth system and the young generations are absolutely vital to Future Leeds Success but so is the football onthe pitch….We are there for entertainment after all. GFH to have a clear out….a complete rebranding from top to bottom, a young ambitious manager and they need to produce some video interviews telling the fans the honest truth about whats heppening. Leeds fans just want honesty if they get that the attendances will start picking up again….

  16. brilliant piece ,hope they read it and take on board what you have written ,ive got to daughters that would love to go to every home game but just cant afford those prices ,good luck and keep up the good work m.o.t

  17. Great letter,alot of thought went into it,but the content is so accurate on what is needed at present at Leeds United. Yours in Leeds United, Gerry mc Dermott.

    ________________________________

  18. This is a seriously clever, well written and accurate piece of writing mate well done to you and it wold be great to think that our new owners will read it. I totally agree about ticket pricing and everything you’ve said about the potential benefits of lowering the prices. I’m sure season ticket holders who’ve already paid would be demanding refunds but nevertheless I do agree. I have to admit if I could get tickets regular for about £15-18 I would attend more games, I’m also eager to take my 6 year old to her first game, but the expense puts me off, although Peterborough is looking a lot better as her ticker will be £5.

  19. An outstanding piece of heartfelt, thought provoking writing which we could elaborate on and talk about for days. The feature in the Bolton programme which asked “Why are you Leeds?” which I was part of got me thinking. We all know why we are Leeds. I’ve lived in Glasgow all my life but my Nana was from Beeston and my Grandad took me to my first game in 1982 when I was aged 8 and I’ve been going to ER ever since. I don’t know why David Haigh is Leeds but investors invest to make their money and exit with a tidy profit. Sadly, the days of the local boy who done good buying his local team of which he’s been a fan of since birth are mostly gone. For me, foreign owners and foreign players have totally ruined the English game. So, I’m sorry, but if Becchio wants more money or feels he has achieved all he can with our precious club then I agree with the post. Sell him and invest some of the money in developing better talent than him through Thorp Arch. The only thing we need to ensure we do in the future is retain our best talent to help us to promotion rather than become a feeder club for the likes of Norwich.
    We as Leeds fans need to stick together but I can totally understand why some of my mates have become so fed up that they have stopped joining me at the games. If GFH need to decide what Leeds means then we as Leeds fans need to decide what the current short to medium term expectations we have for our team and our club and support them towards these goals. GFH will hopefully listen to more to what the fans say rather than spout drivel out every other week in the programme like Bates did. MOT

  20. Top quality blog and no doubt will not be followed by the new owners. Depressing, is not the word. Gut feeling is that until supporters cancel their SKY subscription (the ofgicial golden tit?) nothing will change in club attitude. I don’t subscribe but rely on R5Live. The ballooning renenue from overseas unfortunately will just kick the can of sensibilty down the road. As things stand the only thing we have to cling to at the moment is the fact the Honorary President has been gagged.

  21. Brilliant piece of writing,you young man need to win the euro lottery fast because you have so many great idea’s that would revitalise Leeds United,but i somehow doubt GFH will share your vision simply because they do not have the true passion for Leeds United need for the task.

    PS.if i win the euro,your on the board fella…

  22. Amitai – I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with much of what you’ve said here, but I would go even further. Look at how football clubs are run on the continent – the man who picks the team is the coach, brought in to reinforce a style of play which runs through the club, not a manager who brings only his own style of play, eschewing the principles of the one who had the job before him. It is this manner of consistently pursuing a vision of how the game is played which ensures continuity, regardless of a change in head coach. If we are to ever get anywhere as a club we must have this kind of top-down structure. It is the reason that Swansea have managed to remain true to their approach to the game, regardless of whether the head coach is Sousa, Martinez, Rodgers, Luadrup etc. We have a golden opportunity to achieve this kind of transformation at Elland Road and we MUST take it.

    • The idea of having a head coach will only work if a suitable coach AND suitable players are available. As we are now with very little money being invested and managers coming in for criticism because of it, I don’t feel it’s the way to go at present.
      You only have to look at chelsea to see how it’s working out or maybe Liverpool. ….we’ll see how long the coaches last at those two giants.

      • The change I’m talking about does not require a huge amount of money – if it did, considering the nature of our club in recent years, it would be pointless even suggesting it. I am talking about a ground-up approach to playing football which comes from within i.e. starting at the youth level. Our youth team plays superb football; the young players who come through it into the first team play superb football. We don’t need to run out and buy massively expensive players – Snodgrass was peanuts, as was Becchio, Beckford etc. – we just need to buy the right plays who play in the right system.

  23. Brilliant. Back this bloke and get him a job at ER. Need people with a vision like this to get this club moving forward. Very well written.

  24. Well said mate. I’ve intimated the same thoughts for the last two years but I get so incensed by the lack of foresight that, when trying to write it out I just end up with an angry rant that’s almost insensible!
    I’m happy to see I’m not the only person who can see what, to some of us, seems glaringly obvious. MOT

  25. Good article. GFH have a lot of debt to service from the KB era and it is unlikely that they will also have the money to build a top class squad straight away. Servicing KB project commitments will be a drain on resources. Cant blame GFH for the Bechio situation. Bechio has been good but it is time to go. There are plenty of strikers who would love to have his latest contract terms offered to them! GFH should not underestimate how much work they have to do to build relationships with a fan base that have sufferend under the KB regime. They do not believe half of what comes out of the club or what is printed in the papers. They need someone who they can trust to communicate with them and tell them what they are planning. But, most importantly, they need a new managment team. They need to headhunt a top man for director of football. Someone who is skilled and experience in the strategy and economics of the modern game. Someone who can help and advise them on a road to recovery. The financial fair play rules will be of enormous help, provided they get the right person in now! They also need to get a top football manager. Not someone with a big name, but someone with bags of ability and potential. A footballer’s man and top team of assistant coaches etc. This is all futuristic, but next season is not far away. NW has been brilliant given the situation and they should support him in anyway possible for the remainder of the season without over committing themselves. Lets LUCK to the future, lol. MOT

  26. very elequently put and said in a way that is to the point without being antagonistic,well thought through with answers for all the points made

  27. Some thought provoking comments and admire your loyalty to the cause at such a young age. I am over 50 and still travel home and away and see and feel the hunger in our fans who just want to give the support, but and it’s a big but…..the style and passion from the team does not match that of the fans. I will never stop going to matches and I see the same commitment from those around me….week after week I meet fans who have travelled from all corners of the globe and so admire their passion for the cause. Please let’s all agree Leeds fans have and always will be unique. We will always always have heart and soul, give us any level of team who match that GFH and progress will take us to where we belong. Be honest about what you bring to the table, communicate with us, don’t drip feed bad news…..give it all honestly in one batch and we can then adjust our expectations of you.

  28. Well nothing new here! it’s hardly rocket science to think that cheap tickets will mean a full Elland Road or that we need Thorpe Arch to bring through new players. The majority of Leeds fans have been saying the same things for many years. It really doesn’t matter how eloquently its put we need investment, new players, investment in youth and cheaper tickets or Leeds United will continue to decline. GFH have to take notice and do something and fast.

  29. Excellent! Very well thought out. I very much like the idea of building the total community of Leeds and that Leeds United is the emotional hub that ties it all together. Your thoughts about Thorp Arch are also spot on, by Leeds for Leeds. I’m sorry to say this but right now we have a side playing at Elland Road not a team. In the past we have had some brilliant teams, not payed mercenaries who only think about money. In any other business if you buy something and it doesn’t work you get a refund. The equation is wrong at the moment, the players are paid whether they perform or not. Lets get the win, win, win attitude back at Leeds. Build a great team, get fantastic fans (we are the best in the world) and have city pride in Leeds. It would be an interesting project to define exactly what a “Leeds United State of Mind” is.

  30. Amitai,

    I’m not surprised that this post has been well received by the online section of the fanbase: it’s articulate and passionate and, crucially, plays to the deepest held desires of your audience. However, if the aim of this piece is to be a genuinely persuasive argument that has a chance of affecting GFH, I think it’s somewhat lacking.

    It’s one thing to ask a business to take a risk. It’s quite another to ask them to take *three* separate risks all at the same time:

    1. Rebrand the club to pull in fans outside the city
    2. Invest in the academy
    3. Reduce ticket prices, possibly dramatically

    Essentially, you ask them to spend money in items 1 and 2 and lose it in number 3, in the short term at least.

    Let’s work up from the bottom. Everyone in the country thinks ticket prices for football in the UK are too high; we’re far from alone in this respect. Ticket prices are high throughout the country and up and down the league pyramid. Leeds United, and the rest, don’t set their ticket prices where they do because they’re greedy necessarily, it’s also because they have costs to cover. Setting ticket prices at £10 won’t make the business rates, police charges, stewarding costs, or — crucially — player wages decrease by the same factor. You want GFH to sell tickets for what they’re worth, but that isn’t necessarily the same as what they cost, and that has to be the minimum price.

    It’s very easy to compare to Germany but the model isn’t the same. I know, I live there. There’s a lot of misrepesentation of German ticket prices in the UK. They *can* be very cheap by UK standards, particularly season tickets (I paid €215 last season) but they can also be pricey too. Look at your own example, Borussia Dortmund: http://www.bvb.de/?%98Y%1B%E7%F4%9D That’s right, the most expensive tickets are €50. When the fans protested, they were protesting with regard to the terraced fan block in the south stand. The important word, obviously, is terraced. We’re not comparing like with like here. However, even if we were, German football is not quite the free-for-all it’s often presented as. It’s definitely a bit cheaper than the UK but not as dramatically as is suggested and I fully expect that there is a not dissimilar difference in overheads.

    I would like to see cheaper ticket prices at Elland Road but it’s not as strong a driver of attendances as it’s made out to be. You yourself allude to this when you mention the 27k+ crowds following promotion. The people of Leeds have always been willing to pay to see a good team or a big game. We haven’t always been willing to turn up for crap ones — far, far from it. Even if you can set prices low enough to fill the stadium even when the football is bad, that’s also no guarantee of an electric, inspiring atmosphere. I remember paying just shy of £40 around the turn of the millennium to sit in a deathly quiet Elland Road for a dreadful FA Cup game against Barnsley (them again). The team was good then and we paid good money to see that team but when they were rubbish, we could still make it seem like the ground was as empty as it is today.

    I’m sure the management of Leeds United isn’t blind to the idea that maximising the fanbase will increase merchandising revenue. However, it’s by no means guaranteed that just because a kid *wants* a Leeds kit and a Leeds calendar and Leeds slippers, he will necessarily get them. I wanted all that shit when I was a kid but we couldn’t afford to go to games and we certainly couldn’t afford all the guff. I listened to games on the radio and still got hooked on LUFC. If someone has £30 to spend, they only have £30 to spend. It’s really neither here nor there whether they spend all of it on a ticket or a bit on a ticket and the rest on the merch, you’ve still only brought in £30 (let’s ignore the different margins on different items for now since we don’t know the figures). Yes, we want to convert as many kids into long-term Leeds fans as possible but you don’t need to slash ticket prices across the board to achieve this, especially when it’s only supported by vague, wooly estimates of potential long-term financial benefits. The renewal of the free tickets to schools program and BBC radio commentary would make a big difference, as would outreach events, as you suggest. The rugby teams advertise heavily in the city and the football club should too.

    Point 2 is easily the strongest in this argument. GFH should be doing everything they can to get the academy into the top tier of the recently revamped youth system. As you note, if money was being spent on the academy instead of the first team, people would get behind it in a way that they don’t for executive boxes and the like.

    Point 1 I think is largely irrelevant for a club like Leeds at the moment. Our problem isn’t attracting a worldwide fanbase, it’s in getting the local fans through the door. The most effective way to do that is just to give them a team to be proud of. It doesn’t have to have any *brand* beyond “Leeds”. I don’t know anyone who became a Leeds fan *because* of the salute or the image (not since the 70s anyway). I do know many who adopted the salute being it was part of being Leeds.

    The example of St Pauli really isn’t relevant. Their identity is strongly counter-cultural and can’t be applied in a top-down manner as you suggest GFH should do. What’s more, their situation is very different from ours being a small club in a city dominated by HSV and who, as such, need to supplement their small local fanbase. (My boss is actually a Hamburg-born St Pauli fan and has confirmed as much to me.) We, as you point out, have a vast catchment area to exploit before we even start to think about “branding” the club for outsiders.

    Basically, if I was going to write an open letter to GFH asking them to take risks, I would put it differently. I would put the Academy absolutely top of the list. It has obvious long-term benefits. Second on the list would be the prices but without the idealism. I would suggest reducing ST prices only, with the aim of maximising uptake, and keeping walk-up prices high to incentivise this. This has the benefit that a form-induced drop in attendances isn’t as financially ruinous. Child and student concessions should be a given. I would even be tempted to look at using the airline model of increasing the prices as available seats decrease. Last on the list would be the branding point but I would ask for no effort from the club. I would simply ask that they let fan culture have room to breathe. The fans will decide what the club “means”, GFH just have to let us get on with it.

  31. Ami winehouse? Haha. Lots of bedroom accounting here definately an alwoodley resident aren’t you? Ha

    Awful piece of research and which schmuck would name their kid after a French idiot? Hopefully I will never see you at elland road mate; mind you you’ll probably be in the family stand not with the rest of us in the shed.

    Blaaaahhhh

    Down with GFH!

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