Saturday, May 31, 2008

Yorkshire Evening Post 29/5/08
Kenton out as United regroup
By Phil Hay
Darren Kenton has followed Alan Thompson out of Elland Road as Leeds United begin a rebuilding process which could see as many as 10 players leave the club this summer.
The experienced defender has been released by Leeds after reaching the end of his short-term deal, and other fringe players will be allowed to exit the club following United's unsuccessful attempt to reach the Championship.
Leeds have confirmed their retained list and offered new one-year contracts to goalkeeper David Lucas and young striker Tomi Ameobi, but Kenton will not be kept on by manager Gary McAllister.
The 29-year-old full-back arrived at Elland Road in January, initially on loan from Leicester City, and United made the agreement permanent shortly before the end of the transfer window.
Kenton made a total of 12 league appearances for Leeds, his last against Huddersfield Town at the Galpharm Stadium on April 15, and his departure – along with the news that Thompson has retired from professional football at the age of 34 – has started the reorganisation of McAllister's squad.
Ian Westlake and Sebastien Carole are among those who United are believed to be willing to listen to offers for, and Leon Constantine may also be allowed to move on after making only seven outings for Leeds last season.
All three players have one year remaining on their contracts at Elland Road, and Westlake and Constantine spent time on loan with Brighton and Oldham respectively during the 2007-08 term. Centre-back Matt Heath has already been allowed to join Colchester United.
Leicester City's Alan Sheehan and Crystal Palace's Dougie Freedman, meanwhile, have returned to their parent clubs after successful loan spells at Elland Road, though Leeds are expected to move to sign Sheehan permanently this summer.
The 21-year-old full-back is out of contract at the Walkers Stadium but has been offered a new deal by Leicester and could command a transfer fee as a result of his age, while the prospect of Freedman joining Leeds for a second time may depend on the striker's personal circumstances.
Freedman's family are based in London, and the 34-year-old still has responsibility for coaching Palace's reserve team. He scored six goals in 14 matches during United's run to the play-offs, however, and would be a welcome addition to McAllister's squad before next season.

Monday, May 26, 2008

No surprise - we are fated to lose, after all
Rick Broadbent in Beijing
It was surely fate that Kaiser Chiefs played their homecoming gig at Elland Road the night before Leeds played Wembley. In the past, Leeds has not done bands. The musical benchmark was always the Wedding Present, an angsty group of moderately ugly men in black. They sang songs about girlfriend trouble because they were from Leeds and so they could not get girlfriends. But this was to be a musical and football bonanza, the rebirth of the culturally deprived.
It was fate that the amps on Saturday night were emblazoned with LUFC and the first song was Everything Is Average Nowadays. The second was Every Day I Love You Less And Less. This was sporting history set to jangly guitar music.
You’ll have noticed that everyone’s been harping on about fate this week, blurring the boundaries between genius, serendipity and John Terry’s inability to stand up. And, let’s face it, if fate really had much to do with football, I would not have been in Beijing yesterday and I would also have found a decent site to deliver live pictures to my laptop. My mum texted me from holiday in Cyprus and offered to keep me up to date, albeit the Turkish waiter was having trouble with his aerial. That’s football, it’s a global game when it wants to be.
Eventually, I did find a site, possibly illegal and definitely expensive, and started to read the messages fans were posting next to the tiny screen. Someone said he was looking for porn and, although Garry Birtles mentioned something about flicking things through your legs in dangerous areas, I feel the poster had missed the point of the play-offs.
I lost the screen at half-time and, when it reappeared, Doncaster had scored in cyberspace. The commentators succumbed to emotion and said it was fully deserved, but it was their first shot on target. How bad did that make us?
I expect nothing less. It is fate, after all. Manchester United are fated to win and we are fated to lose. We get kicked in the teeth by pious pundits. We are dirty Leeds. It was interesting that, during the Champions League knees-up, Jamie Redknapp said that Paul Scholes was a dirty player. Roy Keane had told him. Those who thought Scholes was merely a bad tackler underestimated his nasty streak, Redknapp said. But Scholes is fêted and we are fated.
So Doncaster can sit alongside the other sides we have lost to on our big days – Watford, Aston Villa, Sunderland. When we lost to Watford, Neil Sullivan, our goalkeeper, scored an own goal. Yesterday he did not put a foot wrong but was, alas, playing for Doncaster. Now that’s fate.
We are Leeds and we were born under a bad sign. We won’t pretend that any of it reveals anything about mankind or that future generations will learn invaluable lessons from this. No fuss. No glory. No 15 points. As the Kaiser Chiefs so pithily put it, na na na na naa.

Yorkshire Evening Post 25/5/08
Leeds United suffer Wembley heartache
Leeds United 0 Doncaster Rovers 1
There is a train of footballing wisdom which says winning a play-off final is more fulfilling than finishing second and gaining automatic promotion. Doncaster Rovers would not argue with that.
Demoted to third place in League One on the last day of this season the South Yorkshire club were compensated yesterday by a fixture at Wembley which for them will be eternally memorable.
Doncaster chanced their arm this month but few among Rovers support will look back at their defeat to Cheltenham Town on May 3 – a defeat which conspired to send Nottingham Forest into the Championship ahead of them – with any form of regret. If the scenario which befell Rovers this season was made in the heaven, however, the reality for Leeds United was made in hell.
There are few more excruciating positions than being a losing play-off finalist, and especially when a club's heart, mind and plain statistical record tells them that by rights they should in fact have finished second.
That warped situation was home to Leeds today, the epitome of a wilderness where positive fate has deserted the League One club who needed and earned it most. Meant to be this season it so nearly was, yet once again so near was so far. We have, sadly, been here before.The ghosts of Cardiff and 2006 have never been truly exorcised from Elland Road, and the cuts created by United's loss to Watford at the Millennium Stadium ran deep.
Relegation and insolvency were the ultimate price of that rain-sodden day in Wales but it is reasonable to assume that the fall-out from Doncaster's win in League One's play-off final will be far less severe at Elland Road.
Freed of what were crippling debts and apparently blessed with reliable foundations, United's failure to master a talented and deserving Doncaster team ought not be catastrophic, as horrendous as the result feels today.
With the luxury of a fair playing field next season, and with the hindrance of a brutal points deduction, Gary McAllister will return to pre-season training on July 4 with a spring in his step and steel in his eyes. It will, though, be many years before Leeds are happy to stake an entire season on one game at a national stadium, in Wales, England or anywhere else.
Yesterday's defeat requires a post-mortem and McAllister will spend weeks digesting its implications, but the narrow loss also demands perspective.
The nine months behind Leeds have been a story of resilience, passion and bloody-minded desire, and their players have rekindled many of the valued traits – pride, bravery and ambition – which were sorely missing from Elland Road for several seasons.
Their attitude has been worthy of the respect of their supporters, which is never given easily in the city of Leeds. All the story lacked was a fitting ending. A goal from James Hayter early in the second half – as soft a strike as Leeds will concede under McAllister – finally laid low a team who have forced to accept defeat at last.
McAllister knew the extent of the fever sweeping through Leeds before yesterday's final, so much so that he and his squad slipped quietly out of Yorkshire on Wednesday to relocate to their base in Hertfordshire and purposely detach themselves from the intensity of an expectant city.
But the enormity of League One's showpiece was impossible to escape once the sweeping arch of Wembley became visible from the team's bus. Inside the overpowering stadium, the stands devoted to Leeds swam with an unbroken dusting of yellow and white, a striking contrast to the swathes of empty seats visible among Rovers' supporters.
Evidence of the fight for tickets that McAllister's players left behind them at Elland Road was provided vividly by three pockets of United's followers in the southern reaches of Wembley, the area which had in theory been reserved for those travelling from South Yorkshire.
The allocation of tickets given to Leeds by the Football League sold out on Wednesday afternoon, but United's fans are nothing if not resourceful. Turned away from Elland Road, hundreds simply re-routed to Doncaster's ticket office to ensure their attendance in London yesterday. When a club has endured the torment that Leeds United have, it does not do to miss the day when redemption is said to be at hand.
Over the past four years, Leeds have been kicked in the teeth with more regularity than a front-row forward. English football has not been their friend for a long time, and long before the Football League weighed in with a less-than-subtle kick of their own. The 15-point deduction imposed on United by the Football League – the albatross that Leeds have carried since August 3 – seems as nauseating today as ever it has, a sensation increased by the undeniable influence the penalty has exerted on United's standing.
Lord Brian Mawhinney, the Football League's chairman, was presented to both teams before kick-off, drawing fierce cat-calls from United's supporters but polite handshakes from the club's players. If by now they are tired of thinking about the involvement of his organisation in their campaign and their careers, that fatigue is understandable.
In seasons to come, it is to be hoped that United's time under the Football League's banner will cease completely via their reintroduction to the Premiership. That, unfortunately, is a thought for another day and another season.
Doncaster carried the play-off trophy out of Wembley last night, and it is only fair to acknowledge that the more impressive team on the final day of the season walked away with the winners' medals and the beaming smiles.
The 1-0 defeat was not a conclusive loss on the scale of United's capitulation to Watford two years ago, but Leeds fell below their peak at Wembley and failed to replicate the confident dominance which underpinned their brilliant victory over Carlisle United in the play-off semi-finals.
McAllister did not alter his line-up and was justified in giving the Brunton Park XI their chance at England's national stadium, but Doncaster had the game by the throat after 10 minutes, a period in which the platform of their victory was built.
Casper Ankergren dug United out of trouble on two occasions, timing dives perfectly twice in quick succession to claw the ball away from the feet of Hayter and James Coppinger, and Jason Price's shot which deflected over the crossbar in the seventh minute was a narrower miss than it looked.
United's strikeforce of Jermaine Beckford and Dougie Freedman found useful possession difficult to come by, and Beckford's only effort of the first half was gathered easily on the ground by ex-United goalkeeper Neil Sullivan.
Jonathan Howson went closer with a shot a minute before the break which curled over the crossbar by a matter of inches, but as useful as the interval may have been to McAllister, his words had had no time to register when Doncaster claimed the opening goal.
Brian Stock dropped a corner into the heart of Ankergren's box where hesitant marking from Howson allowed Hayter to charge towards goal and plant a header between United's goalkeeper and Neil Kilkenny, who were attempting in vain to guard the goalline.
The sections of Wembley filled by Doncaster's supporters were flushed with euphoria as silence gripped the other end of the stadium, quiet spreading among fans who feared a repeat of Cardiff was suddenly imminent.
United's players were alive to the seriousness of their position, and threw themselves at Doncaster with more energy than precision.
Sullivan saved a low shot from Beckford and then saw another effort from the striker fly straight into his arms, and Howson's deflected shot skipped over the crossbar. But it was not until the 87th minute that Sullivan was required to trust to luck.
A throw-in from Frazer Richardson deflected through Doncaster's box to Jonathan Douglas, who drove a fierce volley a foot to the right of Sullivan's left-hand post with Rovers' veteran keeper unable to intervene. It was the chance that Leeds had yearned for, but a chance which went begging.
No other team deals in late goals with the prolific style of Leeds United, but their pool appeared to have run dry during the drama of their semi-final against Carlisle. There was no injury-time equaliser, and no reprieve; only the sound of Andy D'Urso's whistle confirming that a campaign like no other had ended in a manner with which Leeds are horribly familiar.
At Brunton Park on May 15, promotion appeared to be fated; it seemed to be the prize that Leeds above all others deserved to receive.
That feeling did not subside yesterday, and it will not leave the players who have the summer to reflect on how cruel a sport football can be. But there is no shame in their defeat. At Wembley, McAllister's squad fell short; over nine months, they have been giants among footballing men.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Independent 24/5/08
McAllister urges revitalised Leeds to finish the job
By James Mariner
A season which began with them 15 points adrift at the bottom of League One, following their controversial points deduction, could end in a remarkable triumph for Leeds United tomorrow.
The League One side climbed from there into the top three, then slipped back after Gus Poyet, the assistant manager, left for Spurs and manager Dennis Wise, headed to Newcastle.
Gary McAllister came in and boldly changed the playing style. After a stutter as the team adapted, Leeds recovered in time to reach the play-offs and now stand 90 minutes from a return to the Championship.
Leeds are favourites but fans will warily recall the 2006 Championship play-off final which ended in defeat to Watford, followed by relegation the next season to League One.
Now, as in 2006, Leeds finished fifth in the regular season and their opponents third. McAllister is hoping for a different outcome this time. "I'm proud of taking the team to Wembley, but the proudest moment will be if we get the right result," the 43-year-old, who spent six seasons at Elland Road as a player in the 1990s, said. "We have worked hard so as much as we have to enjoy it we have to realise Wembley is a place of work."
Ticket sales for tomorrow's match were suspended at Doncaster's Keepmoat Stadium this week as Leeds supporters attempted to buy tickets in their opponent's section after the Elland Road side's 36,000 allocation quickly sold out.
Doncaster chairman John Ryan believes his side were allocated too many tickets and feels Leeds should have been issued with more. "They've got a fantastic fanbase," he said.
"We sold 24,000 tickets, which is a good effort with us only having average gates of 8,000. I would gladly have given Leeds the balance but the Football League wouldn't let us because of segregation issues. It's a shame because part of Wembley will be empty when it should be full of Leeds fans, really."
Doncaster are hoping to continue their own impressive revival. Four years ago they were in the Conference playing at their old Belle Vue stadium.
Gareth Roberts (hamstring) and Ritchie Wellens (groin) are doubts for Sean O'Driscoll's side, while Alan Sheehan returns from suspension for Leeds.


Times 23/5/08
Premier Leeds? You're having a laugh - it's great in League One
Rick Broadbent
Yorkshire has always been funny in a sick joke type of way. It is like living with the Ant Hill Mob. You sense that something is going on underneath the bonnet, just out of sight and touch, but life lumbers on and you never win. London is Penelope Pitstop, Manchester is Dick Dastardly and we are the makeweights, the little men with sore feet and comedy cameos.
And now Leeds United are going to Wembley. God help us. What happened to sooty black buildings, sledgehammer subtlety and a bag of scraps? What happened to Alan Bennett saying that life was generally something that happened elsewhere?
You see I do not want success. I am a Leeds fan, but I do not crave a rise through the ranks. I do not want to be the tenth best team in a league we can never win because - and I mean this - I have enjoyed this season in Coca-Cola League One every bit as much as the one when we made it to the Champions League semi-finals.
We are constantly told that the Barclays Premier League is the best in the world and that the Champions League is the apotheosis of lip-balm wearing playboys with shin-pads. It is not true. Most neutrals watched Chelsea play Manchester United on Wednesday with a passing interest. The best league is the one with your team in it. Like many, I just felt that it was a shame there could be only one loser in Moscow.
The big game this week is Leeds versus Doncaster Rovers. I will not cry like a baby if we lose. After all, most Leeds fans expect it.
The previous time Leeds went to the play-offs, in 2006, it took about 90 seconds at the Millennium Stadium to realise that we were not as good as Watford. When we went to Wembley ten years earlier, we were stuffed by a mediocre Aston Villa team. Savo Milosevic looked a world-beater.
But what a lot of newcomers to football's bandwagon do not understand is that football is all about pain and suffering. It is the struggle that is addictive, not the success. Read about the Beatles and the most intriguing bits are the days spent swanning around Hamburg with a quiff and a dream. When the dream is realised, they soon become boring old hippies and start writing songs about Rocky Raccoon.
Leeds fans have never had it so good, but where will it end? I can live with the Championship, but why would any club aspire to the Premier League? Why would you want to be Bolton Wanderers or Fulham or West Bromwich Albion? Teams with no chance of anything other than regular thumpings and survival.
This year Leeds have won a lot of matches and I cannot tell you how good that feels after the previous seven years. Get Didier Drogba to come round and fall over in my rockery if you want, but the Premier League is boring. I do not aspire to high-class mediocrity. I would rather be a big fish in a small pond.
And life in League One is like a throwback to the 1970s. You even have local players in your team. One of ours, Jonny Howson, scored twice to win the semi-final against Carlisle United. You could identify with him because he has not spent pre-season on a yacht in the Algarve or leaving his Bentley in a disabled parking space. This is a world beneath hype.
Football down here is more real. The fans do not ring up radio stations and demand that Rafael Benítez gets sacked because Liverpool came fourth. It is about getting through, plugging away, avoiding administration. It is about the love of the club, not the belief that the world owes you a Champions League final because your season ticket costs a lot.
The best day in my football-watching life came when Leeds won away to Bournemouth in 1990 and clinched promotion. The league title followed two years later and, sweet as it was, confirming Manchester United's continuing loser status, it was not as good as Dean Court.
I recommend it to all of you depressed fans in the Premier League. Have your club go bust and get a reality check and a cup of Bovril down in the lower leagues. You may just remember what football is all about.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

BBC 21/5/08
Robinson agrees to Leeds switch
Midfielder Andy Robinson is to leave League One champions Swansea City for Leeds United on a free transfer.
Robinson, 28, wanted to wait until after Leeds' play-off final against Doncaster on Sunday before deciding whether to stay with the Swans or go.
But a Swansea statement said: "The club felt it was an unrealistic request and imposed a deadline of yesterday for Andy to make his mind up.
"This he did, subsequently deciding to move on."
The Liverpudlian joined Swansea in the summer of 2003 on a free transfer after being released by Tranmere.
He came close to leaving two years ago when contract talks then stalled and bids came in from Southend and Cardiff.
But he eventually agreed a new two-year deal which runs out next month - and Leeds have said that he has agreed to join them once his Swans contract expires.
The Swans confirmed the latest round of contract talks started last October and had hoped to agree terms before the January transfer opened but they failed to reach an agreement.
"At that point, it was decided not to place Andy on the transfer list as we felt he had a great part to play in our quest for promotion," the statement added.
"The prospect of achieving that promotion with Andy as part of the squad far outweighed any financial gain we may have realised should Andy have moved on at that point.
"It was also felt that having gained promotion, it would be enough to further secure Andy's services.
"Negotiations have been ongoing and the latest offer, had it been accepted, would have made Andy one of the highest paid players in the history of Swansea City FC.
"The plan this summer was to keep every player who played a part in our promotion success and to build on that by further strengthening the squad.

"To that end, Roberto Martinez is currently working tirelessly to bring in the type of player that will add to the strength and character of the squad, with the aim of making Swansea City a competitive Championship club."
"Andy leaves Swansea City with our heartfelt best wishes and with many thanks for his service to the club and the commitment shown by him over the years that he has been at the club," the statement said.
Robinson made 226 appearances for the Swans over five years scoring 54 goals and won two promotions with the club along with a Football League Trophy win and a play-off final defeat.
"I'm delighted to be joining Leeds," said Robinson. "It's a massive name in football and a massive club, and it's great that I'm going to be a part of that.
"I've had an unbelievable five years at Swansea. I can't thank the club enough for what they have done for me and the fans have been brilliant.
"This was the toughest decision of my life, but it's right for me.
"I spoke to Roberto Martinez on Tuesday and told him of my decision.
"I didn't want this dragging on because I have the utmost respect for Roberto and for Swansea City."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Yorkshire Evening Post 20/5/08
Marques signs new deal
By Phil Hay
Rui Marques has agreed a new two-year contract at Elland Road after positive talks with Leeds United last week.
Discussions over an extended deal for the Angolan defender were suspended at the start of April but after a number of minor details were ratified Marques today ended speculation over his future by opting to remain at Elland Road for another two years.The 30-year-old's existing one-year deal had been due to expire at the end of this season but negotiations aimed at reaching a new deal stalled on April 8 with Leeds blaming "differences in valuation" for their decision to withdraw from talks.
Marques' wage demands were believed to have contributed to the deadlock, but the parties were also at odds over the length of the contract being offered to the centre-back.
His initial request was for a three-year contract, taking him up to the age of 33, but Marques has now agreed to the 24-month extension with the club he joined in 2005.
Fresh talks between Leeds and Marques' advisors took place last Friday, and today's confirmation of the deal is a welcome development for United ahead of Sunday's League One final in London.United were always hopeful of tying Marques to the club beyond the end of this season. A statement released after the suspension of discussions last month revealed their intention to revisit the matter.
The statement read: "The removal of contract extension discussions from the agenda will allow Rui to concentrate on making a positive contribution as the club looks forward to gaining promotion to the Championship.
"We still remain positive that we will be able to retain the player's services."
It was initially anticipated that further negotiations would be delayed until after the play-off final, but despite rumours of interest from several Championship clubs, Marques was intent on remaining in Leeds regardless of this weekend's result at Wembley.
Marques has enjoyed 18 impressive months at Elland Road since winning promotion to United's first team in January 2007.
His form at the start of this season was good enough to earn him a place in Angola's squad for the African Cup of Nations earlier this year.He immediately regained his place under Gary McAllister following his return from Ghana in February, but a hamstring strain sustained against Brighton on March 29 saw his position in the centre of defence taken by Paul Huntington.
Marques has made only two substitute appearances since recovering from his injury.


Yorkshire Evening Post 20/5/08
Bates hails modest McAllister
By Phil Hay
Gary McAllister has steadfastly refused to take credit for Leeds United's season, but chairman Ken Bates today paid tribute to the "inspirational leadership" which he believes is behind the club's emergence in the play-off final.
McAllister will have Wembley as the backdrop for his 20th game as United's manager on Sunday, but in keeping with the demeanour he has maintained since his appointment on January 29, the Scot is likely to leave the acclaim to his players if promotion to the Championship is earned at the end of the road in London.Asked after United's semi-final win over Carlisle how qualifying for the play-off final ranked among his footballing achievements, McAllister said: "It's definitely up there, but it's not about me. It's about the players."
It is a line he has taken consistently in the past three-and-a-half months.McAllister's modesty has been lost on Bates, however. His opinion of his manager has grown with each passing game.
The identification of Dennis Wise's replacement was completed quickly in January but not with undue haste, and McAllister's selection appears to be an increasingly inspired decision. There will be no effort on the part of Bates to deny the 43-year-old the recognition he is worth.
"Gary's a natural manager and a natural leader," said Bates. "Those were the qualities we were looking for when we asked him to take over at a difficult time.
"He has his own opinion, but my understanding is that he's due a lot of the credit for the fact that we're in the play-off final.
"His leadership's been inspirational and being at Wembley is the result of a lot of hard work from everyone involved.
"Football club's don't rely on one or two people. The successful clubs are the ones where every single person plays their part. I like the way Gary goes about his job – there's no fuss and no drama. He gets on with it quietly and thoughtfully. I don't think he can be faulted.
"In the second leg against Carlisle, we not only won the game but we won it with style and a bit of class. The players are responsible for that but I do think it's a reflection of the manager as well. We've become a very good team."
The belief that Leeds may have peaked at the perfect time – a factor which is perennially crucial in the Football League's play-offs – is not held by Bates alone.
Over the past two months, United have been beaten at Huddersfield Town and at home by Carlisle, but the defeats have been exceptions to the rule in a spell in which Leeds have been as convincingly consistent as at any other stage of the season.
Their last nine matches have yielded seven victories, five of which have come away from Elland Road, and United's dominant conclusion to the League One season has justified Bates' decision to lock McAllister to a 12-month rolling contract before the outcome of the play-off final is known.
McAllister was originally handed a short-term agreement on the understanding that an extension was likely to depend on him achieving promotion, but Bates pre-empted the club's possible return to the Championship by revising the agreement at the start of last month.
United's chairman admitted that he feared briefly for the club's season after they were beaten by Carlisle in the first leg of a fascinating semi-final, but their recovery at Brunton Park, where two goals from Jonathan Howson earned Leeds a 3-2 aggregate win, has left him "quietly confident" that Sunday's game against Doncaster Rovers at Wembley will deliver the prize that the club have chased since August.
"I wouldn't want to sound over-confident, but in my own way I'm quietly cocky," he said.
"I'd expect it to be a very difficult game, but we're going into it on the back of a classy performance at Carlisle. I've got a lot of faith in Gary and his squad.
"I've said before that I'm immensely proud of these players, not just for reaching the play-off final but for the way they approached this season and the way they've fought back from an unjust 15-point deduction. They've been tremendous."
In the minutes after United's defeat to Watford in the 2006 Championship play-off final in Cardiff, Bates descended to the Leeds dressing room to deliver a rousing speech to the club's beaten players.
He thanked them for their effort and told them to forget the disappointment of defeat during the summer ahead. They were words of consolation he will hope to avoid repeating two years on.
"One big difference between this season and 2006 is the age of our players," said Bates. "If you worked out the average age of Gary's team, you'd be quite surprised by how low it is.
"We're younger and fresher this time round. We also deserve to be promoted after the season we've had, and I think the players know that. We'll see on Sunday what I have to say to the players afterwards but they've already earned an awful lot of credit for what they've done."
Yorkshire Evening Post 19/5/08
United must heed semi final lessons says Freedman
By Phil Hay
With three play-off finals lodged in his memory bank already, Dougie Freedman does not need instructing on the unforgiving nature of the game awaiting Leeds United at Wembley on Sunday.
A beaten finalist in 1996 but subsequently victorious on two occasions with Crystal Palace, Freedman might be tempted to say that second chances come to those who are prepared to wait long enough.
But in London this weekend, the 33-year-old knows the danger of expecting the reprieve offered to Leeds by the return leg of last week's semi-final against Carlisle United.
Of all the lessons taken from a scintillating two-legged tie - settled on Thursday in dramatic circumstances - the most valuable may be the warning of what will happen if the form and confidence of Gary McAllister's players deserts them against Doncaster Rovers at Wembley.
United's performance at Brunton Park on Thursday amounted to their most impressive of the season, produced under the extreme pressure of the 2-1 deficit they were carrying from the first leg and the knowledge that their entire campaign rested on one 90-minute fixture.
Jonathan Howson's goal in the first minute of injury-time completed the 2-0 victory which saw Carlisle beaten 3-2 on aggregate, and the display witnessed in Cumbria was seen by both Freedman and McAllister as a direct response of the extent to which Leeds under-performed in the first leg in Yorkshire.
Freedman, whose 96th-minute goal at Elland Road turned the tie in United's favour, said: "You never have a divine right to turn up and win games. Carlisle showed us that on Monday.
"I felt we were well beaten but the fortunate thing was that we had another opportunity on Thursday. From the reaction we got there, I think it was pretty obvious that the players had taken on board the seriousness of the situation.
"That was one of the things I said to the younger lads after Monday - that the most important factor was learning from the defeat and from their own performances. We still had the chance to put it right and they rose to the occasion.
"A few of the players are at the very start of their careers, and this will all be a bit eye-opening for them. You can give them advice about what to expect but they can never understand what play-off matches are like until they're out there in the thick of it.
"The best lesson from the semi-finals will probably be that we won't get a second chance at Wembley. I'd expect the younger guys to look at the first leg of the semi-final and realise how crucial it is to be on our game from the word go.
"You've got 46 league games to get to the play-offs, but the team who win promotion are always the team who raise themselves for the last couple of games - and especially the play-off final. As tough as the semi-final was, I do think it's given our squad the best possible preparation for Wembley."
McAllister's decision to retain all 11 of the players who started Monday's 2-1 defeat during Thursday night's victory at Brunton Park was a defining moment in the two-legged tie, and United's manager has another difficult call to make before Sunday's final.
Alan Sheehan missed both matches against Carlisle through a three-match suspension, but the ban concluded after Thursday's game and he is available to feature at Wembley should McAllister consider recalling him.
The Irish defender, who has been offered a new deal at the Walkers Stadium but is likely to be on Leeds' list of possible signings this summer, is the only recognised left-back in United's squad, but Bradley Johnson has operated as a makeshift defender for the last three matches and McAllister may find it impossible to justifying removing any of the players who eliminated Carlisle from the play-offs.
Freedman, meanwhile, is assured of his place in the first team after another dominant performance on Thursday, and he stands as the most experienced player by some distance in McAllister's squad.
The on-loan Crystal Palace forward was part of the team that lost to Leicester City at Wembley in the Division One play-off final in 1996, and was also with Palace when the club reached the Premiership at the expense of Sheffield United the following year. On top of his visits to England's national stadium, he sat as an unused substitute as the London club beat West Ham United to a place in the top flight at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium in 2004.
"The first game against Carlisle showed us the danger of under-performing," Freedman said, "but I feel that we had that little bit more desire and hunger at the end of the day.
"We scored in the 96th minute at Elland Road and the 91st minute at Carlisle, and it's the same old story - if you fight to the death, you get your reward. I don't think this set of players know when they're beaten.
"Carlisle are a very good team but I'd say we wanted it slightly more. That's a small difference but a very important one. It needs to be the same at Wembley."
Freedman turns 34 on Sunday, marking his birthday in the most spectacular of venues, but there will be few celebrations afterwards if the one-off fixture against Doncaster does not deliver the prize that the striker set out to win when he left behind his family to relocate to Yorkshire in March.
"I didn't come up to Leeds and leave my kids in London at a young age to mess about," Freedman said. "I came up here for a really serious reason - to help the team get promotion.
"It's one thing to play at Wembley but I don't think you'll remember it with much pleasure if you don't come away with winners' medals. That's what it comes down to."

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Yorkshire Evening Post 16/5/08
Leeds United boss McAllister's show of faith reaps rewards
Carlisle United 0 Leeds United 2 (Leeds United win 3-2 on aggregate)
On the residential road to Brunton Park, a lone flag flying from a first-floor window displayed the banner: Be just and fear not.
The standard had been raised in support of Carlisle United, but the message of inspiration passed them by. Justice was served on the most fearless team in Cumbria last night. Eleven white knights swept into the county yesterday and left behind a state of desolation worthy of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. When the cavalry ride again, their blood-stained banner will fly at the only stage befitting of a squad who have long since abandoned the concept of surrendering alive. Wembley called to Leeds United last night and the reply that came was resounding in its conviction.
Four days ago their cause seemed lost, but United have resisted the compulsion to go quietly into the night. This, instead, may be the crisp dawn that Elland Road has waited so long to see. Gary McAllister is a man of few words, and is therefore a man worth heeding. Never quoted for effect, his promise that the second leg of United's play-off semi-final against Carlisle would compensate for the underwhelming nothing of the first was nothing less than a gross understatement.
The atonement made by Leeds in Cumbria was too exceptional to be dismissed as compensation; too extraordinary to be housed in the same category as routine victories. United set out with a gun against their temple but it was the body of Carlisle which was riddled with bullets by full-time at Brunton Park, both fired by the lethal boot of Jonathan Howson. On an evening when the order was kill or be killed, Leeds brought forth the streak of courage that McAllister knew his players possessed.
Bravery was in evidence from the outset in Cumbria and displayed in no clearer manner than the team selected by McAllister for what threatened to be the club's final contest of the season, 47 games after it began. Tempted as he was to react to Monday's 2-1 defeat to Carlisle at Elland Road by cutting the individuals who had under-performed from his line-up, McAllister thought better of change and sent forward an unaltered side.
Certain players were lucky to be involved; Howson even agreed that his own omission would have been justified after a personal contribution three days earlier which had been so painfully ineffective. He was not the only member of McAllister's squad to redress that shortfall in Cumbria and to redress it emphatically. At the point where his 91st-minute shot rippled Keiren Westwood's net, sinking Carlisle's distraught players into the turf, the criticism earned at Elland Road had faded into complete silence. All that remained was a club and a city that are once again joined at the hip.
McAllister's willingness to trust implicitly in what he understood to be his strongest line-up was a personal triumph, and one of many. An argument will be made – and understandably so – that the goal produced by Dougie Freedman with five minutes of injury-time played at Elland Road was the source of United's 3-2 defeat of Carlisle over two legs, but it is a verdict which overlooks the way in which the tie was settled last night. Freedman's goal was significant but the stronger hand still lay with John Ward.
The semi-final was Carlisle's to forego with 90 minutes remaining, but the second leg at Brunton Park was not a game which the Cumbrian club could be accused of losing.
It was, in fact, a game which Leeds won. The credit due is too vast to detail in full, but some of it does not deserve to go unmentioned. Howson's two goals were the crux of United's win, but their midfield was as magical last night as it was inept on Monday. Jonathan Douglas' protection of McAllister's defence was authoritative, and the unrivaled influence of Neil Kilkenny in the second half was a force that Carlisle could not resist.
The Cumbrian club discovered last night what it means to have a season ruined in the blink of an eye, and in no way was their contribution to the semi-final deserving of defeat. When the ultimate call to arms came, however, it was United's players who stepped forward in greater numbers and with greater purpose. Last night's scoreline was no distortion of a game which Leeds had set their minds on settling inside 90 minutes long before Howson's second strike.
McAllister had predicted the importance of the opening goal, and his concern was understandable. An early concession by his players would have been catastrophic, unwilling though he was to admit that fact, and scenario which saw Howson bring the aggregate score level after only 10 minutes was close to perfection.
The irony of his first goal was that it came initially from a weak clearance from Casper Ankergren which faded towards the left touchline. David Prutton kept the ball in-field by flicking it towards Jermaine Beckford, whose header released Freedman to the left of Westwood's box. The striker's cross looped into the six-yard area where Howson had the time and the freedom to control the delivery and lash it over the line with a sweep of his left foot.
The goal rendered Carlisle's promising start irrelevant, and the fact that there were only two other chances of serious note in the first half was to McAllister's liking. Westwood parried a shot from Freedman after Evan Horwood played his goalkeeper into difficulty, and Casper Ankergren blocked a low effort from Marc Bridge-Wilkinson with his legs in injury-time following a direct approach which neither Paul Huntington nor Lubomir Michalik were able to deal with.
Bridge-Wilkinson had caused havoc at Elland Road, but he was subdued last night by United's intensity in midfield. No less significant was the inability of Simon Hackney to offer anything to Carlisle on the left wing. Instrumental on Monday, Hackney was almost anonymous at Brunton Park and after the interval, he was nothing more than a passenger.
However late Howson's goal might have come – and it was not as close to the last-gasp at Freedman's had been – there was no disputing that the more serious attempt to win the game during the final 45 minutes had been made by Leeds. Kilkenny pulled a wasteful shot across goal after running onto an unselfish lay-off from Jermaine Beckford, and a low strike from Freedman was pushed away with one hand by the ever-impressive Westwood. The margin was horribly fine, meanwhile, in the 79th minute when Bradley Johnson headed Kilkenny's corner against the outside of the left-hand post. It was a portent of the drama to come.
Alan Wiley, the match referee, indicated a solitary minute of injury-time as the 90th arrived, but the belief that an extra half-hour had become a formality was shattered by Howson. The midfielder was played into space at the edge of Carlisle's box, and the absence of a chaperone left him free to hook a low shot across Westwood and into the right-hand corner of the net.
It did not take the explosive reaction of the 1,600 away supporters in the stand behind Ankergren's goal to confirm that the tie was won. Carlisle restarted the game but with the forlorn expression of a team who knew the clock had run too far to save them.
Wiley's whistle brought Ward's players to their knees and left United reaching for the stars that will be offered so readily at Wembley. The order from McAllister, as it was last night, will simply be to seize the day.
Independent 16/5/08
Carlisle United 0 Leeds United 2 (Leeds win 3-2 on agg): Local hero Howson sends Leeds on trip to Wembley
By Michael Walker
Leeds United may well have bottomed out. There remains a play-off final at Wembley against either Doncaster Rovers or Southend United on Sunday week, but Leeds head to London with a sense of renewal. Inspired by 34-year-old Dougie Freedman, on loan from Crystal Palace, Leeds sealed their progress in dramatic style when hometown teenager Jonathan Howson drilled in his second of the evening 17 seconds into injury-time.
An added 30 minutes had seemed inevitable after Bradley Johnson clipped a post in the 77th minute and Kieren Westwood made a sprawling save from the evergreen Freedman. But there was one last attack and when Howson collected the ball 20 yards out, he was given time and space by a tired Carlisle and found the bottom corner with a left-foot shot.
Monday night's 2-1 defeat at Elland Road had been overturned and there was pandemonium in the away end. Briefly, there was also a possible confrontation with home supporters. But that passed and it was the Leeds manager Gary McAllister on the pitch punching the air. "That was for the Leeds fans tonight," he said, "after the damp squib on Monday. I gave the same players a chance to have another go and I got a reaction – brave, a wonderful result and a great performance. The players have dealt with everything, the 15 points, Gus [Poyet] leaving, Dennis [Wise] leaving and the new management team coming in."
It was from a swift exchange between Freedman and Howson that Leeds moved in front after 10 minutes, Howson showing composure to score one week before his 20th birthday. With the visitors level on aggregate, the belief drained from Carlisle and Leeds were worth the win.
Now they go to Wembley, 12 years after their last appearance there in the League Cup final.
Times 16/5/08
Howson double gives Leeds shot at swift return to Championship
Carlisle 0 Leeds 2 (Leeds win 3-2 on aggregate)
Jason Mellor
Late goals, most of them in their favour, have been littered throughout Leeds United’s season, so it was little surprise that they booked their progress to the Coca-Cola League One play-offs final courtesy of a decisive goal in injury time.
Jonathan Howson, who had wiped out their first-leg arrears with an early strike, doubled his tally in the 91st minute. The teenager capped a memorable performance by beating Keiren Westwood, the goalkeeper, with a low left-foot shot from the edge of the area. It gave Carlisle, who had been running on empty for the last ten minutes of the match, no time to mount a riposte.
As so often during the nine-month campaign, Leeds finished the stronger side, and Bradley Johnson, the stand-in left back, gave notice of their intentions to avoid extra time, when he rose well to meet a Neil Kilkenny corner, only to see his effort bounce to safety off a post in the 78th minute.
Carlisle had chances of their own in the second half, Danny Graham, the forward, heading straight at Casper Ankergren, before Marc Bridge-Wilkinson delayed just enough for his shot to be blocked after fine work down the left from Simon Hackney. However, they were rare efforts as Leeds gradually exerted their dominance to secure a merited victory.
Seven years on from unsuccessfully contesting a place in the Champions League final with Valencia, the prize on offer to Leeds may have been more modest in the form of a Wembley meeting against either Doncaster Rovers or Southend United for a place in the Coca-Cola Championship on Sunday week. However, that will matter little to Gary McAllister and his players as they took their latest step towards football redemption with a display which bristled with character.
After surviving strong Carlisle claims for an early penalty, Leeds soon recovered to level the aggregate scores with their first threatening attack. Scott Dobie went to ground under an uncompromising challenge from Lubomir Michalik, the Leeds defender, but Alan Wiley, who was well-positioned, ruled the challenge fair. The visiting team made the most of their apparent escape, as Howson, the Leeds-born midfield player who celebrates his twentieth birthday on Wednesday, confidently broke the deadlock on nine minutes. After an exchange of passes with Dougie Freedman, Howson dispatched his fourth goal of the season low and left-footed past Westwood from ten yards.
Freedman’s movement provided the Carlisle defence with constant problems and the Scot came close to doubling Leeds’s advantage shortly after the half-hour, when he pounced on a weak backward header from Evan Horwood only to see his effort well blocked by an alert Westwood, who was by far the busier of the goal-keepers.
It was first-half stoppage time before Ankergren, Westwood’s opposite number, was called upon, the Dane halting with his feet a powerful low shot from Bridge-Wilkinson after the midfield player had latched on to a flick by Graham.
Telegraph 15/5/08
Jonathan Howson steers Leeds to Wembley
By Peter Gardner
Carlisle United (0) 0 Leeds United (1) 2Agg: 2-3
Two goals from Jonathan Howson sent Leeds United to Wembley for the League One play-off final where they will meet either Doncaster Rovers or Southend who play tonight.
Gary McAllister's side splendidly overturned a one-goal deficit from the opening leg and Howson levelled the scores on aggregate to give Leeds the start they were looking for after just 10 minutes.
Then, as at Elland Road on Monday, Leeds struck decisively in the last minute with Howson driving in the second.
Dougie Freedman, whose goal in injury time in the first-leg had halved Carlisle's two-goal advantage, was hugely instrumental in helping to wipe out the deficit when he delivered hard and low from the left, enabling Howson to strike from close range as Leeds began the more positive side.
Carlisle had opened briskly, Peter Murphy shooting over after a neat build-up. Home claims for a penalty when Lubomir Michalik bundled over Scott Dobie and were waved aside by the referee. Howson's strike was followed in the 19th minute by a splendid run from Neil Kilkenny that was blocked by the Carlisle goalkeeper.
The visitors remained the more dangerous side going forward but Carlisle were handed an opportunity when Bradley Johnson's misplaced header found Danny Graham unmarked but the home striker was slow in reacting.
In first-half injury time Marc Bridge-Wilkinson had Carlisle's best opportunity but his angled shot from the right was blocked by the Leeds goalkeeper Casper Ankergren.
Carlisle resumed with Graham heading in to the hands of Ankergren when David Raven crossed invitingly from the right.
However, Leeds remained more inspirational and Kilkenny shot over from distance while Jermaine Beckford drove wide.
Howson was equally industrious for the visitors and he almost added to his earlier goal but was denied by Keiren Westwood following an intricate build-up.
Leeds continued to press with greater intensity and a Freedman attempt was turned behind by Westwood and Johnson headed over from the corner that resulted.
Beckford again went close and Jonathan Douglas had a further effort deflected before Howson confirmed the visitors' superiority with a decisive strike in the final minute to take Leeds to Wembley.


Daily Mail 15/5/08
Howson the hero as his double puts Leeds into League One play-off final
Carlisle 0 Leeds 2 (Leeds win 3-2 on aggregate)
By MARIN HARDY
Jonathan Howson was 12 when Leeds prepared for the Champions League semi-final in 2001. On Thursday night, he breathed life into their more modest dream of returning to the second tier of English football.
The 19-year-old Leeds-born midfielder shot his side ahead on the night after just 10 minutes of the second leg of their League One play-off clash at Brunton Park. Then in added time he produced a second goal to win the tie on aggregate and put Leeds into the final at Wembley.
Leeds scored what proved to be a crucial goal in the 96th minute of the first leg. Last night Howson struck a stunning winner with just 43 seconds of added time left.
Carlisle goalkeeper Keiren Westwood, who starred in the first leg at Elland Road, was inconsolable, lying in his goalmouth at the final whistle with his hands over his eyes. As one dream moves nearer to reality, another died.
Howson's goals have taken a fallen giant back to Wembley on Sunday week for the first time in 12 years — seven years this week since his home-town club headed to Valencia for the Champions League semi-final.
Few among the 1,600 travelling Leeds supporters celebrated the late drama like manager Gary McAllister, who led his team back on to the pitch for a victory bow. In his three-and-a-half months in charge at Elland Road, the Scot has helped his side find form and resilience in equal measure at the perfect time.
He said: "The players have put up with all sorts since day one. They dealt with 15 points being taken off, with Gus Poyet leaving, with Dennis Wise leaving and a new management team coming in.
"They were brave tonight and it was a wonderful result. I am very proud of them and very pleased for them. The result was for the fans.
"We move on again, now slightly closer to the Championship, but we have achieved nothing yet."
Tempering enthusiasm is McAllister's next task but he has already stamped his mark on his team, a passing side evolving even in the bear pit of the play-offs.
Scoring early, after sneaking a lifeline through Dougie Freedman three days earlier, was key, deflating the partisan crowd. Howson was the goal's creator and finisher, bursting from the centre of midfield to play a neat one-two with Freedman on his left before sweeping his finish past Westwood.
It negated everything that Carlisle had fought so hard for in the opening leg. John Ward's side limped over the finishing line in the regular season, blowing an automatic promotion place, and they rarely looked like finding the energy after Howson's opener to take their campaign to a final game.
Instead, Freedman, 34, on loan from Crystal Palace, caused problems with his intelligence, while Howson's energy was not what weary opponents needed to see. Only Jermaine Beckford's profligacy kept the home side in the tie as he wasted headed opportunities and shot wide in either half.
Neil Kilkenny drove across the face of goal midway through the second half and Jonathan Douglas's goalbound shot was blocked desperately by Scott Dobie.
Only once was Leeds goalkeeper Casper Ankergren truly called into action, in first-half added time, saving well with his feet to deny Marc Bridge-Wilkinson.
Still, extra-time was looming when, in the 91st minute, Howson sneaked a shot beyond Westwood's despairing left hand, and there was no way back for Carlisle.
Carlisle manager Ward said: "It's a small squad and that's got us to where we are and possibly cost us getting that bit further. But I am proud of them and I have been proud all season."
Yorkshire Post 15/5/08
Match report: Leeds United clinch place at Wembley
By Richard Sutcliffe
Carlisle United 0 Leeds United 2. Leeds won 3-2 on agg
Two goals from Jonny Howson sent Leeds United into the League One play-off final after a 2-0 win at Carlisle United.
THE resilience of Leeds United in this most testing of seasons again shone through last night as Jonny Howson booked the club's first trip to Wembley in 12 years. The midfielder struck the two most important goals of his blossoming career to send United through to the League One play-off final and cap an amazing fightback.Trailing by two goals deep into stoppage time at the end of the first leg at Elland Road on Monday night, United had seemed dead and buried only for a lifeline to come via Dougie Freedman's last-gasp strike.
It meant the tie was still alive going into the return at Brunton Park but, even so, against a side boasting the best home record in the division, Leeds were still given little hope of battling through to the Wembley final on May 25.
Those who wrote United off during the build-up should, however, have known better with this group of players having, over the past nine months, overcome the type of hurdles that would have crushed most other teams. A 15-point deduction on the eve of the campaign was bad enough, but when the loss of a valued first-team coach followed soon after this group of players could have been forgiven for thinking they were cursed.
Dennis Wise's sudden and surprising departure in January will hardly have dispelled those fears but, throughout it all, the players kept their head and showed the type of character that served them so well at Brunton Park last night.
It shone through in the 10th minute when Howson brought the tie level on aggregate with a clinical finish. And then, just seconds after the fourth official had indicated there would be just one additional minute of stoppage time, this side's terrific character helped power them forward one last time for what turned out to be the Wembley clinching goal when Howson drilled a low shot into the bottom corner of the net.
It was a deserved reward for a magnificent display by the same XI that had been so disappointing in losing the first leg on Monday night.
Tellingly, United maintained their shape much better last night with the midfield quartet largely sticking to the roles they had been handed ahead of kick-off rather than attempting – and largely failing – to constantly swap position as they had at Elland Road.
This much more rigid structure was a major factor in the opening goal when Howson, playing through the centre, exchanged passes with Dougie Freedman inside the area before drilling a shot past goalkeeper Keiran Westwood. Bradley Johnson, another who had struggled in the first leg in his uncustomary position of left-back, seemed to benefit from those ahead of him maintaining their shape with the former Northampton man getting forward several times in the opening 45 minutes. It was one such run down the left flank that created an excellent opening for Jermaine Beckford just 10 minutes after Howson's opener only for the United top scorer to head weakly wide.
United were also guilty of wasting another excellent opening seven minutes before the break when a poor attempted back header by Evan Horwood was seized upon by Freedman. The veteran striker then looked up before hitting a shot that Westwood, the scourge of the Leeds attack in the opening leg, beat away with ease. It was a big let-off for the hosts who almost seized the initiative on the stroke of half-time when Danny Graham found Marc Bridge-Wilkinson in space inside the United area only for the former Bradford City midfielder's shot to be blocked by the legs of Casper Ankergren.
The second half was a much more open affair with both sides having spells when they had the upper hand.
Leeds had perhaps the better chances, however, with Johnson heading a Neil Kilkenny corner into the side-netting and Freedman bringing an excellent save from Westwood after a neat one-two with Beckford. Both misses suggested the tie was heading for extra time only for Howson to strike in the most dramatic of fashions and send Leeds to Wembley for the first time since the 1996 League Cup final.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Yorkshire Evening Post 10/5/08
Leeds United's Huntington can stand the heat
By Phil Hay
Gary McAllister has offered a firm vote of confidence to Paul Huntington as the Leeds United defender prepares to renew hostilities with Carlisle United.
Huntington was the subject of controversy during Carlisle's visit to Elland Road last month after gesturing repeatedly towards the Cumbrian club's fans, but McAllister has no concerns over his ability to cope with the intensity of the forthcoming League One play-off semi-final between the two clubs.
The former Newcastle United trainee – a £200,000 signing last summer – has been one of the most successful stories of McAllister's short tenure, establishing himself as a regular partner for Lubomir Michalik in the centre of Leeds' defence.
His consistent and outstanding form was responsible for relegating Rui Marques to the substitutes bench at Elland Road, but Huntington was forced to make a public apology over his behaviour during Carlisle's 3-2 defeat in Yorkshire on April 12. The 20-year-old was allegedly the subject of death threats from irate Carlisle supporters and the coincidental pairing for the play-off semi-finals will lead him into a hostile atmosphere at Brunton Park for the second leg on Thursday night.
But McAllister, whose side will begin the tie at Elland Road on Monday evening, said: "It's a fantastic test for him and I'm sure he'll be fine."
Huntington's connection with Carlisle – the city where he was born – is an obvious sub-plot to the semi-final, but McAllister is hoping to benefit from the other member of his staff with Cumbrian links. Neil McDonald, Leeds' first-team coach, was manager at Brunton Park for 14 months before Carlisle sacked him after the first game of this season, and the 42-year-old worked with a number of the players in the squad now managed by John Ward.
McAllister said: "He knows their players and worked in close with the Carlisle lads. We know a wee bit more about the psyche of the Carlisle players than other opponents."

Leedsunited.com 8/5/08
BECKFORD HOPE
United boss Gary McAllister is anticipating the return of Jermaine Beckford for Monday's Play-Off semi-final first leg against Carlisle United at Elland Road.
Our leading scorer has been sidelined with an ankle injury since the 3-2 win against the Cumbrians last month.
Becks, who suffered the injury during the 2-0 win at Leyton Orient on April 5, returned to training at Thorp Arch on Thursday morning.
The boss said: "We're hopeful about Jermaine. He trained with us on Thursday, the boys are off on Friday, and then they are back Saturday and Sunday before the game."
Dougie Freedman has played alongside both Tresor Kandol and Anthony Elding during Beckford's absence from the side.
McAllister has no new injury worries, but must decide who will fill the left-back slot against Carlisle with Alan Sheehan suspended.
Bradley Johnson filled the void last time out against Gillingham, and the boss is giving away no clues. "I know my 11," he said.

Yorkshire Evening Post 9/5/08
Carlisle player accuses Leeds United of arrogance
By Phil Hay
Peter Murphy has stirred up the forthcoming play-off semi-final between Carlisle United and Leeds United by accusing the Elland Road club of "arrogance".
The Irish defender claims comments from Gary McAllister's camp suggesting the club were content to be paired with Carlisle in League One's play-offs were "disrespecting us a little bit".
Murphy said: "Leeds will probably say they're happy to be playing anybody because they don't think they should be in this league.
"Hopefully that little bit of arrogance will work in our favour and if we do get promoted it will be all the better.
"Leeds have a very good squad and we know we'll have to step up our game. You expect to play good sides in the play-offs. But that's where Leeds are disrespecting us a little bit, saying they are happy to play us.
"According to Leeds, everything has gone against them this season - they shouldn't be in this league, the 15 points deduction and so on.
"If Leeds are such a big club, and if we are the underdogs, that's the way it's got to be. Everyone is expecting them to win and there's no pressure on us."
The semi-final begins with the first leg at Elland Road on Monday night, with Leeds travelling to Brunton Park to conclude the tie three days later.
Carlisle have spent £30,000 repairing the pitch at Brunton Park ahead of next Thursday's second leg. The condition of the surface is a growing cause for concern, and the Cumbrian club were forced to protect the pitch by delaying a junior football tournament scheduled to be held at Brunton Park last weekend.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Guardian 7/5/08
A simple reason behind the defeat of Leeds' appeal
The club had agreed not to seek legal redress over their 15-point penalty. Then they did regardless.
• David Conn
• The Guardian,
• Wednesday May 7 2008
• Article history

Ken Bates' futile call for Lord Mawhinney, the Football League chairman, to resign after last week's decision over Leeds United's 15-point deduction somewhat deflected attention from the prime reason why Leeds resoundingly lost: the club had given a signed, written agreement that they would not mount a legal challenge, then went back on their word. Last February Leeds did issue high court proceedings against the League, which were referred to arbitration under Football Association rules.
The three-man arbitration panel found that when Leeds emerged from a £35m insolvency last summer Bates agreed to the League's imposition of a 15-point penalty, which was in fact lenient because Leeds could have been expelled or relegated to League Two. Leeds agreed in writing to accept the penalty and promised that while they could appeal to the League's clubs, they would not mount a legal action. Mark Taylor, Bates' solicitor, signed the agreement on Leeds' behalf. "Leeds hereby covenants," said the crucial clause, "that it shall not... commence... any proceedings... before any court [or] arbitration body... against [the League]."
The panel hearing Leeds' appeal therefore decided it was being asked to determine proceedings that the club had promised not to bring. In its ruling, the panel wrote: "The case begins and ends with [the agreement]. There is no basis to allow [the club] not to honour that covenant."
Mawhinney, far from resigning, feels wholly vindicated, and the League has been significantly strengthened. The judgment stated that the League did have the right to impose conditions when Leeds failed to agree a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) after going into administration, and that the 15-point penalty was "reasonable and proportionate". On Leeds' conduct in bringing the case, and Bates' comments, Mawhinney was scathing:
"The fact that Ken Bates personalised it on me was a distraction from the fact they had comprehensively lost every argument," he said. "Leeds agreed to accept 15 points as a condition of playing in League One. They signed the agreement, gave their word, then immediately reneged on it. The arbitration panel were singularly unimpressed with Leeds' behaviour."
The judgment is important beyond the battlements of Elland Road, because it reinforces the League's authority to maintain sanctions for clubs which fail to pay their bills then cut them wholesale when declaring themselves insolvent. Clubs which do that, then fail to exit via a CVA, which requires 75% of creditors to agree, now have as a standard possible sanction the deduction of 25 points - 10 for going into administration, 15 more for failing to agree a CVA. The League argued it did not want the Leeds case to be a binding precedent but Mawhinney acknowledged that 25 points is now "an established fact" and so has set a bar.
In any consideration of the fairness of this, the context has to be remembered. English football, in its greatest boom-time, is leaving millions of pounds unpaid to HM Revenue & Customs, public bodies and utilities, local businesses and, always, St John Ambulance when clubs go bust. The League pointed out that 40 clubs, over half its 72 members, have declared insolvency in recent years. This season Bournemouth, Rotherham and Luton fell into administration and after a sober period following ITV Digital's 2002 collapse, several other clubs' finances are far from pretty.
The League introduced its 10-point automatic penalty for clubs declaring insolvency partly to show that it disapproves and also as a "sporting sanction" so that clubs which cut their debts in this way cannot benefit at the expense of those paying every penny they owe. Many League chairmen who strive to keep their clubs solvent feel vehemently that administration is dishonourable. Several resent Leeds' spending this season on wages and new players - including Neil Kilkenny, signed from Birmingham City for a reported £150,000 - after slashing their debts last summer.
The League's moral compass in negotiating this landscape is skewed by its rule that in any insolvency "football creditors" must be paid in full - meaning, mostly, players' wages to the end of their contracts and transfer fees to other clubs. The League justifies this in terms of "sporting integrity", so that clubs cannot recklessly sign quality players whose wages they cannot realistically afford, then lay them off unpaid when "living the dream" unravels. The rule leads, however, to the deeply unappealing spectacle of multi-millionaire footballers being paid their outlandish salaries in full while "ordinary" creditors must settle for a fraction of what they are owed. In Leeds' administration Danny Mills, who played his final game for the club in May 2003, four years later was still owed £216,667 under his contract and was required to be fully paid. The West Yorkshire Ambulance Service, owed £8,997, was among the creditors whose debts were cut.
The League has survived legal challenges to this rule but understands how appalling it looks. This partly lies behind its insistence that if a club does declare insolvency, it must exit via a CVA agreed by at least 75% of creditors.
Leeds went into administration owing £35m and initially the administrator, Richard Fleming of KPMG, agreed to sell the club back to a consortium fronted by Bates for just 1p in every £1 owed to ordinary creditors. That offer eventually rose to 52.9p in the pound, but Leeds encountered an obstacle which all insolvent clubs can now expect: HMRC, owed almost £7m in unpaid tax and VAT, voted against it.
HMRC officials have for some years been outraged by the rule that footballers get paid in full while the PAYE tax on those salaries can be left unpaid. HMRC votes as a policy against any such football club CVA, so where tax and VAT form 25% or more of a club's debts achieving a CVA is likely to be impossible.
Those Leeds fans who want to believe that the League somehow had it in for them should realise that their club's insolvency is the first the League has faced where a CVA was not agreed. The judgment makes it clear the League wanted to retain Leeds as a member and to allow them to join League One, but was determined to preserve a meaningful insolvency policy.
Ultimately, the League board - whose members represent all three divisions - decided on 15 points. Leeds agreed, accepting in the signed agreement that a CVA, which they failed to achieve, is: "A reasonable ... requirement having regard to the public perception and credibility of the League, the creditworthiness of the member clubs and the integrity of the League's competition."
Leeds vowed not to appeal legally, then did so. Following the judgment the club stated it had only signed the agreement because otherwise it faced expulsion from the League. Last week, while Bates raged, the League was hugely pleased that its rules were upheld. The tribunal recommended that the League should introduce more specific provisions for when a CVA is not achieved, and agreed with Bates that it is "unsatisfactory" for a club to have to appeal to the other clubs, recommending there should be a right of appeal within seven days to an independent tribunal. The League's board is meeting tomorrow to begin to review those rules.
The real scandal of this whole affair is not that Leeds lost 15 points, but that our beloved professional football clubs still overspend, collapse and leave trails of creditors unpaid in the wreckage.

League sets 25-point penalty benchmark for insolvency
• David Conn
• The Guardian,

Football League clubs which fall into insolvency and then fail to exit via a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) can now expect to be deducted 25 points in total, following the upholding last week of a similar sanction imposed on Leeds United. Clubs are expected to encounter this problem increasingly because Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs, always a substantial creditor where football clubs go into administration, is routinely voting against CVAs.
The Football League requires clubs coming out of insolvency to agree a CVA, a settlement which requires acceptance by 75% of creditors. HMRC has long refused to agree to be paid only a proportion of the tax and VAT it is owed while under the League's "football creditors' rule" players' wages, and any money owed to other clubs, are being paid in full.
Leeds incurred the automatic 10-point penalty when the club went into administration last May, then accepted a further 15-point deduction in League One when they failed to achieve a CVA. Having promised in writing not to take legal action, Leeds then initiated proceedings in the high court, seeking to have the 15 points reinstated, and the action was referred to arbitration.
Last week a three-man arbitration panel upheld the 15-point penalty as "reasonable and proportionate" in the circumstances, because Leeds had been seeking to join League One without complying with the rule that they had to achieve a CVA after going into administration.
Lord Mawhinney, the Football League's chairman, said of the ruling that he was very satisfied that the League's authority and rules had been upheld, and that the insolvency policy would continue to apply to the League's clubs.
Mawhinney added that while the League did not want to be bound strictly by the precedent of 25 points having been deducted from Leeds, that sanction is now "an established fact".
Each case will be judged on its merits, but Leeds' 15-point deduction on top the automatic 10-point penalty sets the bar for clubs which go into insolvency and fail to agree a CVA.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Yorkshire Evening Post 3/5/08
Kandol seals United fightback
By Phil Hay
Leeds United 2 Gillingham 1
Yesterday's match at Elland Road was Leeds United's dead rubber but there is a difference between meaningless games and games without meaning.
Gary McAllister's selection policy let slip the significance he apportioned to Gillingham's visit to Elland Road, and the League One table dictated that Leeds had nothing to lose this weekend.But with the teams in the play-offs present and correct, United's manager has cause to believe that his players have gained from a victory over Gillingham which appeared, on the face of it, inconsequential.
But for Tresor Kandol's 89th-minute goal – the decisive moment at Elland Road yesterday – Leeds would have been paired in the semi-finals with Doncaster Rovers, unquestionably the most dangerous of opposition on offer to them.
Instead, and as a direct result of Kandol's effort, United will begin their path to Wembley against Carlisle United, a club who were soundly beaten at Elland Road last month and who, to most observers, a running on empty at the time when a full tank is essential.
Carlisle will not fall easily, and not for as long as their manager John Ward has anything to do with it, but if their present form continues then Kandol's goal – apparently irrelevant in terms of United's chance of promotion – may come to represent a key moment in their season. It ensured that while Ward frets over Carlisle's form, McAllister can have faith in a team who have caught the winning bug.
A game which was running towards defeat as a result of a critical mistake from Paul Huntington was salvaged initially by a goal from Bradley Johnson which the midfielder is unlikely to better, however many seasons he remains at Elland Road.
Johnson's ruthless volley from the edge of Gillingham's box, a perfect demonstration of poise and technique, was United's key to a victory from their final home match and a result which will prevent the club from entering League One's play-offs with a defeat immediately behind them.
However, United were lacklustre and struggled from the outset. Had it not been for Johnson's flash of brilliance, it is probable that they would have been beaten.
There is, however, no likelihood that or reason why McAllister will be asked to deal with a repeat display when the play-offs begin in eight days' time.
Beaten over the issue of their 15-point deduction on Thursday, the attention of Leeds – their players, their staff and their supporters – turned in unison towards the play-offs yesterday, the one stage where courtroom debate cannot exert its influence.
McAllister had promised to protect United's immediate interests, and the team he selected confirmed that at least one of his eyes were fixed on the imminent semi-finals.
Dougie Freedman was rested, as was Neil Kilkenny. The injury to Jermaine Beckford's ankle was considered too delicate for him to play. In all, McAllister's line-up displayed six alterations from that which shored up sixth position at Yeovil Town. The understandable reshuffle had its effect, denying Leeds the continuity built up over a period of weeks.
But five victories from six matches before the visit of Gillingham indicated that another win would by forthcoming yesterday, and it was an afternoon that was bound to serve McAllister well.
Increased by the club's decision to open the upper tier of Elland Road's East Stand, the attendance rose beyond 38,000, producing the biggest Football League crowd of the term and the highest attendance in England's third tier for the best part of 30 years.
The crowd was indicative of a club that has masterminded its own revival over the past 12 months, and it did not take a long memory to recall the utter dejection and the fractious atmosphere that hung over United's final home game of last season. Ken Bates had quietly hoped to see Gillingham relegated, an attitude driven by the support of Gills' chairman, Paul Scally, for the Football League's decision to deduct 15 points from Leeds last summer. United's owner got his wish and a minor moment of gratification at the end of a frustrating week.
McAllister was more intent on his team avoiding a performance which reflected his squad's feeling of security, but a side riddled by changes was never likely to settle immediately. It was only a partial surprise that Leeds were asked to recover from the goal down after 20 minutes.
Simeon Jackson, who saw an early shot deflected over the crossbar by Huntington's tackle despite appearing to have run the ball out of play, profited heavily when a misjudgement by the centre-back handed him possession in front of an unguarded goal.
Huntington attempted to dribble possession out of his own box with Jackson sniffing at his heels, but the striker stole the ball with a well-timed tackle. Casper Ankergren was unable to cover his goal, and Jackson's sharp finish whistled into the net, beyond the hopeless dive of Huntington who had moved to defend the line.
His mistake was symptomatic of a first half in which McAllister's players were uncharacteristically lax in possession. It took a block from Lubomir Michalik to prevent a shot from Simon Lewis troubling Casper Ankergren, who did not appear to have a clear sight of the ball, and Ankergren did his best to present Gillingham with another ludicrous goal in the 32nd minute.
The goalkeeper ran towards the corner flag to the right of his goal with the intention of claiming the ball but became involved in a risky tussle with Jackson. The forward made a play for the possession again, but Ankergren averted the crisis by stabbing it into the crowd, some 30 yards from his goal.
The match had reached the 37th minute before United produced an effort in anger at the other end – a header from Kandol which cleared the bar comfortably – and Anthony Elding's headed finish in the 42nd minute came no closer to an equaliser.
Far from Gillingham winning the half, Leeds had surrendered it.United's performance showed a noticeable increase in tempo after the break, though, and a close-range shot from Peter Sweeney was deflected clear by a brilliant sliding tackle from Mark Bentley two yards inside his own box.
Jonathan Douglas went closer with a curling shot over the bar and the visitors' resistance was broken by a brilliant finish from Johnson in the 69th minute.
The midfielder – playing a left-back – ran onto a cross from Sebastien Carole and applied a searing left-footed volley to the ball which screamed into Derek Stillie's net.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Yorkshire Evening Post 2/5/08
Deficit stands but Bates makes his point
By Phil Hay
The claim by Ken Bates that defeat in his battle with the Football League was not the same as foregoing the war is clearly a matter of opinion, but it was not altogether the cry of a sore loser.
To all intents and purposes Bates was beaten yesterday, out-flanked on the issue of most immediate significance to him and his club's supporters. Vague the Football League's reasoning for a 15-point penalty may have been, and warped its appeal process most certainly was, but the success of Leeds United's case was bound to be judged on the recovery of some or all of their deducted points.
Defeat is not a sensation that will sit well with Bates, a man who backs himself to fight his way out of any corner, but the conclusive ruling published by the arbitration panel yesterday served to enhance the importance of a problem thrown up and highlighted by United's suffering. As a direct result of the hit taken by Leeds in August and the legal case which has followed, other English clubs may have cause in future to thank Elland Road's chairman.
Insolvency was, until the turn of this century, a foreign language to football supporters, and a matter over which few had any interest. When Bates presented a Company Voluntary Arrangement to United's creditors while Leeds were in administration last summer, the majority were required to ask exactly what a CVA was.
The arrangement, which outlined a deal to pay off the debts owed to United's unsecured creditors at a reduced rate, was voted through by a fine margin – 0.2 per cent over the figure required by Bates – but many commentators assumed that the acceptance of his terms was a formality, the final and natural step back into solvency. In the end it was anything but, and it is clear today that the approval of a CVA put forward by any professional club is as far from a formality as it could possibly be.
It was highly appropriate that, on the day the three-man arbitration panel sided with the Football League, Rotherham United announced that their own administration was likely to end without any such CVA.
Leeds United are out of the Football League's hair but a crisis of insolvency is sticking to the organisation like glue. It is inevitable that United's case will bring about necessary – and perhaps fundamental – changes to its rules on administration.
The ruling of the arbitration panel did not specifically blame Leeds for the failure of their CVA, the catalyst for both the sale of the club directly to Bates by KPMG in July and the 15-point deduction which followed in August.
It stated instead that the Football League acted within its own rules and guidelines by imposing a penalty for what it believed was a breach of its rules (an accusation which Leeds have always contested). Whether or not United were actually guilty appears to have been left to the judgement of the League's board.
Before even considering the validity of the penalty handed to Leeds, the panel dismissed the club’s claim on the grounds that they had delayed arbitration for an “unreasonable” and “inexcusable” length of time and had already signed a legal and binding document preventing them from appealing against the 15-point deduction for a second time. For those reasons, it was ultimately a case that Leeds had no chance of winning.
A victory for Bates was secured by persuading the panel that it was inappropriate for Football League clubs to decide an appeal made by one of their rivals, a system which is clearly open to abuse and prejudice, and if nothing else yesterday’s ruling will instigate a new appeals process which relies on independent consideration rather than the opinion of potential competitors.
But it is on the matter of the CVA, and the stance of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) towards Football League regulations, that the impact of United’s case should be most profound.
Leaving administration without a CVA was not standard practice last summer, but Leeds have been trendsetters in that field. Rotherham appear resigned to reclaiming solvency without the necessary arrangement and have already admitted that they anticipate a points deduction, possibly in line with United’s 15-point penalty.
Bournemouth and Luton Town have also been in grave peril, prevented from agreeing CVAs in part by the fact that HMRC will not support them. On the contrary, HMRC will contest every one.
The Revenue is often the largest creditor of financially-stricken Football League clubs. United’s arrears alone were in excess of £7m last May. But as a result of Football League rules, which require football creditors to be paid in full by any insolvent club, the Revenue – itself by law an unsecured creditor – is no longer prepared to agree to any CVA which sees players, managers and clubs paid every penny they are owed while the taxman goes short.
The League’s reasoning for insisting on the payment of football debts is sound in principle. It argues with justification that its competition would lack integrity and credibility if member clubs failed to meet their financial obligations to those involved in it. But with HMRC adopting such an aggressive stance, that insistence is also potentially flawed.
Leeds predicted last summer that the absence of a CVA in their case would be the first of many.
That prediction has proved accurate, and probably more quickly than Bates expected.
The frustration for United’s chairman is that his CVA was approved initially then scrapped because of the timescale involved in the legal challenge made against the agreement by HMRC.
Argued
Whether the Revenue would have seen its case proven is a moot point, but Bates has always argued that the grounds of the challenge were “spurious”.
United’s chairman will not delight in aiding the clubs who voted against his original appeal against the Football League’s 15-point penalty but inadvertently he has.
The tribunal’s ruling read: “These proceedings have brought to light the necessity for a review of the insolvency policy. We were told that there are 40 or more current or anticipated insolvencies. In many cases it will prove impossible to exit administration via a CVA. The League in the course of the hearing appeared to recognise the need to amend the policy to make specific provisions where there is no CVA. It is to be hoped that this can be achieved during the coming close season.”
One option for the Football League is to agree a 15-point penalty as a mandatory sanction for any club that exists administration without a CVA.
Given that rule changes require the agreement of its members, that law seems improbable. More likely is that the insolvency rules will be relaxed in a way which is more sympathetic to a climate in which many clubs are breathing with difficulty. Above all, the conflict of interest between the Football League and HMRC is one that can no longer be ignored.
United called a halt to their struggle yesterday, declaring in a statement that “the matter is closed”. It will now require a successful play-off campaign to give Leeds the promotion their players and supporters deserve, and to ensure that a case which may be to the long-term benefit of English clubs is not to United’s immediate cost.


Telegraph 2/5/08
Ken Bates hits out after Leeds' appeal fails
By Jeremy Cross
Leeds United chairman Ken Bates demanded the resignation of Football League chief Brian Mawhinney after the club lost their appeal against a 15-point penalty imposed at the start of the season for breaking competition rules governing insolvency.
The legal saga, which carried huge ramifications for those clubs above Leeds, in particular Swansea City and Doncaster Rovers, has dragged on for seven months but Leeds were eventually put out of their misery yesterday when the independent arbitration panel upheld the points penalty. The ruling ends Leeds' hopes of automatic promotion.
The panel rejected Leeds' claims that the League had acted outside its jurisdiction by docking the points at the start of this season. Bates said he accepted the verdict but was still angry.
"I think in the circumstances and in view of the criticism of the bad flaws in the Football League's procedures, the directors of the Football League board should consider their position and Lord Mawhinney should resign," he said.
Had Leeds had their points restored, the consequences in League One would have been far-reaching, with Leeds climbing to second place above Doncaster and even having a chance of overtaking league leaders Swansea.
Instead, Leeds will remain in sixth place, guaranteed of a place in the play-offs, while Swansea have been confirmed as this season's League One champions.
Leeds were deducted 15 points for failing to exit administration via a Company Voluntary Arrangement.

Yorkshire Evening Post 2/5/08
Leeds United 15 points decision: READ DECISION IN FULL

The panel was convened under the rules of the Football Association regarding the 15-point deduction applied by The Football League to Leeds United earlier this season.
IN THE MATTER OF AN FA RULE K ARBITRATION BETWEEN:

(1) LEEDS UNITED 2007 LIMITED

(2) THE ROTHERHAM UNITED FOOTBALL CLUB LIMITED

(acting by its administrator) Claimants -And – THE FOOTBALL LEAGUE LIMITED Respondents THE AWARD INTRODUCTION

1. This is an Arbitration pursuant to Regulation K of The Rules of The Football Association Ltd.

2. The Parties are:

Leeds United 2007 Limited – ‘Claimant’ The Football League Limited – ‘Respondents’. The Rotherham United Football Club Limited is seeking to join in the Arbitration as a Claimant.

3. The Claimant seeks a Declaration that the imposition of 15 points deduction for the 2007-8 season in League One (L1) was unlawful, void and of no effect.

BACKGROUND

4. On 4 May 2007, the day before the last weekend of the League football season 2006/7, Leeds United (the Club) went into administration and KPMG LLP were appointed Administrators. On the same day KPMG hived down the assets of the Club to Leeds 2007 and agreed to sell the entire issued share capital of Leeds 2007 (‘Leeds OldCo’) to a new company, Leeds United Football Club Limited (‘Leeds NewCo’).

5. When a Club goes into administration the Football League’s Articles, Regulations and Insolvency Policy are engaged. The Insolvency Policy enables the Football League to establish a degree of control over the situation. The Policy’s primary purpose is to protect the integrity of its competition and the image of the League by pursuing three basic objectives:

(1) Survival of the club in membership of the League, where possible;

(2) Satisfaction of the Football Creditors, by preventing the Club defaulting on their contractual obligations to their players even in insolvency;

(3) Protecting the interests of other creditors, giving them the opportunity to determine their own financial settlement, by requiring the approval of creditors to a formal CVA or Scheme of Arrangement, save in the most exceptional circumstances.

Thus the protection of unsecured creditors by the requirement of a CVA is very important to the public perception and credibility of the League.

6. The Administrators proposed a Company Voluntary Agreement (‘CVA’). At the Creditors meeting held on 1 June 2007 Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) an unsecured creditor and the League (the Respondent) voted against the CVA. However, the meeting approved the CVA by the required majority.

7. On 3 July 2007 (the last day for the commencement of such proceedings) HMRC commenced proceedings in the Leeds District Registry of the High Court of Justice challenging the approval of the CVA. The challenge was based on the decision of the Chairman of the creditor’s meeting as to the voting rights of three creditors, Astor Investment Holdings Ltd, Mark Taylor and Co. and Yorkshire Radio Ltd (‘the Claims’).

8. Directions were given for the determination of the proceedings. The substantive hearing was fixed for hearing on 3 September 2007 for five days. The Administrators decided to bring the CVA to an end on 6 July 2007 notwithstanding the approval of the creditors for the following reasons:

“[The listing of the trial] was three weeks after the 2007/2008 football season commences and our expectation was that the judgment might not be handed down until late September / early October 2007 and could be subject to appeal. The challenge by HMRC meant the Club could not complete the existing CVA given the constraints of time and funding. In essence, the Administrators were not confident that sufficient funding could be generated from the sale of players to trade the Club through to a conclusion of the Court process. Therefore the Administrators concluded that embarking on such a process which would put realisations available for creditors at risk, was not appropriate.”

9. The Administrators also indicated that it would not be appropriate to propose another CVA – for reasons which are not relevant to these proceedings. On the same day (Friday) the Administrators re-offered the business of Leeds OldCo for sale on an unconditional basis with a deadline for offers and proof of funding by 5p.m. on 9 July 2007 (Monday). The reasons given for the short timescale included that a substantial offer for the business from one potential purchaser (the ‘Bates Consortium’ led by Mr Ken Bates) was due to expire by 5p.m. on 9 July 2007, and that the majority of the Leeds players had not been paid since June 2007.

10. The Administrators received a number of enquiries from potential purchasers. Four offers were received. The respective potential dividend that each offer would make available to the creditors were: Leeds United Football Club Ltd (the Claimants, i.e. the ‘Bates Consortium’) increased that offer to 52.9p (in the £); Offer ‘B’ 26.7p; Offer ‘C’ 32.3p; Offer D 15.0p.

11. KPMG in a letter stated:

“in the absence of any certainty as to whether the League would agree to the transfer of the football share without a CVA, the Administrators accepted the offer for the sale on an unconditional basis to [Leeds NewCo] of the issued share capital of [Leeds OldCo]. (Emphasis added)

12. Thus, on 11 July 2007 the contract entered into on 4 May 2007 was varied to provide for the sale to Leeds NewCo of the issued capital of Leeds OldCo on an unconditional basis.

13. The Football League was faced with a novel situation: how to protect the interests of the unsecured creditors in the absence of a CVA? The completion of a CVA is not an absolute requirement of the Football League. The Board retained the discretion to waive the requirement in exceptional circumstances and to fashion a situation to preserve the integrity of the competition, to protect Football Creditors, without letting down unsecured creditors. In doing so it had to be astute not to set a precedent that put the principle underlying the Insolvency Policy at risk.

14. Normally Regulation 11 requires that a new Member (i.e. Leeds NewCo) should start the following season in a lower League (here L2). Leeds NewCo wanted to avoid this ‘relegation’ and to ensure Leeds stayed in L1 it was prepared to pay a price to achieve this. The Football League was receptive to the idea and indicated that it might be prepared to exercise its discretion to permit this to happen.

15. On 27 July 2007, at an extraordinary meeting of the Board of the Football League it was decided that:

(i) Efforts should continue to achieve a CVA or equivalent to satisfy the requirements of the Football League’s Insolvency Policy; BUT

(ii) If notwithstanding those efforts, the Board should conclude that a CVA was not a feasible option, the Board would exercise its discretion to agree to a transfer of the ‘League Share’ to Leeds NewCo, so that Leeds NewCo could start the 2007-8 season in League 1, on various terms and conditions to be accepted by Leeds NewCo, including the Condition that Leeds NewCo would be deducted 15 points from the commencement of the next season.

16. On 31 July 2007 a meeting was held between representatives of the League, Leeds NewCo (Mr Shaun Harvey, Chief Executive and Mr Mark Taylor) and the Administrators of Leeds OldCo to explain the Board’s decision, including the proposed 15 point deduction. Mr Mark Taylor, a Director of the Claimant, enquired whether Leeds NewCo could make written representations to the Football League about the level of points deduction and this was agreed to.

17. Mr Nicholas Craig, the League’s in-house Solicitor, later spoke to Mr Shaun Harvey and specifically mentioned that in the absence of a CVA or other method of demonstrating the agreement of secured creditors, the League would be imposing a deduction of 15 points as a condition of the transfer of the League Share to NewCo.

18. Mr Ken Bates telephoned Lord Mawhinney expressing his surprise and concern about the idea of points deduction ‘in blunt and direct terms’. Lord Mawhinney’s response was that the waiver of the CVA requirement was exceptional and ‘therefore might come with strings attached’.

19. On 2 August 2007 the Administrators informed the Club that there was no prospect of the CVA proceeding and that they intended to abort the CVA and resign their positions. Mr Taylor wrote to the Football League but did not mention the points deduction nor make any representations as to why it should be varied or waived. Mr Bates rang Lord Mawhinney. We accept Lord Mawhinney’s account that Mr Bates asked that if the 15 point deduction was imposed he could appeal against it. Lord Mawhinney suggested that he would be prepared to recommend that to the Board but the appeal should be to the member clubs because it was the member clubs that the Board was supposed to be representing. Mr Bates agreed to this suggestion and Lord Mawhinney agreed to put his proposal to the Board which he did on the following day.

20. On 3 August 2007 a Board meeting was held when the 15 point deduction was confirmed and an appeal to the League was agreed to. Later that day Mr Taylor wrote to the Football League objecting to the points deduction on the basis that it was outside the powers of the Board or was an improper exercise of its discretion. However Mr Bates by telephone informed the Football League that this letter had been sent without his authority and that it should be withdrawn. Mr Taylor wrote a second letter acknowledging the receipt of the proposed Agreement (which included Clause 4) asking that his earlier letter should be disregarded and confirming that:

“the conditions set out in your letter are acceptable to [the Claimants] save that the Company will appeal against the 15 point deduction ... with a view to the penalty being either withdrawn or reduced.”

He told us that he wrote the second letter because it did not accurately reflect what had been agreed.

21. Later that day Mr Taylor signed the Agreement on behalf of the Claimants. What did he put his signature to?

THE COMPROMISE AGREEMENT

22. This was a carefully drafted and formal legal document (a copy is attached). The Recitals set the scene and describe the scope of the Agreement. Recitals ‘E’ and ‘F’ refer to the Board’s discretion. Recital ‘G’ records that the Board had agreed to facilitate a transfer under ‘Option Three’ (as distinct from ‘Option Two’, a L2 start under Regulation II),’ subject to the terms of this agreement, including the conditions (emphasis added).

23. Under the heading ‘Acknowledgement and Agreement’ Clauses 1.1.1 and 1.1.2 Leeds NewCo recognised that the requirement of a CVA was “a reasonable and proportionate requirement of the Insolvency Policy having regard to the public perception of the League, the credit worthiness if the member clubs, the credibility of the League and the integrity of the League’s competition and that no approval of the unsecured creditors had been secured.” In Clauses 1.1.3, 1.1.4 and 1.1.5 Leeds NewCo expressly confirmed the Board’s absolute discretion under Articles 4 and 6 to refuse or accept the transfer to Leeds NewCo.

24. Clause 1 concludes with Leeds NewCo acknowledging and agreeing the crucial Condition which is central to this Arbitration:

“The Board has determined that the appropriate sanction should be the imposition of a penalty points deduction of fifteen championship points in Season 2007/8 subject to an appeal to the member clubs of the League as outlined in Clause 3 below”.

25. Clause 4 is headed “Waiver of Claims” and provides as follows:

“4.1 Leeds hereby release the League, any of its directors, officers, employees and any member club of the League (past, present or future) (the “Released Parties”) from all claims, whether known or unknown to Leeds, which Leeds has or may have against the Released Parties arising out of or connected, whether directly or indirectly with the service of the Notice, the conduct of the League with regards to OldCo, the Conditions and the imposition of the sanction or, if passed, the Appeal Sanction (the “Claims”). 4.2 Except for the obligations created by this Agreement Leeds hereby covenants that it shall not, and will procure that its directors, associated companies ..., shareholders, officers or other employees shall not commence, or threaten to commence, any proceedings in any jurisdiction before any court, arbitration panel or other similar judicial body against the Released Parties (including by way of third party claims in any other action) arising out of or connected, whether directly or indirectly with any of the Claims.”

26. Mr David Philips QC on behalf of the Claimants submitted that the Clause should be construed strictly against the League. Furthermore the Clause is invalid as its effect is to oust the jurisdiction of the Courts and therefore contrary to public policy.

27. The Tribunal is unable to understand or accede to the Claimants argument that the condition should be strictly construed against the League. No alternative more benign construction has been suggested. This was a commercial bargain, at arms length between a powerful and rich Consortium of businessmen and a responsible professional Sports Governing Body. No authority has been cited to support the proposition that special rules of interpretation apply to general release or waiver clauses.

28. The Tribunal is not persuaded that the Clause is an ouster clause. As already stated this was a commercial agreement; it contained legitimate release and waiver provisions. The Football League consists of its Member Clubs and is the Governing Body. The agreement was between an Applicant and the League in respect of a dispute between them. The compromise was reached in order to resolve the parties’ differences without resorting to the Courts. Such a negotiated settlement does not oust the jurisdiction of the Courts. Either party can seek to enforce the other party’s obligations before the Courts or by Arbitration. In short, the agreement is not a procedural bar. Contrary to the Claimants contention public policy is firmly in favour of enforcing compromises and releases in the interests of avoiding or minimising litigation.

29. Leading Counsel also contended that the resort to arbitration is simply ‘to enforce the obligations created by the Agreement’. These words merely mean that Leeds can enforce the Compromise Agreement should the League default (which it has not). They do not mean that Leeds can impugn the Agreement or its Conditions. Moreover the parties expressly provide in Clause 3.1 that:

“The Club shall have a right to appeal against the *15 point Condition] in accordance with the terms of this Clause 3, but not otherwise. (Emphasis added) We reject this contention.

30. In reaching our conclusion on the meaning and effect of this Agreement and in particular Clause 4 we have taken account of the circumstances in which the Compromise Agreement came into existence. Leeds OldCo went into administration. In accordance with its undisputed powers the League issued a Compulsory Transfer Notice in respect of the League Share (which entitles it to membership of the League) in the name of Leeds OldCo requiring it to transfer the League Share at par value to the Secretary of the League. Leeds NewCo wished to succeed Leeds OldCo as owner of Leeds United FC, by becoming a Member Club and securing a transfer of the League share to enable them to do so. By Regulation 11, a new Member Club is required to leave League 1 (L1) and start the following season in League 2 (L2). Leeds NewCo wished the League to exercise its discretion so that it could succeed as new owners with the Club playing in L1 from the start of the 2007-8 season.

31. The Board was receptive to the idea. Article 4 and the Insolvency Policy allowed the Board to agree to withdraw the CTN and to register a transfer free of the CTN in circumstances, including on such terms as the Board “in its absolute discretion determines.”

32. As already described Leeds NewCo (and in particular Mr Bates and Mr Mark Taylor) were well aware that in order to secure this indulgence the Board was stipulating that in order to remain in L1 the Club would have to start the new season with a 15 point deficit. This had been agreed by Mr Bates on behalf of the consortium, as the price which had to be paid for the indulgence and they were prepared to pay it – subject only to an Appeal to the League.

33. We are satisfied that Mr Taylor, in his capacity of Director of Leeds NewCo and their solicitor, was fully aware of the content and effect of what he was signing. Earlier that day he had received a letter from Mr Craig in which he had stated there was to be ‘a legally binding agreement’ in which the Claimants would undertake to observe and perform each of the conditions set out, and “waive any and all claims against the League regarding the sanction of matters arising out of the administration generally.” Mr Craig told us that it was not standard practice for him to include release and waiver clauses in agreements between the League and insolvent Member Clubs. He consulted the League Solicitors, and included Clauses 4.1 and 4.2 because the Board had made it clear in its 27 July meeting that the terms of the agreement with Leeds NewCo had to “obviate anyone taking legal action once the process had been completed,” and the Board re-affirmed at its 3 August meeting that they required “an assurance by the club that it would accept the decision of the meeting as final.” As he put it:
“it was a crucial part of the deal that Leeds NewCo accept the points deduction and not seek to challenge it or have it overturned other than by means of the appeal to its fellow Member Clubs, as permitted by Clause 3.”

34. We conclude that it is inherently improbable that Mr Taylor, as a solicitor of longstanding experience, would have put his signature to the document if he had intended to reserve the position that it is now adopted by the Claimants that the points deduction was outside the powers of the Board or was an improper exercise of its discretion. A simple ‘save as to the legality of the Condition’ phrase could have been proposed. We are satisfied that if he had attempted to do so, it would undoubtedly have been rejected by the Board, the deal would have been aborted and, in all probability the Club would have gone into liquidation, or at best, been relegated to League 2.

35. Finally, returning to Clause 4 the operative parts for our consideration are:

“4.1 Leeds hereby release the League ... from all claims, whether known or unknown to Leeds, which Leeds has or may have against [the League] arising out of or connected, whether directly or indirectly with ... the conduct of the League with regards to OldCo, the Conditions and the imposition of the sanction or, if passed, the Appeal Sanction (the “Claims”). (Emphasis added) 4.2 Except for the obligations created by this Agreement Leeds hereby covenants that it shall not ... commence, or threaten to commence any proceedings in any jurisdiction before any court, arbitration body ... against [the League] ... arising out of or connected, whether directly or indirectly with any of the Claims”. (Emphasis added) The effect of this Clause is that Leeds NewCo agreed to release the League from the claims now advanced and waived any right to do so. They also covenanted not to bring the claims it now seeks to bring.

CONCLUSION

36. We are satisfied that the Claimants case begins and ends with the Compromise Agreement which clearly embodied the intention of both parties. Taking the Agreement as a whole and in particular Clause 4 Leeds NewCo agreed to the imposition of the 15 points and to release the League from the claims which have now been advanced and to waive any rights to do so. Leeds NewCo specifically covenanted not to bring the claims it has now sought to assert and there is no basis to allow it not to honour that covenant.

The Tribunal dismisses the Claim on this ground alone.

DELAY AND THE EFFECT ON OTHER CLUBS

A. Delay between 9 August and 12 February 2008

37. Even if the Claimants could avoid the effect of the release and waiver they still faced a formidable obstacle. On 9 August 2007, the League’s member clubs by the requisite majority dismissed NewCo’s Appeal and confirmed the Board’s decision to transfer of the League membership to the First Claimant with the Condition.

38. The First Claimant first tried to get The Football Association (FA) to hold an inquiry into the validity of the League’s decision to impose the Condition. The Football Association declined to hold an inquiry based (among other things) on its clear view that the imposition of the Condition as a condition of consent to transfer of membership to the First Claimant was within the League’s powers and was a proportionate exercise of those powers. Correspondence covered the period 30 August and 5 December 2007. Even so, Leeds NewCo filed a Football Association Rule K arbitration proceedings purporting to challenge the legality of The FA’s decision not to hold such an inquiry.

39. Subsequently, on 4 February 2008, the League received from Mark Taylor, the solicitor acting for the First Claimant, what purported to be a letter before action in the High Court on behalf of the First Claimant in relation to the Condition. That letter did not meet the requirements of the CPR and the Football League directors rejected the letter on that ground.

B. Delay in the High Court Proceedings

40. On 12 February 2008, proceedings were issued in the High Court on behalf of the First Claimant and Barnsley Football Club 2002 Limited against the League. The Claim Form and Particulars of Claim were deemed served on Bird & Bird (FL’s solicitors) on 13 February 2008. The covering letter accompanying these documents asked the League to consent to an application for an expedited hearing.

41. On 20 February 2008, Bird & Bird wrote to Mark Taylor & Co., pointing out that the parties were subject to a valid pre-existing agreement to submit any disputes between them to arbitration and therefore asking them to agree to a stay of the proceedings in favour of a FA Rule K arbitration. No reply was received to that letter by the stated deadline and therefore Bird & Bird sent a chaser letter on the evening of 25 February 2008.

42. In response, NewCo’s solicitor accepted that the dispute was covered by FA Rule K, and, despite some delay, signed a Consent Order on behalf of the First Claimant, providing for the mandatory stay of the proceedings in favour of a FA Rule K arbitration. Mark Taylor agreed to conduct the arbitration on an expedited basis, because of the potential impact on 2007/08 final League standings. The full hearing on the merits was therefore provisionally scheduled for 16-18 April 2008.

43. However, no such agreement was forthcoming on behalf of Barnsley. Instead, it became apparent that Mark Taylor did not have authority to act on behalf of Barnsley. On 25 February 2008, the League received a letter by fax from Brabners Chaffe Street LLP, acting “on behalf of Barnsley Football Club Limited”. The letter states:

“... We understand that our client has telephoned your Lord Mawhinney to inform you that our client did not agree to lend its name to the above proceedings and that it had not approved the Particulars of Claim before they were filed at Court (or indeed since). We are investigating the position on behalf of our client but wish to set the record straight at this earliest opportunity ...”

44. On 25 February 2008, Bird & Bird sent a letter by fax asking Mark Taylor for his urgent comments on the suggestion in Brabners’ letter that the proceedings had been brought without Barnsley’s authority. No such comments were received. Over the following days, Bird & Bird sought (without success) clarification on the position of Barnsley from Mark Taylor.

45. On 7 March Bird & Bird called Mark Taylor to clarify, as a matter of urgency, whether or not he was authorised to act for Barnsley in relation to the proceedings.

46. On 11 March Bird & Bird received an email sent on behalf of Mark Taylor attaching a copy of the Notice of Discontinuance signed on behalf of Barnsley. On the same day Bird & Bird filed at Court the signed Consent Order and a copy of the Notice of Discontinuance.

47. Thus there was a delay of about 5 weeks primarily due to the misconceived High Court proceedings commenced by NewCo’s solicitors and their conduct of them.

C. Delay in the Arbitration Proceedings

48. On 4 March 2008, Bird & Bird sent Mark Taylor a letter by fax confirming that the League agreed to the First Claimant’s request that Arbitration be conducted in an expedited manner and set out some practical measures for achieving this. They included that (i) the First Claimant serve a Notice of Arbitration, as required pursuant to FA Rule K2(a)(i), in order to commence the Arbitration proceedings; and (ii) Leeds serve a Points of Claim in order to assist the tribunal to define and identify the true issues for the tribunal. The letter invited Mark Taylor to serve the Points of Claim by 10 March 2008.

49. On 7 March 2008, Bird & Bird received a letter from Mark Taylor sent by fax, in which he agreed to serve a Notice of Arbitration but stated that the Points of Claim would consist of the Particulars of Claim issued in the High Court.

50. On Saturday 8 March, Jonathan Taylor of Bird & Bird sent a letter by email to Mark Taylor requesting (among other things) that the Notice of Arbitration be served during the morning of 10 March 2008 at the latest and that a hearing of the tribunal be convened at short notice for the purpose of making directions on 11, 12 or 13 March 2008.

51. On 9 March 2008, Jonathan Taylor received an email from Mark Taylor confirming that the Notice of Arbitration would be served on 10 March 2008. In fact, the Notice of Arbitration was not served until 19 March 2008. Thereafter there may have been some dilatoriness on behalf of the Claimant but we do not regard it as critical or significant.

52. Leeds NewCo has neither tendered a credible explanation nor convincing excuse for their delay.

CONCLUSION

53. It is inescapable that if the appropriate Arbitration proceedings had been commenced in August or September or even October 2007 they would have been capable of resolution before the end of 2007. Given the date when these proceedings were started (19 March) and the first day of the Hearing before this Tribunal (16 April) it is obvious that our decision could have been given comfortably before the end of 2007.

54. With this history of events we are satisfied that there has been unreasonable and inexcusable delay on the part of Leeds NewCo. It is plain that Leeds NewCo was in the same position in August as it was in March when it finally got around to commencing these Arbitral Proceedings. It was imperative that the appropriate action was taken expeditiously. When the High Court proceedings were commenced they were in breach of the Arbitration Clause in the Regulations. Even before the arbitration proceedings were finally commenced, the Claimants were dilatory in initiating them.

55. There was no reason, if Leeds NewCo were genuinely concerned and disgruntled with the outcome of the League Members decision on 9 July, why they should not or could not commence Regulation K arbitration proceedings soon thereafter. This step could have been taken simultaneously with the Regulation K proceedings against the Football Association. They then held back and commenced the misconceived and abortive High Court proceedings. By delaying seven months before commencing these proceedings (August – March) they were in danger of prejudicing the other Clubs in League 1 who were also fighting for promotion.

56. The resolution of this present challenge has been left to the eleventh hour. If the points were now to be restored a number of clubs eligible for automatic promotion and the play off positions might have been affected. As at 5 April 2008 there were two clubs entitled to automatic promotion and four other clubs entitled to a place in the play-off for the third promotion spot, with Leeds in sixth position. On 1 May the position is still the same.

57. If the 15 points were now to be restored it would place Leeds comfortably in second position (88 points) and with assured promotion. This would prejudice the second placed Club (currently Doncaster) by depriving it of its automatic promotion place, forcing it to compete for promotion through the play off process. This situation is worthy of our particular and sympathetic consideration. Thus the delayed restoration of points would, inevitably, and fundamentally alter the rights that would otherwise accrue to another club.

58. We have no doubt that if this dispute had been promptly and properly brought, then the other clubs vying for promotion might have addressed their season in a different way.

Until 19 March they will have proceeded on the legitimate assumption that there was to be no challenge and that the 15 points would not be restored. This late challenge brought uncertainty to the League near the end of the season at a time when other clubs had an understandable hope and expectation that they would enjoy automatic promotion, or the opportunity to compete for promotion through the play-off. In Stevenage Borough Football Club v The Football League Ltd CH [1996] 5 No 3043 Carnwath J was dealing with a similar case of delay and dismissed the proceedings. We see no reason to depart from his approach and apply it to the instant case.

59. We also dismiss the Claimant’s Claim on the ground of Leeds NewCo’s unreasonable and inexcusable delay in bringing the claim to this Arbitration.

THE CLAIMANT’S ALTERNATIVE CASE

60. As the Tribunal has already decided to dismiss the Claim on the two grounds specified above it is not necessary to undertake a detailed analysis of the alternative Case. We merely record in summary form what our conclusions would have been.

61. Mr David Phillips QC submitted that Clause 4 of the Compromise Agreement was entered into under a mutual mistake of law common to both parties and is consequently ‘void ab initio’. The parties were mistaken as to the League’s power to impose the 15 point Condition. It was a penalty which the League had no power to impose.

62. We are satisfied that by virtue of Article 41, Article 4 and Article 6 the Board had all the requisite authority to exercise its powers and discretion to impose a Condition of a 15 point deduction. Moreover, the Insolvency Policy (in particular G5), properly construed, did not prevent the Board imposing the Condition. The assertion that the Board lacked the power to impose the Condition is unsustainable.

63. Mr Phillips also contended that the Board and the League in reaching their decisions acted unfairly and unreasonably. We have no hesitation in rejecting this argument. The Board came to the conclusion that the point’s deduction should be made a Condition of consent to the Cancellation of Withdrawal and Transfer as the most reasonable and proportionate way of protecting the legitimate needs underlying the Insolvency Policy. In doing so it rejected the other options open to the Board which included

(i) Simply expelling Leeds OldCo, so that Leeds United FC ceased to exist;

(ii) Allowing Leeds NewCo to join the Football League in L2, pursuant to regulation 11.

64. Given the absolute discretion afforded to the Board in this respect by the Memorandum, Articles of Association and the Insolvency Policy and having regard to the margin of appreciation afforded to a sport’s governing body, the Claimant would have failed to establish that the Board’s decision (or the League’s) to include the points Condition was a decision that no rational decision maker in their position could make. As to the amount of points deducted it carefully carried out a balancing exercise between 0 to 20 and arrived at a decision that, in all the circumstances of this particular case (which we do not need to recite) was well within the range of decision reasonably open to it to make.

ROTHERHAM

65. The position of Rotherham can be dealt with summarily. This Club was also insolvent and went into Administration on 18 March 2008. It is likely that it will not be able to exit administration via a CVA and the Administrators will be obliged to sell the Club. The Club fears that if the League’s decision to deduct 15 points from Leeds is a precedent, then the same condition will be applied to them. They therefore wish to support the Claimant’s case and seek similar declaratory relief.

66. Mr Stephen Davies QC on behalf of the League submitted that Rotherham has no status (locus) in these proceedings. There is no dispute between Rotherham and the League. Rotherham cannot attempt to support Leeds in its challenge to the Compromise Agreement in an attempt to get round the fact Leeds NewCo has compromised its Claim.

67. The tribunal considered that the answer is to be found in Rule K which provides that the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Tribunal is confined to:

“any dispute or difference between any two or more participants ... shall be referred to arbitration and finally resolved by arbitration under these Rules.”
The only dispute is between Leeds NewCo and the League. There is no dispute between Rotherham and the League. The fear that they may be deducted 15 (or indeed, any) 16
points is not sufficient to amount to a ‘dispute’. The League has not yet reached a determination of its case in the light of all the relevant circumstances.

68. Thus Rotherham have no right to declaratory relief in respect of the claim to such relief by Leeds, nor in respect of a decision which has not yet been, and might not even be, taken against Rotherham itself.

69. Accordingly the Tribunal has declined jurisdiction and dismissed Rotherham’s purported claim.

THE AWARD The Award of the Tribunal is that the Claims of both Claimants are dismissed. Sir Philip Otton Chairman .................................... Peter Leaver QC Arbitrator ................................... Peter Cadman Arbitrator ...................................

POSTSCRIPT

1. During the four days of the Hearing we heard other evidence, arguments, submissions from both parties and certain ideas and suggestions were exchanged between Counsel and the Tribunal. In view of the two principle decisions in the Award it is not necessary to take such matters further.

2. However these proceedings have brought to light the necessity for a review of the Insolvency Policy. We were told that there are 40 or more current or anticipated insolvencies. In many cases (e.g. Rotherham, Luton Town and Bournemouth?) it will prove impossible to exit Administration via a CVA. The League in the course of the Hearing appeared to recognise the need to amend the Policy to make specific provisions where there is no CVA. It is to be hoped that this can be achieved during the coming close season. The Clubs should be entitled to clear guidelines, objectives and procedures.

3. The Board should be astute not to think in terms of ‘penalty’ or a ‘norm’ as a starting point of whatever Condition is to be imposed. We are concerned that the Condition was described by the Board as a ‘penalty’ and was understandably perceived to be so.

4. We accept that the imposition of the 15 points in the instant case was not (and was not intended to be) a precedent, i.e. an automatic sanction in the absence of a CVA. Each case has to be assessed by the League having regard to the Club’s individual circumstances leading up to and of the insolvency itself. Such Conditions as the League considers are required will reflect these circumstances and any merits the Club can establish.

5. We feel obliged to record that we consider an Appeal to Members of the League to be unsatisfactory. Some Clubs in the same League may not readily agree to reduce a points sanction in the understandable self-interest of their Clubs. We recommend:

1. That there should be an appeal to an Independent Tribunal;

2. In order to reduce uncertainty for the Club and other Clubs the Appeal process should be determined without delay. We suggest an Appeal should be lodged within 7 days of the decision and the decision of the Appeal body should be given within 21 days thereafter.

6. We hope that these suggestions will be helpful to all concerned.

Sir Philip Otton Chairman .................................... Peter Leaver QC Arbitrator ................................... Peter Cadman Arbitrator ...................................