Daniel Chapman | Writing etc

Evolution Not Revolution: The Ken Bates Plan

There has been a lot of talk lately in football, and in Leeds, about plans and about vision. The documentary ‘The Four Year Plan’ showed those in charge at QPR gradually awakening to the idea that ‘Don’t Be Dicks’ should form a part of their promotion plan. Elsewhere in West London, Roman Abramovich has brought Andre Villas-Boas’ ‘project’ to a premature end, releasing Lampard from his benched purgatory and saving the rest of us from John Motson’s pronunciation struggles. And at national level, The FA are trying out a grand experimental plan with their preparations for the European Championships, a plan which reads: ‘Worry about it nearer the time.’

Closer to home, the Leeds United Supporters’ Trust made public a plan for Leeds United: a Vision Statement, outlining how they think Leeds United needs to change in order to become a successful and enjoyable club again. It’s a simple plan, with four main aims: focus resources on the pitch, and not on corporate facilities; increase investment in the football team, without the reckless overspending of the past; to see the club improve relations with fans and local bodies like the Council and the police; and to make Elland Road a more enjoyable place to visit, with less eye-watering prices and more consideration for the fans. It seems reasonable enough to me, and it seemed reasonable enough for a few thousand people to sign up with the Trust in the weeks since its release.

Of course, not everyone agrees with this as a plan. One resident of Monaco, in particular, isn’t impressed; but then Mr Bates isn’t impressed by much that LUST do. “The fact of the matter is very short,” said Ken of the Trust on Yorkshire Radio, before going on about the facts of the matter for a further three and a half minutes. “Doesn’t make any impression on the management of the club does it? It doesn’t make an impression on the directors of the club.” La la la, Ken’s not listening. “They’re not having any impact at all other than in their own minds.” So there.

Given that lack of impact, then, I’m sure that the fact that just a couple of week later Bates published a ‘plan for the future’ of his own in the Doncaster match programme was pure coincidence. Coincidence or not, it’s worth taking some to read, as although it was tucked away at the end of a column after plugs for Mother’s Day in Billy’s Bar and the ‘Fever Pitch’ tournament on the Elland Road pitch, this is the most up-to-date plan for Leeds United that our owner has offered us. A plan like this is important, and it’s worth taking the time to go through it point by point. For a start, it has eight points to LUST’s mere four, so already it looks twice as good.

So what are our plans for the future? Summary: – Evolution not revolution.

Well, that’s fairly vague, but it’s only point one. And I’m sure the new slogan ‘Evolution not revolution’ (I’ve counted two references in the programme so far, and one headline on the official site) is nothing to do with Leeds fans marching in the streets and demanding change, because they’re having no impact and nobody is listening to them anyway.

  • We will continue to run the club along professional business lines.

I, for one, am reassured. If point two had been, “we’re just going to jack it in and turn up drunk every morning,” I’m sure we’d all have been worried. But not only are Bates and co. going to run the club along professional business lines, but they’re ‘continuing’ to do it, meaning they’ve been running the club along professional business lines for quite a while. That’s got to give us an edge over the rest of the division.

  • We will continue to explore future investment proposals, will continue to waste our time talking to chancers, publicity seekers and would be con-men – you have to kiss a lot of frogs in your efforts to find a prince.

I’m confused by this one, and not just by the kissing. On the one hand, exploring future investment proposals sounds good. And there’s more continuance here, so that’s good too. But I’m not sure about this ‘continue to waste our time’ part. Is it official club policy to waste time? “Did you speak to any proposers of future investment today, Shaun?” “Yes Mr Chairman, I spoke to several.” “Anything come of it, Shaun?” “No Mr Chairman, it was a complete waste of time.” “Excellent, Shaun. Give yourself a raise.”

  • We are not impressed by the Jeckyll and Hyde behaviour of LUST who demonstrated one minute and demanded discussions the next. We will not deal with self-appointed, self-important groups who represent nobody except themselves, despite claims to the contrary.

Hold on a minute, I thought this was a step-by-step plan for the future? This just sounds like a moan. “We are not impressed… off with their heads… let them eat cake.” ‘Jekyll’ is spelt wrong too. Just saying. For the record, it’s worth pointing out that LUST are governed by Supporters Direct, represent a membership of 5,000 Leeds fans, and I don’t remember anyone I know appointing Ken Bates chairman of my football club so up yours with a shitty stick and ner ner ner. Can we get back to the ‘plan’ part of the plan now please?

  • We will continue to grow our Regional Members Clubs both at home and abroad to discuss club matter directly with them, with the intention of self-seeking intermediaries.

This is taken verbatim from the club programme, by the way, and I have literally no idea what “with the intention of self-seeking intermediaries” is supposed to mean. Still, this is only a plan for the future of Leeds United Football Club, ain’t it? You’re not going to waste time making sure it makes sense.

  • We welcome the support of the Kaiser Chiefs. Now they could make a tremendous difference with all their millions, but I doubt it will happen. Next chart-topper could be “I Predict A Stunning Silence”.

Really? So point six of Ken Bates’ plan for Leeds United is ‘make jokes about the Kaiser Chiefs’? Will Warnock have to drop in a jibe after every match? “Pleased with the clean sheet, Browny was great, er, and the Kaiser Chiefs are dickheads. Sorry, it’s in my contract.” It’s kind of quaint that Ken thinks they have ‘millions’ in the bank, though. They’re a pretty successful group and I’m sure they live well-to-do lives but they’re not Elton bloody John.

  • We will continue to develop our Academy for the long-term future of the team.

I suspect there might be another misprint here: that should read “for the long-term future of Norwich’s team.” While we’re on the subject, any chance of buying the Academy back like you said you would in 2006? No? Elland Road, then? No? Oh well.

  • We will monitor the club’s working practices on a continuing basis to ensure that we are successful and cost-effective as possible.

Can’t fool me: this is just point two again, isn’t it? Unless there are people out there for whom running a football club ‘along professional business lines’ doesn’t automatically include ‘monitoring working practices.’ But if there are… well, check us out, suckers, we do both!

And that’s the lot. A statement of faith in evolution (hi, Darwin!), two meaningless business-speak platitudes, two slaggings off, something incomprehensible about self-seeking, a commitment to wasting time, and passing reference to the Academy for those football fans who may be reading. Ken Bates’ eight point plan for Leeds United. Hmm, what did the Trust one say again…? Ooh, but wait! He’s thrown in a couple more without numbers on – these might clinch the deal:

In closing I would like to thank all the fans who have written in supporting our philosophy and emphasising that the rabble do not speak for the overwhelming majority of fans.

That’s just another dig at LUST, isn’t it? I thought nobody was listening to them anyway. Hopefully he’ll end on a more positive note:

We intend to continue striving for sustainable success but not at the cost of serious long-term problems.

And a more positive note it is! Although funnily enough, it’s exactly the same positive note as point two of the LUST Vision Statement from two weeks earlier: “Spend wisely and within our means.” It’s nice to see some agreement at last, although it’s a shame this part of the Official Ken Bates Plan For Leeds isn’t important enough to merit a number. Even the Kaiser Chiefs got a number, and they’re just an angry mob. Zing! Hope you liked that one, Ken.


From The Square Ball magazine 2011/12 issue eight.