By Phil Hay
Leeds United have called off a fans’ forum with representatives of their new owner, GFH Capital, after a family bereavement forced director David Haigh to withdraw from the event.
The eagerly-anticipated meeting between supporters and United board members Haigh and Salem Patel was postponed yesterday (Feb 14) with Haigh now planning to fly to South America at the start of next week.
Haigh and Patel – senior executives at GFH Capital and two of the driving forces behind the Dubai-based firm’s buy-out of Leeds on December 21 – were due to face questions from club members and season-ticket holders at Elland Road on Monday night.
The planned gathering coincided with mounting speculation about fresh takeover bids and increasing scrutiny on the position of first-team manager Neil Warnock.
GFH Capital has been in control of Leeds for exactly eight weeks but the Championship club revealed on Sunday that they had already received a number of offers of investments, including one proposing the sale of a majority shareholding in United.
A Yorkshire consortium in which both former Hull City chairman Adam Pearson and local businessman Steve Parkin are said to figure is attempting to acquire a 51 per cent stake, and Leeds have neither accepted the bid nor rejected it out of hand.
The club are also the subject of renewed interest from a Saudi Arabian bidder who came close to submitting a formal offer for United while GFH Capital was closing out its takeover in November.
Haigh and Patel were likely to face calls for clarity about the recent investment approaches and GFH Capital’s plans for the future at Monday’s forum.
But a statement from Leeds said: “Due to a family bereavement, club director and GFH Capital executive David Haigh needs to travel to South America at the start of next week and a new date will now be arranged.”
The event was also set to fall at a juncture in the season where United’s challenge for promotion under Warnock is rapidly falling away.
The Leeds boss faced fresh protests from the club’s fans after a 1-0 defeat to Middlesbrough on Tuesday, subjected to chants of ‘Warnock, time to go’, and the YEP understands that the 64-year-old was scheduled to meet with club directors tomorrow. (Feb 16)
United’s loss at Boro left them eight points behind the Championship’s play-offs positions with 15 games to play. Warnock’s squad will break from the league on Sunday to contest the FA Cup fifth-round tie at Manchester City.
The former Sheffield United manager came to Leeds a year ago this Monday with the stated aim of winning promotion to the Premier League and he refused to concede defeat on Tuesday, despite renewed criticism of him.
Warnock, whose contract ends in the summer, said: “Leeds fans have suffered for a long time so it’s the natural thing.
“You have to take that and move on to the next game.”