Leeds – Two Sides To Every Coin – FACT

Friday, 18 April 2008, 14:55
4 mins read

Over the course of the season, and in particular the last couple of weeks, there has been waged a war over the matter of a 15 point deduction for one team in League One. At times the debate over the legitimacy of this points deduction has become quite heated, and there has been much talk of ‘getting the facts right’. With this in mind, I’d like to present, what I think, is an impartial view that lists the ‘facts’. Whilst I have included some opinion, it is only my opinion and it is not in any way trying to be sensationalist. 

  • Leeds Utd entered administration at a point when their relegation to League One was all but officially confirmed, rendering their automatic ten-point deduction meaningless.
  • The club was sold back to a Ken Bates owned holding company by the administrators at the request of the principle club creditor, a holding company owned by the aforementioned Kenneth Bates. This allowed KB to ‘wipe off’ a large proportion of Leeds’ debt, without having to pay much back to those to whom it was owed. And, this was despite there being other bids on the table for Leeds Utd that may have been preferential to other, smaller, creditors.
  • League rules state that all ‘footballing creditors’ must be paid first for a team in administration to be allowed their ‘golden share’ and a place in the League. With a CVA about to be announced, the tax man jumped in and demanded full payment of monies owed to HMIR, as would happen to any ‘regular’ company
  • Leeds were allowed to take their place in League One, subject to a 15 point deduction and Ken Bates signing an agreement that he would not take the punishment to a tribunal. This was after all other clubs were polled as to whether Leeds should be allowed back into the League, a move that many have seen as holding a possible conflict of interest. This deduction is viewed by many as a ‘punishment’ for Leeds for taking the initial 10 point deduction at a time when it would not affect their League status. Whatever your view on this, it was perfectly within the rights of the club to do this, and there was nothing in the Football League rules that prevented them from doing so.
  • Whilst Leeds were still without a CVA, they were allowed to sign new players (even paying transfer fees) – something that teams are not supposed to be able to do under Football League rules.
  • Leeds have explored every avenue to gain back their 15 points, and are now awaiting the decision of an independent tribunal

 The result of this tribunal is likely to go one of three ways (it could always be referred to another authority/tribunal)

  • If Leeds were to receive 15 points back it would put them in second place, ahead of Carlisle and Doncaster. It would also still be possible for Leeds to finish as Champions. This would invariably lead to legal action from Carlisle, Doncaster, and probably Swansea.
  • If Leeds were to receive enough points back to secure a play off place, Walsall, Brighton, Tranmere (and possibly Oldham) would be denied a place in the lucrative end-of-season finale, and would probably take legal action.
  • If Leeds were told that the 15 point deduction must stay, Leeds would look to other alternatives as a way of having the points returned to them

 Whoever you support and whether you believe the deduction was correct or not, what everyone should be able to agree on is that this whole debacle has been poorly handled by the FA and the Football League. It has been left until April for a tribunal to take place, when one club has already ‘secured’ promotion and potentially this issue could carry on indefinitely. Whatever the result, someone is going to be unhappy, and this case is not going to be dropped.  

In my own humble opinion this whole debacle would have been avoided if the laws surrounding the following two issues were much stricter: 

Ken Bates’ ownership of Leeds Utd Ken Bates took Leeds into administration and bought the club back, wiping off the majority of the clubs debts. Whichever way you look at it, this seems like a dodgy piece of business, but it’s all perfectly legal and above board. As the club was owned by a holding company, and now owned by another holding company, Ken Bates is able to stay in control. That a man who owned a club ran up debts that made him the majority creditor, and then forced the administrators to sell the club back to him is a farce. This is not a personal issue with Ken Bates. This happens all the time in business, and as long as someone is clever in the way that they control businesses, they can continue to run up massive debts without ever having to pay them off. There are now tests that determine who is ‘fit’ to run a football club, but it does not prevent the likes of Bates from legally playing the loopholes in the system.  

The automatic 10 point deduction At the end of the day, Leeds should not have been allowed to take the deduction when they did, but it was perfectly legal and above board – so the finger of blame has to be pointed at the Football League for creating a rule that allowed this to take place. I believe that if Leeds’ 10 point deduction had been carried over to this season, as the laws now state, then no-one would have cause for complaint.  As it stands, the incompetence of the FA and the Football League in failing to resolve this issue at the start of the season has led us to a situation where we are embarking into the unknown. No-one can accurately predict the outcome of this proceeding and the end result of all this, because whatever happens I do not believe it will end at this tribunal. On a personal level, my only hope is that we win our remaining 3 games, meaning that whatever happens to Leeds our promotion to The Championship is not in any doubt. I can sympathize with those below us, but it’s every man for himself, and as long as we’re promoted, I’ve got to be honest and say I don’t care who comes up with us.

Images courtesy of Getty Images, Athena Picture Agency and Swansea City Football Club.
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