Saturday, January 31, 2004

Leeds United Football Club - Message From Trevor Birch

Let me first say a big thank you to the players on behalf of all the directors and all at the club.
Whatever has been reported in the last two weeks, asking everyone to defer a big proportion of their wages is a big ask. After the shock of the initial request the players have responded magnificently and acted in a mature and responsible way. They have played their part in securing the future of Leeds United for the rest of the season.
It's now incumbent on us all to play our part and get behind the team and give them our support to play with confidence and without fear. Our survival depends on the team winning games and we can start today by cheering the team to victory.
Work continues behind the scenes in talking to current interested parties and the principal finance creditors, but for the time being we have taken a big step towards securing a breathing space until the end of the season, which gives us more time to deliver a longer term solution which is in the best interests of Leeds United.
The FA Premier League shareholders met this week and considered a rule change to introduce a sanction of a nine point reduction on clubs entering administration. This was passed on a majority vote but will only be introduced after the FA Premier League AGM on 3 June.
On a practical note, this would mean that if a club entered administration prior to that date it would not suffer a nine point deduction and would not start the following season with minus nine points, whether in the Premiership or the Football League.
It remains a critical time for the club and all we can do is work hard, remain upbeat and be positive.
Thank you to you all for your continuing support. It has never wavered and the players and managementdo not take it for granted. If we can all pull together we can make the difference and survive.
Trevor Birch
Guardian Unlimited Football | Breaking News | INTERVIEW-Gray calls for mental strength in escape bid

Reuters
Friday January 30, 2004 9:11 PM
By Sophie Hardach
LEEDS, England, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Leeds United manager Eddie Gray has called on his players to display greater mental strength to save the debt-ridden club from relegation.
The ailing Yorkshire club are bottom of the premier league, more than 80 million pounds ($144.9 million) in debt, and have just one week to resolve their cash crisis and avoid going into administration.
Gray, however, says the players, who agreed to defer some of their wages on Thursday to help the club, must rise above the financial turmoil, starting with Saturday's must-win home match against Middlesbrough.
"It is a vicious circle but football is like that," he said. "It's like the survival of the fittest, and the strongest mentally," he told Reuters on Friday.
"And that's what we've got to be -- we've got to be the strongest mentally."
Leeds have lost three consecutive league games and defeat against Middlesbrough could leave them eight points from safety.
Former Leeds player Gray is trying to pick up the pieces from an era of over-spending on big-name signings. He says the only way forward now for the club is to develop its own talent.
"The club should take a look at their whole policy as a football club and start again and have a re-think about how they approach things in the future," he said at the club's training ground.
"I would like to see the club start producing its own players."
Gray was instrumental in developing the likes of striker Alan Smith and defender Jonathan Woodgate who has since been sold to Newcastle United as part of the player-cull.
"You see the club in its present state and the club over spent," Gray said. "It's not worth it if you can get great players and then you've got to sell them again."
Leeds signed Rio Ferdinand for 18 million pounds in 2000 as they tried to cement their place as one of Europe's top clubs, but sold him for 30 million pounds to Manchester United in 2002.
Those days of big spending seem over for good and the priority now is for Gray to keep Leeds in the premier league.
"It's going to be difficult, but I think we can still get out of trouble," he said.
Sporting Life - Football

BIRCH WINS LATEST LEEDS BATTLE
By Ian Parkes, PA Sport
Leeds chief executive Trevor Birch has won his latest battle with the club's creditors by gaining a further extension of the standstill period until next Friday.
Over the past 10 days Birch has managed to raise the £5million needed to see Leeds through to the end of the season, which culminated in Thursday's unanimous agreement among the players to defer 25% of their wages.
On Friday, Birch held the latest meeting with the creditors - bondholders M&G, MetLife and Teachers, along with player-leasing agents Registered European Football Finance Ltd - to outline his developments.
Along with the £2.5million raised via the players, Birch turned to former managers David O'Leary, Terry Venables and Peter Reid, who have all agreed to defer severance payments owed in the wake of their sackings in the past 20 months, totalling just over £1million.
Birch also received a timely windfall of £1.5million from rivals Manchester United on Wednesday as full and final payment for Rio Ferdinand's transfer to Old Trafford in July 2002.
A payment of £10,000 per week to former striker Robbie Fowler, owed as part of his £6million move to Manchester City a year ago, has apparently been put on hold, while Birch has also saved on the wages of loanees Roque Junior and Cyril Chapuis by letting them leave.
A statement to the Stock Exchange read: "The board of Leeds United plc announces it has met the financial and other covenants (described in its announcements on 19 and 26 January 2004) and as a result the standstill period now extends to 6 February 2004."
Although it was perhaps expected the deadline would be extended to the end of the season, the extra week, as outlined in previous statements, allows the creditors - which also includes the Inland Revenue and Customs & Excise - to go through Birch's financial proposals.
It is likely when next Friday's latest deadline is reached, there will be a further statement confirming the standstill agreement will be extended until to the end of the season, or with provision through to that point.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Sky Sports - The Best Sport Coverage From Around The World

LEEDS STARS AGREE TO WAGE DEFERRAL
Leeds United players have agreed to a wage deferral of more than 20 percent to help the struggling club avoid going into administration.
The club's players have been locked in talks with The Professional Footballers' Association and Elland Road officials for the past week in a bid to find an agreement to defer a portion of their wages until the end of the season.
PFA chief Gordon Taylor revealed that the players has unanimously agreed to defer "more than 20 percent of their wages".
Leeds had been given until Friday to find the £5 million needed to keep the club afloat until the end of the season and the move by the players is set to save the club from going into administration.
Taylor was delighted that the players had agreed to the deferral, and praised them for their commitment.
"We had a long discussion with the players - they are all together and have unanimously agreed to a wage deferral which will go a considerable way to allowing the club to stay in business for the rest of the season. It is a large amount of money," said Taylor.
"They have been unanimous in accepting a considerable percentage, it will amount literally to millions. It's more than 20 percent.
"I was delighted that all the players agreed to this. Football is a very short career, to defer a large proportion of your wages when you have financial commitments takes some consideration."
The Leeds board confirmed the agreement and revealed they had asked for an extension with the creditors until the end of the season, with the deadline set to expire on Friday.
"The Board of Leeds United plc confirms that it has agreed, subject to documentation, a wage deferral arrangement with all of the football club's professional players to assist the company's cash management," read the statement.
"Gordon Taylor and Mick McGuire of the PFA met with the club's Finance Director, Neil Robson, and the players this afternoon to discuss the current financial situation at Leeds United. As a result, the players gave their unanimous support to a significant deferral of their wages.
"The Board is now in negotiations with its principal finance creditors to seek a further extension to the existing standstill arrangements to the end of the football season. A further announcement will be made in this regard in due course."
Leeds chief executive Trevor Birch also thanked the players for their contribution to the club's survival bid.
"The Board understands that this position has been very difficult for the players and this request was made as an absolute last resort," noted Birch.
"The players' actions demonstrate their commitment and understanding and give Leeds United a massive lift as we look towards the rest of the season.
"There are 16 games left for Leeds United to fight for survival in the Premier League. The Board, employees, players and supporters should now pull together and do whatever they can to achieve this goal."
Meanwhile, the Yorkshire-based consortium interested in taking over the club announced they have the money in place for a deal to happen.
"I am pleased to announce that earlier today our solicitors, Walker Morris, have informed Leeds United Football Club's advisors that we have an eight-figure sum in a solicitors' client's account to do this deal," said consortium representative Gerald Krasner.
Guardian Unlimited Football | News | Reprieve for Leeds on nine-point penalty

Premier League chairmen have voted to dock clubs nine points if they go into administration, but Leeds United will be relieved to hear the new penalty will not come into force until June 3.
That date will ease the pressure on Leeds, who could be forced into administration tomorrow if they fail to raise the £5m demanded by their creditors.
Richard Scudamore, the Premier League's chief executive, revealed that Leeds had not voted as the big clubs followed the example set by the Football League before the start of this season - but only on a split decision.
"If you like we have followed a lead from the Football League, who introduced the rule in the summer," said Scudamore.
"If a club go into adminstration and can relieve themselves of debt it gives an unfair advantage in terms of league position.
"The view of the clubs is that there should be a big disincentive for clubs to overspend and overstretch themselves - that's why there will be a nine-point sanction."
The Football League have a slightly harsher 10-point penalty, but Scudamore said that was because their season is slightly longer
"Football League teams play more games a season - 46, compared to our 38 - so 10 points in their league has a different value," he added. "Nine points is our equivalent.
"It was a split decision but it's official now in the Premier League rule book - as of today, although it won't apply until June 3.
"It was stressed by the board this was a decision to be taken absent of Leeds United. It is topical - but it had no bearing on the voting today."
A nine-point deduction would all but ensure relegation for the Elland Road club, who are already two points below 19th-place Wolves.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Guardian Unlimited Football | Breaking News | United squeeze Leeds on final instalment for Ferdinand

LONDON, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Manchester United paid debt-laden Leeds United the final instalment of their record 30 million pound ($54.90 million) purchase of Rio Ferdinand on Wednesday, but it was less than half what was due under the contract.
Leeds, with 80 million pounds of debt, have been given until Friday to solve their financial crisis and are desperate for cash.
Chief executive Trevor Birch needs five million pounds to see the club through to the end of the season. A consortium of local businessmen is also in talks over a possible 20-million-pound takeover of the club.
United are expected to announce manager Alex Ferguson has signed a new contract later on Wednesday.
In a statement to the stock exchange United, the English champions, said it had agreed to pay Leeds, bottom of the premier league, 1.5 million pounds as "full and final settlement" for the transfer of the England defender.
Manchester United said the payment covered the 3.25 million pounds it had owed Leeds, adding it would pay a levy of 75,000 pounds to the Premier League.
The July 2002 transfer of Ferdinand was the biggest in Britain and the highest for a defender worldwide.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Sport

Local consortium confirms Leeds negotiations
By Nick Harris
A representative of the secretive Yorkshire-based consortium that hopes to save Leeds United confirmed yesterday that his group is in "serious negotiations" with the club about a £20m rescue deal.
"I can confirm there's a consortium that I have been asked to represent," said Gerald Krasner, who specialises in corporate recovery, restructuring and insolvency for Bartfields Chartered Accountants in Leeds.
"We know what we have to do and they know where we are coming from. Our objective is to avoid administration at all costs."
Leeds' chief executive and acting chairman, Trevor Birch, will spend the rest of the week in negotiations, seeking a way out of the financial mess that sees Leeds with gross debts of more than £100m. The latest extension to the "standstill agreement" with the club's major creditors runs out on Friday.
Although administration remains a real threat, Birch will not agree a deal with Krasner's group unless he is convinced it is the right long-term move for Leeds. It is thought Birch would still prefer to persuade the players to take a 30 per cent wage deferral, allowing more time to seal the best deal.
A deferral would allow Leeds to trade until the end of the season. It would also mean any buyer would be sure of what kind of club they are getting - Premiership, and thus more buoyant, or Nationwide, and drowning. Senior Leeds executives are planning a "do or die" meeting with the players tomorrow to make another appeal for wage deferrals.
Birch also has the option of asking three former managers - David O'Leary, Terry Venables and Peter Reid - to defer severance payments, with all three confirming they would do so if approached. He could also raise funds by selling the England defender Danny Mills, who is likely to make his move to Middlesbrough permanent.
Krasner, 54, a Leeds fan for 30 years, has refused to identify the other members of his consortium. "There are confidentiality issues and I can't tell you," he said yesterday. "I've had 23 names suggested to me already today, but until it's done I won't be saying any more."
Geoffrey Richmond, the former Bradford chairman, continues to be linked to the bid but reiterated that he has "nothing whatsoever to do with it". The former Huddersfield chairman, Terry Fisher, has also ruled himself out.
Two other names to have been mentioned are Simon Morris, a local property developer, and Melvyn Levy, a local entrepreneur.
Leeds United Football Club - Interest Hots Up


Speculation is growing that United could still be at the centre of a bidding war as potential suitors wait in the wings ahead of Friday's new deadline.
Chief executive Trevor Birch on Monday managed to gain more time from the club's major creditors to continue talks with an un-named consortium, who have requested that their identity remain undisclosed, interested in taking control.
Former plc vice-chairman Allan Leighton is reported to remain interested and the name of Sheikh Al Khalifa refuses to go away.
Former Bradford City chairman Geoffrey Richmond has already denied his interest in United, but his name continues to be linked with a move for the club.
Meanwhile, amidst all the growing speculation of who is, and who isn't, involved in the "mystery" consortium, one of four local businessmen has broken cover to confirm there is a strong interest in taking over the club.
Spokesman for the group, Gerald Krasner, an insolvency and corporate restructuring expert with Leeds-based Bartfields Chartered Accountants, and a Whties fan for almost 30 years, told PA Sport:
"I can confirm there's a consortium that I have been asked to represent, but we've signed all sorts of confidentiality agreements.
"However, I can state we are in serious negotiations with both the club and the bondholders which will be ongoing throughout the day.
"Our objective is to avoid administration at all costs. I don't think the public realise just what administration would mean for Leeds United."
United need to find a sum near £5m before Friday evening's deadline to convince the creditors they can continue to operate until the end of the season, or face the prospect of being put into administration.
Leeds United Football Club - United To Grant Mills His Move


Leeds United and Middlesbrough are in transfer talks with a view to making Danny Mills move to The Riverside Stadium permanent.
The 26-year-old has been on loan with the Teesside club since August and has quickly established himself as a fans favourite.
The player has made it clear he wants to stay at The Riverside and Middlesbrough appear equally keen to do a deal before the January transfer window closes. Leeds have agreed to let him go if the price is right.
The two clubs have not yet agreed a fee. United are understood to be seeking a fee in excess of £1m for the England right-back, capped 18 times.
Meanwhile Italian side Siena have completed the signing of former Leeds loan signing Roque Junior from Milan.
The Brazilian international has signed on loan until the end of the season after cancelling his loan spell at Elland Road by mutual consent.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Scotsman.com Sport - Latest News - Boro in Talks over Mills Deal

By Damian Spellman, PA Sport
Middlesbrough tonight confirmed that they have opened talks with crisis club Leeds United over a permanent move for Danny Mills.
The 26-year-old England full-back joined Boro on a season’s loan during the summer after finding himself at odds with then Elland Road boss Peter Reid, and had previously indicated that he expected to return to the Yorkshire club at the end of the current campaign.
But Steve McClaren has been hugely impressed with his no-nonsense defender during his time at the Riverside Stadium to date and admitted some time ago that he would like to secure Mills’ services on a more permanent basis.
Chairman Steve Gibson tonight revealed that talks were already under way, and although he admitted that they might not come to fruition by the time the January transfer window closes on Saturday, he insisted that his club’s interest would continue.
“We’ve had discussions with Danny Mills and his agent this week and those discussions are ongoing,” Gibson told the club’s official website, www.mfc.premiumtv.co.uk.
“Leeds have got complex difficulties and time is running out. We would hope to sign him permanently before the end of the week, but we might not.
“But Danny is with us until the end of the season. If not now, then we expect a permanent deal to happen at the end of the season.
“We want him to stay, the fans have taken to him and I think he wants to stay.”
Mills found himself frozen out at Elland Road by Reid, and made his move to Teesside towards the end of the summer transfer window.
He made his Boro debut against Leeds in a 3-2 Barclaycard Premiership defeat at the Riverside on August 30 and has been in the team virtually ever since.
He has missed just three of the 24 games McClaren’s side have contested during his time with the club.
He has had a major impact, courting controversy with a series of clashes with opposing players, most notably Wolves’ Lee Naylor, Charlton’s Paolo di Canio and Arsenal hitman Thierry Henry, but delighted his manager, team-mates and the Boro fans with his commitment.
McClaren’s focus throughout the transfer window has been to add greater strike-power to his squad, although he has had little luck so far after failing to land Liverpool’s Emile Heskey.
He would dearly love to sign want-away Manchester United midfielder Nicky Butt, but admits his priorities lie elsewhere, and the hunt for a goalscorer continues.
However, signing Mills on a permanent basis could open up another avenue for the Boro boss.
Clubs are only allowed two loan signings from fellow Premiership clubs on the books at any one time, and Mills and Bolo Zenden currently fulfil that quota.
If Mills did become a Boro player, McClaren would then have the option of trying to recruit a striker on loan, and that may prove an attractive proposition.
Leeds’ parlous financial situation means that they have to at least listen to reasonable offers for many of their players – Alan Smith, Paul Robinson and James Milner have already been targeted – and it may be that a move for someone like Mills, who is currently out of the picture, could prove a more palatable alternative.
Sporting Life - Football

LEEDS SECURE 'STANDSTILL' EXTENSION
Trevor Birch has been granted a further four-day extension to a 'standstill agreement' with creditors as the Leeds chairman continues his attempts to find a buyer for the cash-strapped club.
It would appear Birch has satisfied the principal creditors, who are owed a combined £82million, that a four-man, Yorkshire-based consortium are poised to take control of Leeds in a buy-out understood to be worth £20million.
Negotiations are at an advanced stage, and being conducted through a prominent firm of lawyers in Leeds, with the possibility a deal could now be finalised by the end of the week.
A statement to the Stock Exchange on Monday evening read: "The board of Leeds United PLC announces that the standstill period with the Company's principal finance creditors has today been extended to 5pm on 30 January 2004. As previously announced, the standstill agreement also provides for a further extension to February 6, 2004, conditional on achievement of certain financial and other covenants."
Sport

Consortium's £20m offer gives Leeds new hope
By Nick Harris
Leeds United are considering an eleventh-hour £20m bid by a mystery consortium of four Yorkshire-based businessmen. Even Leeds' most senior executives do not know the identities of the bidders, who have invoked their right to client confidentiality and have made their approach solely via their accountants and solicitors.
A flurry of weekend speculation suggested the bid might involve a remarkable footballing renaissance for businessman Geoffrey Richmond. The former chairman of Bradford, who oversaw a catastrophic financial meltdown at Valley Parade, denied any involvement last night.
"I've had my 15 years in the game and I've got my bruises," he said. "I've got absolutely no interest in Leeds whatsoever, although I wish good luck to whoever has."
Another name being linked to the bid is that of Jeremy Fenn, a former Leeds chief executive from the pre-Ridsdale era. He has long established ties to the club and is associated with the Leeds-supporting computer millionaire, Peter Wilkinson, who has been touted as a possible saviour in the past. No one at Leeds has any idea whether either men are involved in the new offer.
The consortium's bid, despite being faceless, is being taken seriously. Leeds' latest deadline to stave off administration expires at midnight tonight. The club's chief executive and acting chairman, Trevor Birch, needs to buy more time or face turning Leeds over to administrators tomorrow. Club insiders feel there is a "50-50 chance" of administration within a fortnight. "It could genuinely go either way," a source said.
Birch could sell players to the value of £5m, which is the amount Leeds need to keep afloat until the end of the season, but is loath to weaken the squad. Another plea to the players to take a 30 per cent wage deferral is likely to face resistance. His third option is to persuade the creditors that a viable rescue plan is in the pipeline.
The consortium's bid hinges on whether they can do a deal with the club's major creditors involving Elland Road. Instead of Leeds paying all the £60m they owe to bondholders, they would forfeit ownership of Elland Road. The bondholders would then lease the stadium back to the club.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Leeds United Football Club - United Deny Ground Sale Plan - Again

Leeds United again categorically deny claims in The People newspaper that we are in discussions to sell Elland Road and ground share with a local club.
The paper, following on from its original story last week that was similarly denied, showed photographs of chief executive Trevor Birch attending what it said was a meeting with developers earlier this week.
The report claimed Birch was involved in more than four hours of talks with Town and Country chief Clifford Goldhill, as well as with an architect from the firm and another company employee at the offices of Walker Morris Solicitors in Leeds on Thursday night.
Trevor Birch though today responded:
"I am not sure what game is being played by Town and Country Developments Ltd and (the newspaper) but I can categorically deny that I have had a meeting with Mr (Clifford) Goldhill or any other representative from that company and neither have I ever met or spoken to them.
"Mr Goldhill's statement contained in (the newspaper) that he had a meeting with me on Thursday night is totally untrue and I will be filing my complaint with the Press Complaints Commission and considering further action against Mr Goldhill in due course.
"Apparently Town and Country Developments were one of a number of institutions that a broker assisting a local consortium is talking to regarding financing a potential purchase of Leeds United and that was the reason for his presence at Walker Morris, solicitors acting for a local consortium.
"The consortium's solicitor has confirmed to me that they have no intention of moving away from Elland Road."
"This coming week is another critical one in the life of Leeds United and talks will continue with various parties, including the principal creditor group, in order to find a solution."
Times Online - Sunday Times

Leeds study £20m bid as creditors hover
A NEW £20m rescue offer for Leeds United is being considered by the club and its creditors this weekend in a final, desperate attempt to prevent the company from sliding into administration, writes David Bond.
Leeds’s chief executive, Trevor Birch, has until tomorrow to raise new funds for the club or persuade the club’s players to take a wage deferral until the end of the season. He needs £5m, and if he fails, the club’s creditors, who are owed more than £100m, will pull the plug.
Selling players such as Alan Smith, James Milner and Paul Robinson is an option but Birch has already turned down offers and wants to keep the team together to try and fight relegation.
After a failed bid by former vice-chairman Allan Leighton early last week, a new consortium of four Yorkshire-based businessmen has emerged as the club’s possible saviour. Leeds are taking the offer seriously. One of Leeds’s main creditors, M&G —which, with two American banks, Teachers and Metropolitan Life, lent Leeds £60m in the form of a 25-year bond — said it was also considering the bid over the weekend.
Refusing to confirm whether M&G would extend a one-week stay of execution handed to the club last week, a company spokesman said: “We are still working hard on trying to find a solution.”
Advisers working for the consortium, which waited until last Thursday to make its move, have been talking to banks and leading City figures to try to raise money for the bid. They are understood to still be short of the target. But the bondholders might now consider a scheme whereby they receive less cash up front in settlement of the debts and instead take possession of Leeds’s Elland Road ground, which they would then lease back to the club, thus guaranteeing them a steady stream of income over the next 20-25 years.
“The offer is a very serious one,” said a source close to the club. “The issue is whether there’s a stadium deal or not.”
After months of uncertainty at Elland Road, this week marks a pivotal moment in the Leeds crisis.
The controversial decision by the playing squad, who are paid about £4m a month, to reject immediate wage cuts, has been a big blow for Birch. The chief executive needed his players’ backing in order to buy extra time to do a deal with new investors, and also to see if the club could avoid relegation.
But Leeds’s creditors — which include a finance company that lent £20m to the club to buy players, and the Inland Revenue, which is owed £10m — appear to have finally run out of patience.
Times Online - Sunday Times

Hidden payments plunged Leeds deeper into debt
THE Monaco-based partner of Jason Ferguson contributed to the deepening financial crisis at Leeds United, according to documents seen by The Sunday Times.
Mike Morris, described by insiders as an unofficial “fifth” director in Ferguson’s Elite sports agency, shared an unauthorised commission of £200,000 from the club when it was already mired in debt.
This weekend Leeds are desperately seeking a benefactor to help pay back spiralling debts estimated at £105m. The club has until midnight tomorrow to raise at least some of the money or it will be forced into administration.
Last summer, when Leeds already owed £78m, Morris and two other agents collected large commissions by cutting themselves into two of the club’s bargain basement transfer deals. Documents seen by The Sunday Times show that Morris was secretly colluding with an agent who had been retained by Leeds to prevent the club being ripped off in transfer deals.
Having sold a number of its stars to recoup much-needed cash, Leeds attempted to replenish its squad in the summer by signing players on loans or free transfers.
One of their targets was Roque Junior, the Brazilian international defender who was available on loan from AC Milan. While Leeds were not required to pay a transfer fee, they did have to pay £200,000 to Allessandro Lucci, an unlicensed Italian agent, for arranging the loan.
According to the documents, Lucci had secretly struck a deal for his fee to be split equally with Morris and another agent called Hayden Evans. Correspondence from Evans’s company HN Sports to Morris states: “Leeds United are due to pay the first instalment of the Roque Junior monies (£100,000) directly to Allessandro — these monies are to be split equally three ways between Allessandro, yourselves and us, ie £33,333 each.”
There is no clear reason why the two men should have been paid as they were not, on the face of it, involved in the negotiations. Professor John McKenzie, then chairman of Leeds, said he was unaware of Morris’s role. He was even more perplexed by the payment to Evans — as at the time he had been hired as an “in-house consultant” to monitor the club’s transfer dealings and should not have been taking a cut from them. Leeds are now disputing claims for payment from Evans for the work he did.
Morris and Evans had also been involved in another Leeds transaction earlier last summer. Morris charged Leeds £150,000 for his work on the free transfer of Chelsea’s England under-21 midfielder Jody Morris, and then made a payment to Evans.
Documents show Mike Morris’s World Football company paid £40,000 to Sandfield Ventures, a company linked to Evans, but not listed in Companies House records. Although Morris’s role in the deal was known by Leeds, McKenzie said he had no knowledge of Evans’s involvement.
The FA is investigating agents’ payments in the Roque Junior transfer and The Sunday Times’s findings have been sent to Trevor Birch, the club’s chief executive. He said he would investigate the transactions. Morris declined to answer any questions about his payments from Leeds.
Evans denied receiving any payment from Morris in relation to the Roque Junior transfer, despite the evidence in the documents. He admitted, however, that he had helped in the Jody Morris transfer and was paid by Morris’s World Football.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Times Online - Newspaper Edition

Leeds board preparing to accept inevitable
By George Caulkin

LEEDS UNITED’S desperation to avoid the break-up of their first-team squad — a move that Trevor Birch, the embattled chief executive, insists would be tantamount to accepting relegation as a fait accompli — is causing the board of directors to resign themselves to the prospect of entering administration. Officials at Elland Road are now apparently coming to the conclusion that such a draconian decision may best safeguard the club’s future.
With little immediate sign of putative rescue packages from Sheikh Abdul Rahman bin Mubarak al-Khalifa or Allan Leighton, the former Leeds vice-chairman, Birch must raise £5 million — the cost of running the business until the end of the season — by Monday, when creditors will either expect to see hard evidence of a workable financial plan or carry out their threat to hand the club over to the administrators.
While that would be harrowing, Birch has long been of the opinion that selling players should be the final resort. Yesterday, a joint bid of £5 million from Tottenham Hotspur for Paul Robinson, the England goalkeeper, and James Milner, was rejected, as was an approach from Siena, the Serie A club, for Ian Harte.
Birch has intimated that £10 million would secure the signatures of Robinson and Milner, but that sum is so far out of Tottenham’s reach — they may return with a £6 million offer — that it may as well signify a straight refusal. At the same time, Leeds reiterated that Alan Smith — regarded as the heartbeat of the club by supporters — is not for sale.
After the Leeds players’ meeting on Tuesday, when the squad accepted, in principle, a wage deferral, but only after every other method of raising revenue had been explored, including selling players, it had been assumed that Smith’s departure, probably to Newcastle United, could not be avoided. The publicity surrounding that meeting, and the subsequent criticism from fans, has not eased an already febrile atmosphere.
Newcastle, who value Smith at £3 million and are not blessed with unlimited resources, have been reluctant to declare their hand, but Freddy Shepherd, the chairman, will try to tempt Leeds into selling their England striker by offering to loan him back to the club until the end of the season, safe in the knowledge that Craig Bellamy is only a week away from returning to full fitness.
Birch’s point of view is straightforward; selling Smith — not to mention Robinson — would be virtually to invite relegation. That would cost Leeds, at present bottom of the Barclaycard Premiership, as much as £20 million and make the club far less attractive to potential investors. If administration were sought next season, Football League regulations would cost them an automatic ten-point penalty.
At a meeting of Premiership chairmen at the end of this month, a nine-point deduction for teams opening insolvency proceedings is set to be agreed, but it will not be implemented until the summer. If Leeds were afforded protection from their creditors — they owe £82 million — it is understood that several suitors would be interested in buying the club outright and they could emerge in a stronger commercial position .
Ongoing attempts to reduce costs at Leeds have met a mixed response. Roque JĂșnior, the Brazil defender, has agreed to terminate his loan from AC Milan and is likely to join SV Hamburg, but similar requests have been turned down by Zoumana Camara and Didier Domi. Middlesbrough are in negotiations to sign Danny Mills on a permanent basis but do not anticipate reaching a deal soon. Payments to former players may also be blocked.
Lamine Sakho and Salomon Olembe, two temporary signings from Marseilles whom Eddie Gray, the Leeds caretaker manager, had hoped to keep, have decided to leave the club. “I have lined up deals for both players and they will be moving at the end of the transfer window,” Willie Mackay, the players’ agent, said. “Although they are both in Tunisia for the African Nations Cup, I don’t see a problem with either deal.”
In the light of anger from supporters, members of the Leeds squad have distanced themselves from criticism over their apparent reluctance to accept a 35 per cent deferral in their wages. “We wish to make it clear that we are fully behind the club and are working with Trevor Birch and the Professional Footballers’ Association in the hope of solving the problems,” a statement read. “Some of the reports in the newspapers are wrong.
We are together as a team and no decision has yet been made one way or the other on whether to defer a percentage of our wages. We have said that we will be prepared to support the club, should it be required.”
Telegraph | Sport | Leeds players probably resent being martyrs

By Paul Hayward (Filed: 24/01/2004)

At the end of a carnival of mismanagement - for which you are not to blame - your boss strides into the office like David Brent, fiddles with his tie, throws one leg over the corner of a desk and invites you to agree to a 30 per cent wage deferral.
He asks you to forget five years of corporate history: the £20 a month on tropical fish for the chairman's office, the £600,000 yearly bill for the fleet of 70 company cars, the £70,000 tab for private jets for directors and senior management. Amnesia is also requested when it comes to the £5.7 million splashed out on compensation packages for sacked managers and the £500,000 still being paid to an employee who has long since left (Robbie Fowler).
This is no time either to be raising the subject of the £1.75 million that went to the Norwegian agent, Rune Hauge, after Rio Ferdinand's transfer to Manchester United, or the £1 million in severance pay for three directors - Peter Ridsdale, David Spencer and Stephen Harrison.
And let's not dwell on the fact that only £3 million of Harry Kewell's £5 million transfer fee from Liverpool ended up at Elland Road. There is nothing to be gained, meanwhile, from asking why Max Clifford, the publicity guru, was paid an estimated £120,000 a year by Ridsdale when Leeds already had a communications director.
David Brent concludes his speech and raises an eyebrow as if to say: "All agreed?" Not surprisingly, Leeds United's players didn't agree - not on the spot, at any rate - and I, for one, don't blame them. The Ridsdale years are ancient history only to people who aren't being asked to take a pay cut.
The question in the dressing room must be: can we entrust around a third of our wages to a club who managed to lose £51 million in 18 months - and whose debt was greater after the sale of Rio Ferdinand for £29 million than it was before?
It's important to emphasise here that Trevor Birch, the chief executive wrestling with the club's Hydra of debt, is beyond reproach in this latest tragic episode. Birch, who was unjustly dropped by Chelsea when Roman Abramovich seized control, is simply trying every trick he knows to raise the £5 million Leeds need to keep trading until the end of the season without having to sell the team's last remaining stars. It falls to him to clear up everybody else's mess.
Denial, though, is still a persistent feature of the Ridsdale years. In an interview with The Guardian this week, Barnsley's new chairman complained: "I was a hero for five years. They put me on a pedestal and nine months later knocked me off." Now, why would that be? The answer is not to be found in the documentary on Ridsdale's life, which was billed as "the story of the most popular football club chairman ever".
Sadly, Birch and his good intentions are not the issue. Not for the players. They inhabit a burlesque. The latest emergency measure is to scythe away the loan signings brought in by Peter Reid to replace the household names disposed of in what some people are wrongly calling a fire sale.
To have an insurance sell-off, the fire needs to be out. There are no smouldering embers at Leeds. It's an inferno, which Birch is fighting with a soda siphon. Roque Junior, one of the loan signings who had his contract cancelled on Thursday, will leave Elland Road with an estimated £1.2 million from five Premiership appearances. That's £240,000 per game.
Roque Road - sorry, Junior - was acquired when Professor John McKenzie, who took over from Ridsdale, was preaching the need for financial realism and ridiculing the extravagance of the previous regime. Seven games into the present campaign, the good professor was already flirting with the idea of sacking Reid.
To give himself courage, he conducted a vox pop, asking fans, shareholders and Uncle Tom Cobley whether Reid should keep his job. He didn't, and bang went another £850,000.
The reason I recite this litany of fiascos is to provide some context to the reluctance on the part of the players to agree to the proposed wage deferral, though David O'Leary and Reid appear to be more flexible on the question of compensation.
Their instincts must be telling them that brinkmanship is being practised by potential purchasers of the stricken club. One supposed saviour who loves a brink is Sheikh Abdul Rahman bin Mubarak al-Khalifa, whose name is apparently longer than his pockets. In this climate of false dawns, the Leeds players probably resent the suggestion that they should martyr themselves for an organisation in which so many others have filled their own boots.
If Sheikhs from Carry On films and bankers and creditors are playing games with an ailing club, it's asking a lot to expect the players to pick up the bill for five seasons of awful management. They must feel they are being asked to give whisky to an alcoholic. They aren't traitors or cowards or mercenaries. They are listening to a voice that tells them not to trust what they are told. In the average office or factory, the rest of us would hear it, too.
Sport

David Conn: Leeds employees count cost of financial crisis
While the players resist proposals to defer their wages, up to 75 staff at Elland Road have been made redundant

After two years of Football League clubs sliding into administration leaving a stream of bad debts, Leeds' millionaire players' refusal to defer some of their wages to help the club limp to the end of the season has meant that, finally, the morality of football's barmy economy has hit the Premier League.
Incensed fans immediately made the connection between the 30 per cent the players were being asked to delay receiving of their salaries of between £20,000 and, in the case of Mark Viduka, a reported £50,000 a week, and salaries of the mortals of West Yorkshire, where most people will never make near that in a year.
At Leeds, a club spokesman confirmed this week, up to 75 staff have been made redundant since the club's financial black hole opened up last year - ordinary workers across all departments, commercial, secretarial, marketing, travel, laid off when Leeds' European "dream" died - and a whole publishing department which was closed down.
Yet this axing of around a third of Leeds' employees did very little to touch the monstrous debts threatening the club with administration. A source at the club confirmed that the salaries of all 75 "ordinary" staff will not have saved Leeds anything like the wages of a single senior player. To have equated to the earnings of one player on £30,000 per week, £1.5m a year, reportedly paid to Nick Barmby and Alan Smith, the average annual wage of each of the 75 staff would have to have been £20,000, high for those jobs in Leeds.
Ordinary creditors, as at the 35 Football League clubs which have become insolvent since the Premier League breakaway in 1992, are likely to get nothing, perhaps 10p in the pound, if Leeds drop into administration, while the players' wages are protected and will have to be paid in full if the club is to continue to exist.
The massive contracts which the club cannot pay were, as is now well known, made after Leeds bought several players on hire purchase via the Guernsey-based Registered European Football Finance, and financed via a £60m bond, secured on future gate receipts. The fans have not been slow to figure out what that complex-sounding securitisation amounts to: an exploitation of their loyalty.
"The supporters have not deserted the club," said John Boocock of the Leeds United Supporters Trust, which is hoping that if the club survives it will leave the failed Stock Market experiment and become community-owned as far as possible. "Indeed, our sustained guarantee of season and match-day tickets has been abused to put the club in hock to £60m."
Leeds, now run by Trevor Birch, an insolvency practitioner, and Neil Robson, a finance director specialising in "distressed companies", owe, at a conservative estimate, £105m, £82m to REFF and the 25-year bond-holders, including the Prudential-owned M & G, MetLife, and Teachers. Interest runs at a fixed 7.695 per cent, or £4,617,000 a year.
However, the "standstill agreement" which Birch has negotiated with the bond-holders is not, as has been reported, a freezing of the interest payments until £5m can be found to get Leeds to the end of their miserable season. In fact, a club source explained, the interest is paid annually, on 1 September, and so is not due for some months.
Leeds' problem is that they cannot pay the wages and other commitments with the money they have coming in. The "standstill agreement" is that the bondholders have allowed the club to raid a "locked off" amount of £4m, which was put away, secured, when the £60m was first loaned. Leeds are dipping into that to meet their requirements while Birch desperately seeks a solution.
He was hoping that a deferral of players' wages would be it. Instead, advised by the Professional Footballers' Association, the players asked for all other options to be considered first, which obviously includes selling a player.
"They are just waiting to see if it is totally necessary to defer," said Gordon Taylor, the PFA's chief executive. "They believe the picture will be clearer by the end of the month." End of the month, end of the transfer window.
Leeds' neighbours, Bradford City, still very much distressed, are having to renegotiate the Company Voluntary Arrangement agreed after they went into administration in May 2002 with debts including £7.36m owed to REFF. The administrators, Kroll, challenged the sanctity of contracts under the League's insolvency policy by announcing the sacking of 19 players, but that was reversed after the League told Bradford they would be expelled if they did not pay in full. However, the 39 "ordinary" staff, sacked when the club's shops in Dewsbury and Wakefield were closed, had no such rights. The players at Valley Parade did, however, win some respect from their fans because they were not paid at all for four months, then, in November 2002, the club ran out of money again and the players agreed to defer 20 per cent of their wages to the end of the season.
At Leeds, the players fear they could lose their money if the club goes bust at the end of the season, and that was a real possibility at Bradford too. Finally Bradford managed to pay one of the club's major creditors, Lombard, and squeeze out some new cash, by selling Valley Parade to the chairman Gordon Gibb's family pension fund and renting it back. Bradford had agreed to pay the players the deferred 20 per cent on July 31; Gibb, and the chief executive, Julian Rhodes, only completed the ground deal at 7pm the evening before.
"People didn't realise how close we came," Rhodes said. "But the players were good and it brought them together as a team. They survived in the First Division, which was a great achievement."
Reff's insurers, Gerling, know from their Bradford experience how little they will get, as an unsecured creditor, if Leeds go into administration, hence the agreement to give more time for Birch to find a solution. The bondholders too, although their debt is secured on ticket money, will not expect to be paid in full if the club goes into administration. Birch is certainly working on that assumption, which has given him some room for negotiation. Although this coming Monday has been given as the latest final deadline by the two major creditors, it would be surprising if they insist on it and put the club into administration without waiting until the end of the month, by which time a player might have been sold or the team asked again about a deferral.
In all this, little has been heard about the ordinary people, suppliers and public bodies who stand to lose if Leeds fall. The club's position is not understood to be very different from the most recent accounts, which showed they owed £1.2m to trade creditors - surprisingly low but still a lot of pain in there - and £7.7m to the Inland Revenue and VAT. These creditors will lose out almost completely in an administration, but the players will not lose a penny. This system has been maintained to ensure competition, to stop all clubs "living the dream", then shedding expensive players with impunity. Understandable, but the stark preference of football debts over the others makes football look self-interested and greedy.
This was not lost on Leeds supporters this week. Mark Monk wrote a vitriolic piece for the Leeds fanzine, www.toellandback.com, headlined "£16,637" - his salary in a year as a guard on the railways. It would take him 115 years to make what Seth Johnson reportedly earns in a year; 150 years to make Viduka's annual salary. Aged 32, he and his partner have three young children, including a new son, Ben, born last Tuesday. Watching Leeds may not be as expensive as supporting Chelsea or Arsenal, but he still needs £387 for his season ticket, paying £60 per month on the interest-free credit system offered by the club. "It's a very hefty chunk of our income and a struggle," he told me. "We've grown up with the football club being such an important part of our lives, but at the moment it's difficult to think about our money going to these players. We're beginning to think it's not worth bothering."
Leeds may be the first club to give the Premier League so piercing a headache; previously the Premiership has been happy to see its clubs collapse when relegated and dismiss it as the Football League's problem. Leeds are, however, unlikely to be the last.
toellandback.com - Story

Payback time for McKenzie?

By Mark Monk
Trevor Birch is apparently seeking Prof. John McKenzie to pay-back some of the £200,000 consultancy-fee he trousered out of the club late last-year. Clearly the admirable Birch is leaving no-stone unturned as he tries to come up with £5m by midnight on Monday!
Former chairman McKenzie controversially paid himself "consultancy fees" in advance just prior to his resignation in December.
And it is reported that Birch is hot on the trail of the cash!
Birch has apparently agreed deferal's on outstanding compensation payments due to David O'Leary and Peter Reid.
O'Leary has already publicly offered to defer compensation outstanding. Peter Reid said: "If Leeds United want to defer any payments then I am happy with that. As long as I would eventually get what I am owed then I don't have a problem with it."
And grudgingly, Terry Venables appears to be happy with the arrangement. "You are supposed to be paid up straight away," said the ex-England and Spurs boss.
"But they asked me whether I would accept payments over 12 months - which is sort of a deferral anyway - and I said that I would. I have now nearly been paid up."
Meanwhile the YEP on Friday claim that Michael Bridges is close to joining Newcastle and Leeds will receive defender Andy Griffin in exchange.
Earlier on Friday, Newcastle were linked with a unique £5m swoop for Alan Smith - with Smith remaining at Leeds "on-loan" before moving north in the summer.
And Spurs have apparently hinted that they are prepared to up-the-ante on their failed £5m bid for duo Paul Robinson and James Milner.
Meanwhile the YEP also claim that Danny Mills is close to making his move to Middlesbrough permanent. Boro are Leeds next-opponents at ER on Saturday week.
Sport

Former managers to help Leeds' survival battle
Struggling Leeds United has asked three former managers - all of whom were fired - to help out the financially strapped club by deferring severance payments.
Leeds' acting chairman Trevor Birch needs between 3.5 million pounds (US$6.44 million) and 5 million pounds (US$9.2 million) to keep the club running until the end of the season.
He's asking Peter Reid, David O'Leary and Terry Venables to help - Leeds owes the three a combined 7 million pounds (US$ 12.88 million).
Reid was in charge for seven months before being sacked last November.
"If Leeds United want to defer any payments then I am happy with that," said Reid, who was fired as Leeds manager in November after seven months in charge. 'As long as I would eventually get what I am owed then I don't have a problem with it."
O'Leary was owed 4 million pounds (US$7.36 million) when he was sacked in 2002 after four years in charge.
"There has been no formal approach as yet, although doubtless there will be and if there is I am sure it will be looked upon favorably by David," said O'Leary's agent, Michael Kennedy.
Venables took over from O'Leary, but was only in charge for nine months. He got 2 million pounds (US$3.68 million) after his departure last March.
"You are supposed to be paid up straight away," Venables said. "But they asked me whether I would accept payments over 12 months - which is sort of a deferral anyway - and I said that I would. I have now nearly been paid up."
Former Leeds players are also being approached to defer money still owed to them, including Manchester City striker Robbie Fowler, Tottenham striker Robbie Keane and Roma midfielder Olivier Dacourt.
Guardian Unlimited Football | News | Managers ready to defer payment

Managers ready to defer payment

Reid and O'Leary offer to help out Leeds United
The Leeds players may have turned their noses up at the club in their hour of need - but former managers Peter Reid and David O'Leary are willing to help by deferring payments on their compensation payments.
With the Leeds players announcing they will take a wage deferral only as a last resort, acting-chairman Trevor Birch has spent the last few days exploring all avenues in a bid to raise the cash needed to see the club through to the end of the season.
Birch has made it clear no player is to leave before the transfer window closes next Saturday, which would undermine the battle for survival for the Barclaycard Premiership's bottom club.
Leeds need between £3.5m and £5m in order to trade over the next four months, yet despite the constant speculation surrounding Alan Smith, Mark Viduka, Paul Robinson and James Milner, they all now seem set to remain at Elland Road.
In order to generate the cash required, Birch is considering turning to the three managers sacked by Leeds in the last 18 months - Reid, O'Leary and Terry Venables - and asking them to defer their severance payments, along with a number of players.
Leeds are currently in the middle of paying out a grand total of £7m to the trio, and understandably Birch is eager to put payments on hold and use the money to help keep the club afloat over the next few months.
As yet none of the managers have formally been asked to defer, with Birch initially seeing if the plan is viable in order to present it to the bondholders and creditors on Monday and gain a further two-week extension to the 'standstill agreement'.
Reid, who lasted just seven months before being sacked in mid-November following a 6-1 hammering at Portsmouth, is willing to assist in Birch's campaign. Reid, believed to have been awarded a 12-month severance package of £850,000, confirmed to the Press Association: "If Leeds United want to defer any payments then I am happy with that.
"As long as I would eventually get what I am owed then I don't have a problem with it."
O'Leary recently revealed he is helping Leeds anyway by accepting payments of his £4m compensation every six months, however, the next instalment of £500,000 is apparently due in March.
Under Birch's plan, that would be put on hold until the summer, which is unlikely to pose a problem to the Irishman according to his representative, Michael Kennedy. "There has been no formal approach as yet, although doubtless there will be and if there is I am sure it will be looked upon favourably by David," said Kennedy. Venables was in charge for only nine months, but still received £2m after his departure last March, and is now close to being paid off. "You are supposed to be paid up straight away," said Venables. "But they asked me whether I would accept payments over 12 months - which is sort of a deferral anyway - and I said that I would. I have now nearly been paid up."
Former Leeds striker Robbie Fowler is one of a handful of players - Robbie Keane, Olivier Dacourt and Paul Okon the others - who could be approached over the next few days with regard to deferring the monies owed to them.
As part of his £6m move to Manchester City last January, Leeds agreed to pay Fowler £10,000 per week over the length of the three-and-a-half year deal he signed with the club.
With Fowler to receive more than £1.5m from Leeds up to the summer of 2006, and £160,000 for the remaining 16 weeks of this season, again it is money Birch is in desperate need of.
Agent George Scott has confirmed neither himself nor Fowler has been approached, so it remains to be seen whether the former players will follow the lead of the ex-managers, with much perhaps dependent on the proposals made by Leeds.
Birch is also understood to be looking at the possibility of asking former chairman Professor John McKenzie to return a significant proportion of the £200,000 paid to him in advance for what has been described as 'consultancy fees'. McKenzie quit as plc chairman last month, with many shareholders scathing of the sum of money he received for seemingly little in return. The club, meanwhile, have today distanced themselves from fans' groups attempting to raise cash through pledges on unofficial websites. In a statement, the club said: "Leeds United has been made aware that a number of unofficial websites have been set up to receive pledges of support.
"Whilst fully appreciative of the support given in these difficult circumstances, Leeds United has not set up an official site to receive donations. "The position will be kept under review, but in the meantime we cannot sanction any of the promises made on any of these sites."
Leeds have also confirmed Brazil World Cup-winner Roque Junior's contract has been officially terminated today, with the centre-back returning to AC Milan, although it is understood a move to Hamburg is on the cards.
Sporting Life - Football

PFA ACCUSE LEEDS OF 'MORAL BLACKMAIL'
By Ian Parkes, PA Sport
PFA chief Gordon Taylor claims the Leeds board are subjecting their players to "moral blackmail" in an effort to force them to defer part of their wages.
Taylor believes that Leeds' failure to secure a rescue package and reluctance to sell any players to secure the £5million needed to avoid administration puts all the pressure on to the squad.
Meanwhile, it has become clear that Leeds' total net liabilities have now reached around £93m - they owe a total of £105m with cash assets of only £12m. Although their net borrowings are £78m they also owe around £10m to the Inland Revenue and £5m to former managers Peter Reid and David O'Leary.
Acting chairman Trevor Birch wants the players to defer up to 35% of their wages until the end of the season - but Taylor said some of the squad fear they would then never see the money.
Taylor said: "That is a big worry for some of the players bearing in mind the scale of the debt.
"There has been a little bit of moral blackmail of the players. The board have brought things to a head by saying they don't want to sell any players and they have not been able to find any new investors - so that just leaves it down to the squad."
Taylor also rejected criticism of the Leeds players for only agreeing to a deferment as a last resort.
He added: "It would be unfair for the Leeds supporters to think the players have discarded that option, they are very aware they may need to do it, but it should only be a measure of last resort.
"Leeds is not a hopeless case - if the players help them stay in the Premiership then they may have helped save the club."
Taylor's blast comes on the same day that former Ellan Road managers Peter Reid and David O'Leary said they are willing to help out the cash-strapped club in its hour of need.
Birch is considering turning to the three managers sacked by Leeds in the last 18 months - Reid, O'Leary and Terry Venables - and asking them to defer their severance payments, along with a number of players.
Leeds are currently in the middle of paying out a grand total of £7million to the trio, and understandably Birch is eager to put payments on hold and use the money to help keep the club afloat over the next few months.
As yet none of the managers have formally been asked to defer, with Birch initially seeing if the plan is viable in order to present it to the bondholders and creditors on Monday and gain a further two-week extension to the 'standstill agreement'.
Reid, who lasted just seven months before being sacked in mid-November following a 6-1 hammering at Portsmouth, is willing to assist in Birch's campaign.
Reid, believed to have been awarded a 12-month severance package of £850,000, confirmed: "If Leeds United want to defer any payments then I am happy with that.
"As long as I would eventually get what I am owed then I don't have a problem with it."
O'Leary recently revealed he is helping Leeds anyway by accepting payments of his £4million compensation every six months, however, the next instalment of £500,000 is apparently due in March.
Under Birch's plan, that would be put on hold until the summer, which is unlikely to pose a problem to the Irishman according to his representative, Michael Kennedy.
"There has been no formal approach as yet, although doubtless there will be and if there is I am sure it will be looked upon favourably by David," said Kennedy.
squarefootball, original football articles.

The options for Leeds United
"It is not only the players who are causing problems for Leeds United with their stubborn behaviour."
If they are to avoid going into administration the board, management and players of Leeds United face some very difficult decisions this week.
Having temporarily managed to stave off this threat the Elland Road club were given an additional seven days to find the money needed to keep them in business for the rest of the season. In all likelihood, if the money is not raised by this coming Monday (January 26) then Leeds United will become the first Premiership club to be placed into the hands of administrators. The figure required to rescue the club from this fate is said to be around five million pounds, but it seems that finding the best way to raise this cash is causing yet more friction at the stricken club.
Earlier in the week the Leeds United players were asked what they thought of the idea of deferring a percentage of their wages until the end of the season. At first the response seemed positive as it emerged that the players had agreed to this in principle. However, it was later reported that the players were only prepared to do this as a last resort, and that it would only happen at the end of the month if at all. With the wolf at the door it seemed that the end of the month would be too late. Leading the players on their stance, and possibly leadiing the famous old club into financial meltdown in the process was PFA Chairman Gordon Taylor. Taylor explained that the players had every right to expect their contracts to be paid in full when they signed them, and that a deferral of wages should not be something that the players should feel obliged to undertake.
This is a typical and understandable view for any union representative to take. However, when it is applied to footballers it becomes overly simplistic. These are men who are paid not in hundreds of pounds, like the mere mortals among us, but in tens of thousands of pounds per week. Is it really asking too much for them to do without that extra Ferrari so that one of English football's biggest clubs can survive for a while longer? After all, wasn't it the players who contributed to the current plight of Leeds United? Although several of their colleagues were sold off around them, it is the players whose performances have led to the very real threat of relegation from the Premiership, which in turn causes major financial difficulties.
Today (Thursday January 22) the players have issued another statement insisting that no decision has yet been taken as to whether or not any wage deferral will be accepted. This despite the earlier reports that they were not prepared to defer wages until at least the end of the month. Regular readers of my work will be wary of my cynicism, but I would suggest that this statement is a response to public opinion. It seems that the Leeds United players have become aware that the public expects them to do the decent thing, given the absurd amounts of money that they earn.
Unhelpfully adding to the debate is Sunderland Football Club. Chairman Bob Murray and manager Mick McCarthy have both spoken today of the fact that the Sunderland players recently agreed to a 25% wage deferral to save their club. All of which adds yet more pressure on the Leeds players to follow suit as time runs out for the club. Quite whether the Leeds situation is any business of those at Sunderland is questionable, but they have certainly set an interesting precedent for Leeds to follow.
It is not only the players who are causing problems for Leeds United with their stubborn behaviour. The board are steadfastly refusing to sell any more of their players. Wary of past criticism during the now infamous Elland Road fire sales over the last eighteen months, the board are adamant that the likes of Robinson, Viduka and Smith will not be sold to ease the financial crisis at the club. Aswell as fears of a backlash from fans, the board must also have very real fears that more sales will only rubber-stamp Leeds' relegation from the Premiership into the Nationwide League. This would have devastating financial consequences for the club regardless of whether they enter the Nationwide League in administration or not. However, is it not possible that this current Leeds United team will suffer relegation whether or not more players are sold in the current window? Relegation, whether Leeds United's fans, players and board like it or not is a distinct possibility. Surely it would be wiser to enter the Nationwide League on something like a secure financial footing. Relegation would lead to the exits of these players in any case as it has with many of the star players formerly with West Ham United, and it may just be time for the board to bite the bullet.
It is reported that Tottenham have bid five million pounds, coincidentally the amount rumoured to be needed to keep Leeds going, for the services of Paul Robinson and James Milner. That Leeds have rejected this offer may just be evidence that they are driving a harder bargain than Tottenham anticipated. If Spurs come back with an improved offer it may just be that common sense will prevail. It has to be said that offering five million pounds for two young players of great talent like Robinson and Milner is a classic example of another Premiership club trying to take advantage of another's financial problems. While Tottenham have a responsibilty to get the best deal possible, Leeds' financial position must not lead them into shipping out players on the cheap as they did with Harry Kewell.
The board are making one or two attempts to release players. Today it was announced that Roque Junior will be having his contract terminated by the club. The Brazillian who is routinely referred to as a 'World Cup winner', has showed nothing of his pedigree during his short spell with Leeds United and it is perhaps wise that the two part company. However, two more players have refused to sign termination agreements despite being told that they are no longer required at Elland Road. Zoumana Camara and Didier Domi seem determined to dig their heels in, for reasons best known to themselves. All of which does nothing to help Leeds' cause, making a high profile sale an increasing possibility.
And all of this because they chased the dream of challenging Manchester United and Arsenal's Premiership duopoly. Sometimes boldness is not rewarded as we would like.
By Stephen Orford
22/01/2004

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Leeds United Football Club - Player Statement: Wage Deferral

The playing staff of Leeds United today released the following statement:
"We wish to make it clear that we are fully behind the club and are working with Trevor Birch and the Professional Footballers Association in the hope of solving the problems. Some of the reports we have read in the newspapers are wrong. We are together as a team and no decision has yet been made one way or the other on whether to defer a percentage of our wages. We have said that we will be prepared to support the club, should it be required."
Leeds United Football Club - No Smith Sale

With intense media speculation concerning his future at the club, Leeds United have once again moved to deny we are prepared to sell Alan Smith.
Chief executive and acting chairman Trevor Birch has dismissed reports that the 23-year-old will be allowed to leave the club.
A number of players have also been linked with other clubs following the disclosure that the players would not take a wage deferral unless it was still necessary after "all other avenues" to raise money to keep the club operating had been explored.
Most of the speculation has centered around Smith, whilst Paul Robinson, Eirik Bakke and James Milner's names have also been prominent in the press.
Supporters Association chairman Ray Fell is hoping the club continue to fend off "the vultures" looking to snap up Leeds players on the cheap.
"Can Leeds stay up without Alan Smith? I think it would be very difficult, " he told Radio 5 Live.
"We're down to the bare bones and we got into this position by selling players. While we have the players we have the hope but selling a couple of players would remove that.
"To lose Smith would be the last straw. He is special."
Meanwhile, Smith's agent, Alex Black, has also denied local reports that he has said his client is "open to offers" from other clubs.
Leeds United Football Club - Roque Junior Heading Out


Leeds United expect to part company with Brazilian defender Roque Junior later today.
The AC Milan centre-half is keen to leave Elland Road and the club are prepared to terminate his season long contract in West Yorkshire.
United are still waiting for final confirmation from his agent, but do not expect any problems.
The World Cup winner is said to be interesting Bundesliga side Hamburg, with representatives of the German club said to have flown to Milan to open talks over a permanent transfer.
His agent, Alessandro Lucci, also revealed he could return to Italy.
"There are two or three interesting offers for the player but we need this contract annulled," he said.
"Siena are one of the interested parties and I can confirm that Perugia are also interested."
Roque Junior joined United on a season long contract before the end of August from AC Milan, but has started just five Premiership games and has not played under Eddie Gray's stewardship of the club at all, although he has been recovering from an Achilles injury.
Roque made a total of seven appearances, scoring twice in the Carling Cup tie with Manchester United.
TEAMtalk Football - Football News Service - Tottenham Hotspur News Story

Spurs see double Leeds raid rejected
Leeds have told Tottenham to double their bid for keeper Paul Robinson and winger James Milner after rejecting a £5m double swoop for the pair.
The Whites are demanding a double-your-money offer from Tottenham for the highly-rated duo as the cash-strapped club are refusing to let any of their stars leave on the cheap.
Acting-chairman and chief executive Trevor Birch has turned down a £5m offer for the pair, despite the fact Leeds need that figure to see them through to the end of the season.
With Leeds' most-highly paid players refusing on Tuesday to accept a wage deferral - rejecting an initial 35% cut and then a later offer of 30% - it was expected Birch would be forced to sell to raise the necessary cash.
Although Arsenal and Newcastle have been linked with a £5m move for United's most-bankable asset in Alan Smith, Birch has reiterated the striker is not for sale.
It would appear Birch is ready to dig his heels in and fight for the club's future for he has long stated the sale of any further top names would undermine Leeds' battle against relegation from the Premiership.
A source has reportedly revealed that Birch wants £10m for England international goalkeeper Robinson and teenage winger Milner.
While Spurs are prepared to increase their offer to around £6m, Leeds' demands are too rich for chairman Daniel Levy's blood, and likely to be for many other clubs who had perhaps been hoping to cherry-pick the cream of the crop at knock-down prices.
Ananova - Leeds trio to bid farewell

Leeds trio to bid farewell
Roque Junior, Lamine Sakho and Salomon Olembe look likely to leave Leeds United before the end of the transfer window.
Roque Junior, on loan from AC Milan, is expected to have his short-term deal terminated, with a move to Germany or back to Italy on the cards.
Agent Willie Mackay has also revealed that on-loan Marseille duo Sakho and Olembe - currently with Senegal and Cameroon respectively preparing for the African Nations Cup - are on their way.
Olembe is poised to serve the remainder of his loan deal at Blackburn, while winger Sakho will move to another Premiership club.
"I have lined up deals for both players and they will be moving before the end of the transfer window," confirmed Mackay.
"The only problem is they are both in Tunisia for the African Nations Cup. But I don't see a problem with either deal."
Alessandro Lucci, the representative for AC Milan centre-half Roque Junior, is understood to have opened negotiations with Hamburg with regard to a permanent move.
Lucci added: "There are two or three interesting offers for the player but we need this contract annulled.
"Siena are one of the interested parties and I can confirm that Perugia are also interested."
Sport

Spurs offer £5m for Robinson and Milner
By Alan Nixon

Leeds United, desperate to raise money to ease their financial crisis, last night received a £5m offer from Tottenham for their goalkeeper, Paul Robinson, and their young prospect James Milner.
Spurs' interest in the England goalkeeper Robinson, whom they have valued at £2m, was already known, but the move for the teenager Milner is more controversial as he is seen as vital to Leeds' future.
Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman, thought the time was right for to make a move and that Leeds are resigned to losing Robinson. He hoped Milner might become available if Leeds were forced to sell in the next few days.
Leeds have tried to cut their wage bill for the rest of the season by asking the squad to defer some of their salary, but after initial talks the team seem to favour selling players instead.
Leeds are also trying to cancel the contracts of the on-loan pair Zouma Camara and Didi Domi. The Elland Road chief executive, Trevor Birch. contacted their clubs, Lens and Paris St-Germain, yesterday to ask to end their season-long loans at the halfway point.
Sport

Furious reaction to Leeds players' stand on wages
By Jason Burt
Leeds United players were facing an angry backlash from fans last night after they said they would rather sell one of their star names than take a wage deferral.
Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, confirmed that the players had unanimously agreed to the sale of Alan Smith, Paul Robinson or James Milner. It followed a meeting in which they had been asked to take a cut of 35 per cent in their salaries until the end of the season in order to prevent the debt-ridden club sliding into administration. The players in question accepted the decision - as long as the transfer fee is right. Ironically, all three are home-grown talents who are seen as the most loyal to the club. Leeds will now seek a fee of not less than £3.5m, and hopefully around £5m, which means that Smith is the most likely to be sacrificed.
That possibility increased last night as Newcastle United, who have had one bid for the striker turned down, were close to selling Carl Cort to Wolves. The fee for Cort, reported to be £1.5m, will be used to make an improved offer for Smith
Taylor said: "They [the club] have got until the end of January and one option for certain is to go out and sell a player." He added: "None want to go but they know that if that is what it takes then they might have to."
Taylor attacked the football authorities for allowing Leeds to run up debts of £82m. "It does not reflect well on the credibility of the Premier League," he said. "There needs to be a more accountable system," Taylor added, saying that "buying and selling" has been taking place "without reference to the League". Asked whether he thought Leeds would still be in existence next year, he said: "yes, but then I'm an optimist".
The news of the players' decision brought a furious reaction. John Boocock, chairman of the Leeds United Supporters' Trust, said: "They are very selfish, very stupid, very badly advised - or all three. If they are supposed to be a team and to be united then this does not show it, and, as far as I'm concerned, they have missed an opportunity here."
However, Taylor backed the players' attitude. "The fact is if they defer then the debt will not go away. It is unfortunate but it's about football management. If you play with fire you get your fingers burnt. There will now be offers [for players]....if the club is not careful they will go for a lot less than they needed to."
Leeds have negotiated a seven-day extension to the "standstill" deadline agreed with the bondholders and principal creditors and need to find around £5m by next week. The acting chairman, Trevor Birch, is said to be stunned by the players' decision not to defer pay. His plan would not have affected juniors such as Milner or Aaron Lennon as he had focused on the 15-highest paid squad members and was prepared to take a cut himself as was the caretaker manager, Eddie Gray, and the coach, Kevin Blackwell.
Times Online - Newspaper Edition

Supporters turn on players after financial reality bites at Leeds
By Matt Dickinson, Chief Football Correspondent
LEEDS UNITED have found someone willing to come to their financial assistance but, for the club’s directors, it may amount to nothing more than bailing out the Titanic with a bucket. David O’Leary has intimated that he would be willing to defer £600,000 he is due to receive on March 1 as part of his £4 million compensation package but, unless the players follow suit, their former manager’s offer will be far too little, far too late.
The refusal of the squad to countenance an immediate deferral of their wages, a decision made on Tuesday to the dismay of fans and the board, has done what no one thought was possible — exacerbate an unprecedented financial crisis. Each deadline has been reached with even less time or money to spare and, unless the impasse between club and players is resolved before Monday — when the creditors want to see how £5 million can be raised to keep the club going until the end of the season — it is impossible to see how administration can be avoided in the short term. There are even fears that the club could go into liquidation.
It may take that drastic step for the proposed backers who have been watching from the sidelines to come to the rescue. Allan Leighton, the former vice-chairman, appears the only hope given the empty promises of Sheikh Abdul Rahman bin Mubarak al-Khalifa. Putting together a consortium is Leighton’s only chance of avoiding damage to his considerable reputation, but no one will invest until the club has reached its lowest ebb.
The urgency of the situation did not appear to have been appreciated by the players when they gathered on Tuesday and, advised by agents and representatives that they could lose any money they deferred, they asked the club to explore all other avenues, including selling players. That strategy has been resisted by Trevor Birch, the Leeds chief executive, because it would hasten relegation from the Barclaycard Premiership and, in any case, there is no definite interest from buyers.
Alan Smith is the club’s most saleable asset but John Boocock, chairman of Leeds Independent Supporters’ Association, gave warning yesterday that the forward’s departure would cause outrage on the terraces. “The players have shown themselves to be selfish individuals,” Boocock said. “They are either stupid, badly advised, or both. It’s an incredible attitude, and if it means waving goodbye to Alan Smith to raise the money, they will feel the backlash. They will get dog’s abuse against Middlesbrough (Leeds’s next game, on January 31) if Smith has gone by then.
“These footballers have been shown for what they are. Nobody had the guts to stand up and back Trevor Birch. When this happens in industry, the workers take a pay cut and put in longer hours to keep the factory open. The problem with footballers is that they’ve never had to work in a factory. Gone are the days when Premiership players could say they need every penny because it’s a short career. They are paid more now in a season than a lot of the fans earn in a lifetime.”
Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, attended Tuesday’s meeting and yesterday he reiterated his support for the players. He said the squad felt that it was not their fault that the club was in such a mess. “Everyone seems to want to pass the buck,” he said. “Not one of the players wants to go but one is prepared to go if it will save the club and the price is right. The fact is if they defer the wages, the club will still be in debt.”
Taylor showed some grasp of the magnitude of Leeds’s problems when, asked if the club would still exist in a year, he replied in the affirmative. “But then I’m an optimist,” he said.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Times Online - Newspaper Edition

Players ready to sacrifice Smith
By Matt Dickinson
AS THE stricken club attempt to ward off financial ruin, Leeds United’s first-team squad have agreed in principle to accept a wage deferral, but the detail behind their apparently selfless offer represented grim tidings for their embattled employers. With Leeds needing to raise about £5 million to remain in business, the players made it plain that every option must be exhausted before they consented to sacrificing their salaries.
At a squad meeting yesterday, the Leeds players — led by David Batty, their Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) representative — made it plain that they would prefer the club to sanction the sale of one of their team-mates before accepting any reduction in pay. In practice, that would mean the departure of Paul Robinson, Mark Viduka or Alan Smith — and most likely the last-named.
It is understood that the stance was backed by senior professionals, including Ian Harte and Gary Kelly. And such is the parlous nature of the situation — on and off the pitch — that Smith, the England forward, is thought to have come round to the prospect of leaving. Newcastle United is his most likely destination.
Leeds are £82 million in debt. On Monday, they were given a seven-day stay of execution by their creditors as they seek to avoid administration and the board had hoped to implement a wage cut of 30 per cent before dispensing with one of their most saleable assets. Last week, Freddy Shepherd, the Newcastle chairman, intimated that he was prepared to offer £2 million for Smith.
In a terse statement, Leeds made reference to their difficult discussions with their squad. “There has been a positive meeting between the players, the club and the PFA,” a spokesman said. “The players are now fully aware of the financial position of the club and are prepared to offer support, should it be required.” The devastating small print was contained in the final four words.
The reality of the situation was spelt out by Gordon Taylor, the PFA’s chief executive. “The players have told the club they want every option to be looked at before the end of the month,” he said. “They are used to players being sold and feel that every avenue should be exhausted. It was only at the end of last week that wage deferral was even put to them and they were understandably surprised, as Premiership players. This has never happened before at this level and we want to make sure it is not the thin of the wedge.”
Sunderland, who were relegated from the Barclaycard Premiership at the end of last season, successfully implemented a deferral scheme, as well as divesting themselves of 25 players, including Kevin Phillips, Thomas Sorensen and Gavin McCann. Trevor Birch, the Leeds chief executive, is desperate not to lose any more of the club’s established stars as long as there is any chance of avoiding the relegation.
Leeds supporters have seen Rio Ferdinand, Jonathan Woodgate, Robbie Keane, Harry Kewell, Robbie Fowler and Lee Bowyer leave during the past two years and would balk at Smith’s prospective departure. The 23-year-old was a boyhood fan of the club and has never shown any inclination towards leaving, but there are few vacancies for Robinson’s goalkeeping position, while Viduka’s weekly wage of £65,000 is deterring suitors.
Newcastle’s courtship of Smith is not straightforward. Sir Bobby Robson wanted to sign him last summer and retains an interest in the player, but with resources tight at St James’ Park and Craig Bellamy nearing full fitness, a defender has become the manager’s immediate priority.
According to a fevered bout of speculation on Monday afternoon, Smith had been spotted on Tyneside. However, with Alan Shearer due to retire at the end of this season, the succession has been a growing concern at Newcastle and while Smith’s personal ratio of goals is distinctly average, he possesses the character to fill the role.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Leeds United Football Club - Players Will Help Out - Taylor

Players Will Help Out - Taylor

Professional Footballers' Association chief Gordon Taylor is confident the Leeds players will agree to a wage deferral as Trevor Birch prepares to discuss the issue with the players this week.
United announced they have another seven days in which to address the financial shortfall at the club, with £5m needed for operating costs until the end of the season, and wage deferrals is seen as one of the best options to achieve this saving.
Chief executive Trevor Birch has made it clear he does not expect the club to find a buyer until the club knows which division it will be in next season.
Taylor, who points to Leicester City and Ipswich as prime examples, says players are generally receptive to helping out however they can when clubs are in trouble.
"In order to keep the club alive, I believe the attitude of the players is excellent," said Taylor.
"People underestimate the loyalty of players. At times they get quite a bit of criticism unfairly directed at them, but they have quite a bond with supporters.
"At the moment it is a backs-to-the-wall situation at Leeds and the players are prepared to play their part as well as the fans who are remaining very loyal.
"If deferrals are necessary to keep the club alive then they (Leeds) will look at that very seriously as other members have done in other situations.
"It has been successful in the past, although we are talking about much smaller, but still serious, amounts for the club concerned.
"We would always want contracts to be sacrosanct, but to delay monies to give clubs breathing space is where players have been understanding."
Skipper Dominic Matteo revealed last week that he would be prepared to take a wage cut should it be necessary.
"If I am going to get a wage loss but I am still playing football, I am not particularly bothered about that to be truthful," he said.
"Maybe some people are but I am not personally."
Times Online - Newspaper Edition

Players to defer wages to give Leeds lifeline
By Ashling O’Connor
LEEDS UNITED will this week meet the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) to discuss the deferral of players’ wages as the heavily indebted Barclaycard Premiership club struggles to stay in business.
The footballers’ union is prepared to accept the argument that wage deferrals are necessary to see the club to the end of the season but has not yet agreed a figure.
“We were hoping it wouldn’t get to this, but there doesn’t seem to be a white knight coming over the horizon,” Gordon Taylor, the PFA chief executive, said. “Players are prepared to help so long as they are not taken advantage of. They have commitments like anyone else. Above all, they want to keep the club together.”
Leeds are expected to ask their players to defer a third of their wages, which accounts for about £40 million of the £50 million staff costs. This would free up £12 million, which could be enough of a lifeline even without a potential new investor.
Negotiations with the PFA are key to Leeds being able to satisfy their creditors, who yesterday agreed to give the club’s board a further week to restructure their finances.
Trevor Birch, the Leeds chief executive, has the option of a further two-week extension to February 6 to offer evidence of new cash coming into the business.
On December 4, the holders of a £60 million bond agreed to allow £4.1 million usually kept in an escrow account to be used to keep the club running. This original “standstill agreement” expired yesterday.

Monday, January 19, 2004

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SURVIVAL ON THE PITCH COMES FIRST - BIRCH

Leeds are expected to put back the self-imposed January 19 deadline for administration.
In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports News, chief executive Trevor Birch admitted that a standstill agreement with their "principle creditors", will give the Elland Road outfit until the end of the month.
They need £5million to see them through until the end of the season, but although Birch rubbished Sunday newspaper reports that they were about to sell their ground as "nonsense" and admitted that would-be buyer Sheikh Abdulrahman Bin Mubarak Al Khalifa had failed to show them "the colour of his money", he is confident they can get that - without selling players.
And Birch also piled the pressure on Eddie Gray's depleted squad, making no bones about what awaits should they get relegated from the Premiership - less than 24 hours after the defeat at Southampton left them rock-bottom. And that is simple: administation.
"It would be extremely likely I would have to say," Birch said. "It depends on how you restructure and what you can do with players' contracts.
"You can't say it's an absolute certainty but it would be on the cards. We are very close to the precipice. We are over £80million in debt and we wouldn't have the income to support that in the First Division.
"We are trading at the moment with the support of our principle creditors. We are trying to put the club in the right shape to be attractive for someone to invest."
But Birch was adamant on one piece of good news for long-suffering supporters - no-one will be sold.
Alan Smith's future was again plunged into doubt as he bid an emotional farewell to the travelling support at Southampton after the 2-1 defeat, and with Mark Viduka still away on compassionate leave, the majority of observers expected them to cash in on their few remaining assets.
But Birch denies that will happen and instead insisted that for all the talk of buyers, the Leeds players are the ones that hold the key to the club's future - by winning points on the pitch and perhaps deferring some pounds from the pay packets.
"The number one option is to survive in the Premiership, if we can do that at the end of the season we have a different proposition to put to people," he said. "It's all about survival, that's what we need to secure our future, survival in the Premiership.
"Selling players is the least welcome option and probably most unlikely. We are trying to keep the squad to have a chance to survive in the Premiership. Whatever we can do to avoid selling a player will be done.
"Wage deferrals is one of the options, the players have a very open mind and are looking at it in a positive manner. If it were needed I think it would be received very positively by them."