One of the troubling aspects of offshore ownership is how natural and commonplace the term ‘offshore’ now feels. At Leeds United, we have been so used to the opaque entanglement of our ownership structure that the countries in which the various stakes in the various companies that form ‘LUFC’ have become equally opaque. Ken Bates owns 72.85% of Forward Sports Fund (who own Leeds City Holdings, who own Leeds United, Yorkshire Radio, the Pavilion and the rest) through his company, Outro Ltd, registered on the island of Nevis in the West Indies. How many of us could find Nevis on a globe? Can we form an idea of what it’s like there? Can you visualise the bank or office where those registration documents are held? Can you picture the people who work there?
Or how about Tortola? 150 miles due north-west of Nevis, in the British Virgin Islands, Tortola – and presumably its capital, Roadtown – is home to another 7.7% of Leeds City Holdings in the form of Outram Ventures Ltd. There is no known link between Ken Bates and Outram, but Bates is certainly known in Roadtown. In fact, if you start outside the Post Office on Main Street and walk past the painted clapboard buildings towards Pickenin Street, take a right towards Waterfront Drive and cross it onto Nibbs Street, take a curve to the right down De Castro Street past The Scotia Bank and The First Bank and there, between a shopping centre and The First Caribbean International Bank, opposite the government administration buildings on the hill, you will find Positive Action Movement Park. That’s about a ten minute walk. And once you reach PAM Park, you’ll find a statue there of Noel Lloyd, the man who, in 1968, faced down Ken Bates’ development plans for Tortola and Anegada, and, along with the Positive Action Movement, drove Bates from the islands.
We published the story of Noel Lloyd and Positive Action Movement in The Square Ball magazine in November, and now we’re putting the full text permanently online at TheSquareBall.net/Noel-Lloyd.
It’s an incredible story, that follows Ken Bates’ rise through the Lancashire construction business to become chairman of Oldham Athletic, where his schemes for corporate facilities and restaurants, the increased ticket prices, the insulting remarks about fans in his programme column, and the club radio station, will all sound sadly familiar to Leeds fans; to Rhodesia, where Bates had business connections, and where he took Oldham on a summer tour in 1965 and was photographed with Prime Minister Ian Smith, in spite of United Nations Resolutions that imposed economic and diplomatic sanctions on Smith’s “illegal regime … [ruled by] a racist minority”; and then to the British Virgin Islands, where Bates was on the precipice of a success that would be worth almost £200million in today’s money and leave him owner not just of a business, but of an island the size of Manhattan, for 199 years.
What prevented Ken Bates’ developments on Tortola and Anegada, was a movement of the islands’ own people, inspired by their own Noel Lloyd: Positive Action Movement. Noel’s solo march around Roadtown in April 1968 was a lightning rod for the islanders whose lands were being taken away for hotels, airstrips and a tax haven. Bates’ leases were to run for 199 years, charging his company, Batehill, no more than $30,000 per year for land that was worth $300million, incurring no taxes, leaving less than 10% of Anegada to its own people, and creating a barrier that would separate the affluent Roadtown harbour from the rest of the island.
The Positive Action Movement’s fightback began with a hectic fortnight in which Noel Lloyd led marchers onto government hill, arrested sleeping officers in Roadtown police station, escaped from jail, and was repeatedly freed from police hands by his supporters who feared that police maltreatment had affected his health. After that came three years of pressure that saw the local government switching its position, Ken Bates’ facing cross-questioning by PAM in a packed Tortola courtroom, a British government commission, and concerns voiced at the Foreign Office and in the House of Lords about the trouble Bates was creating. Finally, Bates was defeated, bought off for a fraction of the money he had hoped to make – and less than had been privately agreed to grant him – leaving behind him half-finished hotels and a flurry of angry letters to the Financial Times.
Noel Lloyd’s part in the story almost became lost in subsequent years, before successful efforts to honour him with the BVI National Badge of Honour in 2008, and, after he died later that year, with the opening of the Positive Action Movement Park and the placing of his statue. In 2010, the documentary ‘Noel Lloyd: A Patriotic Man’ was produced by BVI filmmakers Andrea and Amanda Wilson, which tells Noel Lloyd’s story through interviews with his family and his contemporaries, and modern day recreations of his iconic march.
The film brought Noel’s story sharply back into focus in the BVI, and brought it our attention here at The Square Ball. After we published our article in November, Andrea Wilson appeared on TV news in the BVI to speak about The Square Ball and her film:
It’s worth remembering while watching that clip, and the trailer for ‘A Patriotic Man’ above, the strong connections between Tortola and Leeds United. Noel Lloyd’s marches of 1968 might have happened a long time ago, but it’s not six months since people marched through the streets of Leeds in protest at the way Ken Bates runs our football club along his own inclinations, rather than those of the fans. In Tortola, the people in those clips, including people who knew Noel and who stood beside him in the Positive Action Movement such as Patsy Pickering, Lindy de Castro and Wilfred Smith, could stand next to the statue of their friend and, if they threw a stone in the right direction, hit the building where 7.7% of Leeds United is owned today. At Elland Road we celebrate our history with statues of Billy Bremner and Don Revie, honouring their achievements in our cause; in Tortola, they celebrate their history with a statue of Noel Lloyd, honouring his achievement in helping to defeat our current chairman.
We think the story of Noel Lloyd and Positive Action Movement is an important one for Leeds United’s fans to read, to discuss, and to share, and that’s why we’re proud to tell it at The Square Ball.
The photographs of Noel appear courtesy of the Lloyd family.