49ers deliver well-timed Leeds United boost they know must precede transfers

-Credit: (Image: MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
-Credit: (Image: MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A subtle change in corporate structure is how Angus Kinnear described Elland Road’s shift in ownership this week. The paperwork was signed off back in March, but the publication of the stadium’s business accounts prompted a Leeds United announcement yesterday.

Elland Road Limited is still the company in control of the ground, but that firm is now under the ownership of Leeds United Football Club Limited, the club’s holding company. It had, for the six months since Andrea Radrizzani sold everything, fallen under the direct control of 49ers Enterprises Global Football Group LLC.

Given that 49ers group owns the club, it still owns Elland Road and calls the shots on its future, but it has at least been brought in from the cold, so to speak. The American group owns the club and the club owns its home again.

READ MORE: Leeds United confirm striker signature at Elland Road after 10 goal involvements

The questions and fears Radrizzani provoked when he explored the idea of using Elland Road as security in his Sampdoria takeover put supporters on red alert. How safe was the stadium from such an event?

Leeds United Supporters’ Trust led the charge on relisting the ground as an Asset of Community Value with Leeds City Council. That status puts checks and balances in place on any meaningful event involving the stadium’s future, especially its ownership.

With that in place and confirmation 49ers owned 100 per cent of the shares in the ground from September, fears were eased. There is always a need for trust between fans and the ownership of their club.

In business terms, a majority shareholder can broadly push through anything it wants. An unwelcome choice may provoke the biggest protest it has ever seen from a passionate fan base, but if it does not care for that relationship, it will do as it wishes and face the consequences.

Supporters have the power to protest and make their voice heard when it comes to their club, their second home, but they have to put hope and trust in United’s ownership to do what is right. So, if the 49ers group has to be trusted to run the club, that same trust applies to stadium ownership.

There has not been an outcry for the paperwork to return Elland Road back to the club’s control since the takeover. If the 49ers group owns the ground, it owns it, whether that’s directly or indirectly via United’s holding company.

And yet, Paraag Marathe et al did pursue such a change. As Kinnear said in his short statement, it’s a broad signal of intent from the 49ers group. It wants Leeds and Elland Road to be connected, for the fans to be reassured it understands the importance of these links.

There is another month until the season starts and another seven weeks until the transfer window closes, so verdicts on the summer have to be set in that context, but it has been challenging for fans up to now. Once signings start to arrive and positive results, hopefully, start to flow, moods will improve, but 13 departures against two arrivals naturally raises some concerns.

Joe Rodon’s return is outstanding business, but Archie Gray’s departure, however lucrative, is always going to sting. Red Bull’s investment has also drawn some scepticism, though Marathe has tried to allay those fears publicly.

In a summer which has followed Wembley heartbreak, all of this inevitably makes it hard for 49ers to curry favour. Supporters want new faces to be signed yesterday, that is the currency they trade in and until they start to land, experienced administrators like Marathe and Kinnear must know it’s an uphill battle.

Bringing Elland Road home at least puts some credit in the bank with the fans, a positive footnote in the broader novel around their ownership which will be judged over the years ahead.