Somewhere out there in twitter land is a man who every Thursday puts out a tweet counting the number of weeks since our club “President” announced he would rebuy Elland Road by. This article isn’t to berate or show up Massimo Cellino for that number of weeks soon becoming more than 50 but instead to remind ourselves just where Elland Road sits in our collective consciousness.
Every time one of us passes Elland Road on a train from London, whether match day or not, we are always struck by two things. The first is how there is always someone on the train who will blurt out their awe, usually along the lines of “oh so that’s Elland Road” and secondly how even in its least flattering state (and let’s face it the old girl is not at her best in this era) a sense of “place” is generated, it’s the home of Leeds United, still, despite the last 12 seasons, one of the best known football clubs on the planet.
We all know the complications, someone else owns our ground, others including Leeds City Council own some of the land around it. It’s been out of the clubs asset list since 2004 and despite a few stories over the years suggesting otherwise we don’t look like getting it back quickly. Yet despite the consequences of the Krasner Board cashing in for short-term cash flow, it is our ground and it belongs to the supporters. Without football and Leeds United it’s just a bit of land that might not generate any capital value as much else.
It sits as it does, dominating the low ground of Beeston, majestic in its contradictions and clashing architecture. As anyone who purchased the recently released book on the place instantly recognises, it has been even more imposing, the days of large diamond footlight stanchions are alas gone. However it remains omni-special, a continuity exists that Arsenal, Sunderland or Brighton fans don’t have (although none of those clubs modern manifestations are bad grounds). Iconic doesn’t cover it sufficiently.
Yet for all the symbolism you only have to recall changes in the area around the ground to know there is no guarantee we will always play at Elland Road. The recently completed Police building sits on a site once occupied by a greyhound stadium. The Park + Ride and other car parks occupies where our training ground was until Thorp Arch opened (remember when someone tells you Thorp Arch is not up to scratch remind them what we used to have!!). Change is everywhere, we may even one day have a railway station close by (even basket case Coventry City can progress one of those). The question is how do we ensure the heart of Leeds United remains Elland Road?
We could, although it would be risky, assume that the limited value to be extracted from using the site for anything else than sport would help (developers however have a way of generating value from where others see none). We could equally assume because no-one has plans to relocate us the issue isn’t important, although some of us whose memories stretch beyond Kalvin Phillips debut will recall the 1999-2000 relocation plans that a certain ex chairman was promoting. No, in truth, if you want to take the slightest risk out of the equation there is only one way forward.
4 years ago the Government enacted a series of measures designed to allow communities to protect local assets it valued. One of those processes is called “Assets of Community Value”. You may wonder what that has to do with football grounds, well have a look HERE, which explains it well. When you also look HERE you note which ground stands out by its absence!
We have seen a lot of social media talk around recently of “if not now when?” When it comes to securing Elland Road as a football ground for Leeds United in perpetuity that is correct, regardless of who claims ownership. The Leeds United Supporters Trust would be more than happy to be the prime-movers around making progress on this but we need to be clear, it’s not about one fan group or another having a pet project, it’s about doing something for Leeds United supporters to achieve.
Elland Road is our collective home, let’s ensure it stays that way.
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