A couple of pages seemed to be missing from Leeds United’s matchday programme for Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Brighton. Even though he wasn’t able to play due to injury, club captain Liam Cooper provided his column; Javi Gracia took time to write his during a busy week preparing his players for an important fixture when Leeds desperately need results. Angus Kinnear usually does the same but, despite Leeds having no midweek fixture that would have made deadlines tight, he decided to skip this particular issue.
Appearing on The Square Ball podcast ahead of the start of the season, Kinnear said he prides himself on being one of the few chief executives in the Premier League who writes their own programme notes, because, “I actually thought it was quite a good platform to have a regular dialogue with supporters and tell them what’s going on.” Kinnear said it can often be a boring task — sometimes there’s not a lot going on to write about — but after a week in which Leeds announced season ticket prices were being raised by 10 per cent, there was an obvious topic raising plenty of questions fans want answering. Mainly, what does the club need that extra 10 per cent to pay for?
In the press release announcing the rise in price, nobody on Leeds’ board provided quotes explaining why fans were being charged more. The following paragraph was the closest we got:
‘We appreciate that any increase in the current economic climate is unwelcome, particularly when it coincides with poor performance on the pitch. The decision has not been taken lightly but we believe the new pricing is consistent with both our principle of running the clubs (sic) finances responsibly and maintaining our commitment to affordable football at Elland Road.’
I’m not sure how making season tickets more expensive is ‘maintaining our commitment to affordable football at Elland Road’. And I’m not sure about the assertion Leeds are ‘running the club’s finances responsibly’ when the board themselves are telling us otherwise. Last season, Kinnear responded to proposals to redistribute more of the Premier League’s revenues down the Football League pyramid (which his boss Andrea Radrizzani called for when Leeds were in the Championship) by comparing such plans to ‘Maoist collective agriculturalism’. In those same programme notes, he explained why giving Leeds more money in the Championship would have been a terrible idea: because the ownership would only have wasted it:
‘Teams further down the pyramid do not need their means artificially inflated, they need to live within them. As a recently promoted team we were asked by the review what we would have done with increased funds if Premier League teams had been forced to financially contribute to our promotion campaign and the answer (although more eloquently expressed) was, fundamentally, that we would have still blown it on Pawel Cibicki.’
As Moxco wrote a month later, in a blog explaining why Cibicki was a particularly ill-timed punchline:
‘Kinnear can’t joke about blowing money on Cibicki when he’s the chief executive who signed off on paying £1.5m for him in the first place. It isn’t possible to whip the tie off, hop out of the director’s box and run over to start nudging the fans, pointing at the pitch and asking ‘wow, who blew all the money on that guy!?’, when the answer is you, you blew the money on him. Then you sold us tickets to watch him, you hired Paul Heckingbottom to coach him, and the team finished 13th. That’s why fans tell jokes, because if we didn’t, we’d cry. What were we supposed to be laughing at in Kinnear’s programme notes?’
More recently, Andrea Radrizzani has been cracking jokes about Leeds wasting money. Radz doesn’t write programme notes, but he does send tweets. It’s easier to delete them, you see. Last month the Twitter account Transfer News Live asked, ‘Who is the biggest transfer flop in your club’s history?’ Radz replied, ‘JKA’, referring to Jean-Kevin Augustin and the £18m Leeds owe RB Leipzig for Big Kev’s 48 minutes in a United shirt. Radz deleted the tweet half an hour later, trying out the different punchline, ‘JFK’. I don’t remember Leeds signing the 35th president of the United States, although given Victor Orta’s desperate trolley dash around the world after Rodrigo’s injury at the end of the summer transfer window, I wouldn’t put it past us.
Radz can often be a bit tired and emotional on Twitter, but his JKA gag was consistent with what he said in the more professional setting of an interview with DAZN at the end of February. When asked about the difference in finances between the Premier League and Serie A, Radz replied:
“The gap is huge, although in my opinion we throw money away. We pay too much for players and players’ contracts… We need to work on ideas and the whole Premier League is a bit flawed. [Clubs] use money because they have so much of it, but there is no real need for it.”
A week later, Leeds — playing in a league where there’s so much money clubs throw it away because they have no better idea what to do with it — raised their season ticket prices. The Leeds board have had three years of Premier League income, but they’re still talking about needing to improve the club’s infrastructure and stadium, while the team has got worse. Which returns us to the question: what is the extra 10 per cent — the second 10 per cent rise in consecutive seasons — paying for? And why is it falling on supporters to make up for all the money the board admit to squandering? A Twitter thread started by our Michael shows the extra cash has not been spent on improving the facilities at Elland Road for supporters:
The toilet seat covered in frozen piss is such a rare natural phenomenon Kinnear could use it as a topic for his next programme notes, if he’s still lacking inspiration. There are more than enough photos in the Twitter thread to pad out a few pages. Either that, or maybe he can write about why there’s still a t-shirt in the window of the East Stand offices displaying the message, ‘Football Is For The Fans’. ⬢