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      Friday
      May062016

      Goodbye 15-16, we stay Marching On Together.

      Another turbulent season has come and gone at Elland Road, and yet, no matter what has happened over the course of those 46 games we’ll still be optimistic for the start of the next one.

      The Leeds United fan base is in a strange place at the moment with protests and counter protests taking place, but rest assured we are still all longing for the same thing - a successful football club.

      We are firm believers that a successful club needs a strong supporters trust, and after a period of unseen hard work and restructuring, the Leeds United Supporters Trust is in a position to re-engage with our members. Over the summer we will be reaching out to our shareholders and members to gauge opinion and listen to your questions and concerns with the goal of helping to push this football club forward.

      Football without fans is nothing, and we remain committed and focused in standing up for all Leeds United fans in these continuing difficult times.

      For day to day communications, you can follow us on Twitter at @lufctrust and visit our Facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/lufctrust/ .

      If you have any questions, comments or concerns you would like to raise with the Supporters Trust, you can contact us via the contact form on our website or send us an email at chairman@lufctrust.org and we will respond as quickly as we can.

      We face another pre-season filled with uncertainty; ownership, management and playing staff but we will strive to keep you as well informed as possible while taking on board any comments you might have.

      Leeds United Supporters’ Trust is a fully democratic organisation. Upon joining the Trust as a shareholder you will own 1 share in the organisation and will have the right vote on all Trust matters at our Annual General Meeting.

       If you would like to join the Trust as a shareholder or would like more information, you can visit our shareholder page here http://lufctrust.squarespace.com/ .

      We look forward to hearing what you have to say.

      Adam Willerton (Social Media and Engagement Board Member) for Leeds United Supporters Trust.

      One Voice, Your Voice.

      Friday
      Apr152016

      Chairs Report Special. Marches work.

      Tomorrow Time To Go Massimo march to highlight the constant crises the club is embroiled in under own present ownership structure. The Trust Chair takes this opportunity to wish the march well, praise the “ground up” approach of the organisers and to remind us of the proud history of Leeds United supporters’ marches.

      It is fair to say it been an interesting week on and off the pitch. The latter continues to drag the good name of the club through the mire whilst the former settles down to our now 5 years old lower half of the Championship mediocrity. Tomorrow the frustrations of both those realities come together to manifest itself in a march (staring 1.15pm from City Square). As Trust Chair I wish the marches well, anything which alerts people to the cluster-chaos and incompetence that is Leeds United Football Club in 2016 and asks for the change needed has to be a good thing. Each individual Leeds supporter must decide if they support the aims of the march and Time To Go Massimo but in my humble opinion no-one has the right to question the right of fans to articulate their frustrations in this (and other related recent innovative stunts) manner. Events have more than justified legal and peaceful protest and TTGM have been diligent in ensuring both.

      The term change is important here and we need to remind ourselves of some events from years past. Back in 2012 another march took place, a march that history suggests was a Trust act that was significant in highlighting the level of discontent then. Whilst the Trust is proud of its contribution from back then, and particularly the dignity shown by the then Chair Gary Cooper, that very successful march was not a Trust march, it was a Leeds United supporters march under the banner Campaign for Change. Its very success was it was a bottom up manifestation of frustration and all the better for it. Let us remind ourselves of what that was about and what it achieved, it has some significant resonance still for tomorrow. Taken from a Trust blog post in February 2012:

      “Leeds United Supporters' Trust would like to say a massive thank you to everyone who made Saturday's Campaign for Change protest march such a great success.

      The aim of the march was to draw attention to the growing number of fans who are dissatisfied with the way Leeds United is currently being run, and to highlight the need for positive changes to be made at the club. We had hoped for a strong turnout, but even our expectations were exceeded as over a thousand fans gathered in central Leeds on Saturday lunchtime. Far from a "minority" group of "empty vessels" or "morons," the fans who marched from City Square to Elland Road were drawn from across the whole spectrum of Leeds' support, from groups of friends, to families, kids, and lifelong Leeds supporters from all over the country. All were united by their love for Leeds United, and their feeling that the club is letting them down. 

      We would like to thank all the fans who marched for attending, and for their excellent behaviour throughout; and to extend a special vote of thanks to the volunteer stewards who helped the march run smoothly. The marchers made their point forcefully but peacefully, and disruption to the shoppers and workers in Leeds on a busy Saturday afternoon was kept to a minimum. We would also particularly like to thank West Yorkshire Police, whose advice and help was invaluable. The march was organised at very short notice, and their sensible and respectful policing helped ensure a successful day. One of the aims of the Trust’s vision statement is to see positive relationships built between the club, the fans, and local organisations, and the march was a great demonstration of the benefits of cooperation between L.U.S.T., the local police, and Leeds United supporters.

      We hope that the sight and sound of over a thousand peaceful, committed and passionate Leeds United fans choosing to forego their usual matchday routines to march from City Square to Elland Road will counter the accusation that dissatisfied fans form only a 'moronic minority' at Leeds United. Like all Leeds fans, the fans who marched on Saturday want the best for their football club, and they want to see that the club's owners share their ambition. We call upon the club not to dismiss the march, but to take seriously the concerns that led more than a thousand of our fans to protest this way.”

      When you read those words and when you then look at the events of the last 4 years and particularly those things done to us by the incompetent and ego led actions of our present majority owners, our present minority owners once our majority owners and the remnants of the ownership we protested against in 2012, you can only conclude such a march for change is most welcome.

      Best wishes to all involved and may your march be as successful over time as 2012 was ultimately.

       

      Cheers

       

      Michael Green 

      Friday
      Apr082016

      Chairs Report- Elland Road is the only place for us.

      One year on from first floating the idea and in light of the recent contention the club may no longer hold a option to re-purchase, it is time to look again at securing Elland Road as an Asset of Community Value.

      Somewhere out in Twitter land someone on 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 already more than 100 (or any more than he and fellow directors show themselves up on an ongoing basis as witnessed by this weeks events) 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 purgatory of the last 13 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 (and recent analysis suggest the clubs right to re-purchase is in some serious doubt). Yet despite the consequences of the Krasner Board cashing in for short-term cash flow and Bates not even coming Close to announcing a re-purchase), 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 owt else.

      It sits as it does, dominating the low ground of Beeston, majestic in its contradictions and clashing architecture. As anyone who purchased the excellent book with the same name of the title of this piece released last year 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 even come close to covering 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 Police building build in 2014/5 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 at 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 when Steve Evans rocked up 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.

      5 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, then have a look at www.supporters-direct.org/homepage/what-we-do/england-wales/assets-of-community-value , which explains it well. When you also check out www.pinterest.com/suppdirect/our-home-protected-football-and-sports-grounds you note which ground stands out by its absence!

      We have seen a lot of fan activism since Massimo Cellino blundered into the club, whethers its Leeds Fans United, South Stand 5, Time to Go Massimo or any other welcome expressions of the need for change. However when it comes to securing Elland Road as a football ground for Leeds United in perpetuity that is something that needs a focus as well, regardless of who claims or actually has ownership. Following on from the examples set by Leeds Fans United in promoting fan share ownership schemes and Time To Go Massimo on its campaign for ownership change the time has come for the security in perpetuity of our home to be central to the supporters concerns. Whilst the Leeds United Supporters Trust would be more than happy to be the prime-movers around making progress on this we need to be clear, it’s not about one fan group or another having a pet project, it’s about doing something for all Leeds United supporters to achieve.

      Please read all about what having a ground as an Asset of Community Value brings to the club and the community and if you agree with that being a way forward lets us know. The process of application is relatively simple and the final decision is in the hands of Leeds City Council via its Licensing functions.

      Elland Road is our collective home and the only place for us, let’s take the option we have to ensure it stays that way.

      Cheers

       

      Michael Green – Chair.

      Monday
      Mar072016

      The Leeds United Accounts - An Analysis That Nails It.

      The Trust is grateful to George Dyer for allowing us to repost his analysis of the Leeds United accounts 14-15. George has managed to nail down the important points without slipping into jargon, his acute understanding is obvious throughout. The writing below was under the title "2015 Accounts - The Downward Spiral Continues" from "Ups and Downs".

      "After a bullish statement on the upturn in the financial performance of Leeds United being published by the club prior to their release, the accounts for 2015 make an intriguing read. Whilst this blogger is somewhat skeptical of Massimo Cellino's ownership of the club,  the headlines of a reduction in net losses to 2m versus a loss of 22.9m in 2014 had to be applauded, as should be the reduction in cost of sales from 6.2m to 3.9m. The true financial position of the club however is a bit more nuanced, and the ability to get to that P&L position is driven by one-off elements which flatter the underlying financial position of the club.

      Starting firstly with the profit and loss statement, the turnover has continued to decline, with a drop of 3.4% for 2015. This has been driven by a decline in merchandising income of ca. 750k which was partially offset by an increase in gate receipts of 200k. The continuing drop in the turnover (down 25% since 2011 and now rapidly approaching the Bates League 1 nadir of 2008 and 2009 of ca. 23m). Given average attendances are down again this year, it is unlikely that the turnover position will have improved, and the somewhat kneejerk reactions (such as the pie tax) could well be a reaction to shore up a declining turnover position.

      This has been partially offset by the decrease in cost of sales, and the gross profit position is better than last year, however it is still the worst position since 2009, when Leeds were in League 1.

      The administrative expenses remain high, especially in the context of a club generating a gross profit of ca. 20.5m. Whilst these have dropped 10%, driven by ca. 2.4m reduction in the overall wage bill (500k of which relates to director remuneration), they are still 40% higher than in 2010 when turnover was 3m higher than today. Ultimately the operating loss position of 12.64m is unsustainable in the long term, and whilst an improvement on the previous year, it is still not a stabilized platform for growth.

      Ultimately, therefore how do you square the circle? It remains clear that both the turnover is too low and the administrative costs are too high. Whilst the wage bill has increased, few fans will argue that the overarching squad and wider coaching staff are sufficiently resourced to mount a comprehensive promotion challenge, therefore if we say that the wage bill is at or around the correct level, we would need to reduce other costs, namely the significant rental outflows which act as a significant drag on expenses. Ultimately this needs to be coupled by a boost to turnover, and Leeds should be able to get back to gross revenue of ca. 32.6m which we saw in 2010. In order to do this we need attendances up, and more spend on merchandising revenue. This requires a club able to mount a promotion challenge, or at the very least one with a coherent medium term strategy for getting there. The current lack of direction with the club will continue to bleed attendances and put further pressure on administrative costs. This ultimately risks sending the club into a death spiral of cost cutting to meet declining turnover and risks threatening the financial stability of the club.

      The balance sheet position of the club has improved substantially, driven by a conversion of 11.6m of debt to equity over the year. In addition, a further 4.9m of equity was invested into the club over 2015. It is clear from the financial position of the accounts (and the cashflow position) that Leeds remain reliant on Massimo Cellino to provide cashflow support to the club. The position has also been helped by net player profits of 9.8m over the course of 2015 which has significantly improved the overall loss position. This however isn't a sustainable source of revenue and the operating position of the club can't rely upon this to provide support over the long term, not least because as mentioned above, the sale of our best players make it increasingly difficult to mount a promotion challenge and ultimately lead to further pressure on attendances and turnover.

      Ultimately whilst there have been some small improvements in the financial position, the continued decline in turnover represents the biggest threat to Leeds United. as has been mentioned before, a medium term strategy in terms of a promotion challenge, investment in and retention of the players able to mount a successful challenge and a long term coaching plan are required to stabilize the club. Without this, any owner will be forced to keep funding cashflow shortfalls for the club, and the club risks long term decline with the threat of administration and relegation. Time will tell whether either Massimo Cellino or any subsequent owner appreciate this and take the steps necessary to ensure the long term stability of Leeds United."

      Thank you for that George, it will stand us all in good stead for the turbulent times ahead.

      Saturday
      Feb272016

      Chairs Report - The Bigger Picture

      Notwithstanding the FA Cup Exit, the form slide and lower attendances, the ownership questions and the half released accounts for 14-15 sometimes its good to focus away from Leeds United and on to football in general. The Chair does that with a plea around the recent Government Expert Working Group on Football Supporter Ownership and Engagement.

      A month has passed since the Government's Expert Working Group on football supporter ownership and engagement report was published. In that month the Supporters Direct movement, which the Trust is part of, have had time to discuss the recommendations and prepare for the next steps in ensuring those recommendations are followed through. Those next steps are the work of all of us interested in supporter ownership in football, whilst the commitments in the report are a start some further movement is needed to improve football in England and Wales.

      The first task now is to make sure the recommendations are fully and effectively implemented. All football supporters should read the report (available free via GOV.UK) but the highlights of what was agreed and is to already be implemented are:

      * The first structured dialogue process for all clubs.

      * From season 16/17 all clubs playing inthe Premier League, Championship, FL1 and FL2 must 1) meet with a Supporters Trust as part of a representative group of supporters at least twice a year to discuss issues. 2) Ensure they put forward to those meetings suitable senior representatives of the club, such as owners, directors, senior executives. 3) Share a minimum level of information at the meetings, likely to include ongoing financial health, business plan, strategic ambitions etc.

      * At national level the football authorities commit to meet with any supporters groups who express concerns over the governance standards of the way their club is run.

      *On supporter ownership and resourses a new fund will be created for Supporters Trusts to apply for professional fees to help prepare a bid to won the club where either the club is in crises or an owner has indicated an intent to seek buyers.

      *Some changes in the Football League to the insolvency rules which encourage supporter ownership which include from next season that if a FL club is in administration the administrator must meet with the supporters Trust within 21 days of their appointment and provide it with an opportunity to bid for the club.

      *Recommendations for rate relief, gift aid and corporation tax incentives which would benefit suppoter owned clubs only (as recognition for their community focused basis).

      The process and task of ensuring that non of these commitments fall by the wayside has already begun.

      The Supporters Direct movement didn't get everything we wanted or needed but a good start was made. Does any of this improve matters at Elland Road for us all? Well not yet, but by the time we get to the summer the first signs of a more productive relationship between the club (regardless of who owns it) and the support should be clear to see. You can ensure it does by being part of the Trust movement.

      Cheers

       

      Michael Green - Chair.