It’s not often I experience the conflict between being a commentator and
a punter that other columnists seem to. I’m the BBC fan who doesn’t hate
John Birt. Usually, I see the business sense of industry initiatives and
am too detached to analyse the other side of the coin.
Then I discover that Chris Akers’ Caspian group is to acquire my beloved
Leeds United for pounds 30 million and I’m dumbfounded. What’s worse,
I’ve not spoken with the guru of Leeds fans, John Bartle, to find out
what I should be thinking. All I know is that having gone, as a neutral,
to Queen’s Park Rangers’ Loftus Road stadium to help keep my fanatical
mate Tom out of trouble, I’ve succumbed to screaming, ‘We want Thompson
out, I said, we want Thompson out’, in the direction of where the club
chairman, Richard Thompson, should have been seated - if only he could
be bothered to attend. This same Thompson, ‘whose family has more money
than God’, according to the Observer, is the Caspian Group’s backer.
Why am I so worried? If the family has more money than God, that surely
is great news, and more top players will arrive at Elland Road to
complement Rush and Yeboah. Well, God is parsimonious these days. The
average facilities at Loftus Road prompt sarcastic remarks along the
lines of ‘Les paid for that’ and a vague gesture towards the new
linoleum. Les, of course, is Les Ferdinand, one of a long line of star
QPR players sold off for little evident return.
To quote the Observer on Akers, ‘Owning the Elland Road club is not the
fulfilment of a childhood fantasy... For Akers, a football team, a club
brand and the rights it carries are prize pieces of software.’ Akers
said: ‘It is only a matter of time before media giants start buying
football clubs. I’m sure the Granadas and Carltons have already started
I’ll bet. I’m sure they see the business sense in the vertical
integration, the product merchandising, the pay-TV potential. Of course,
I’d like Leeds to be run efficiently, have a great stadium, and make a
profit (like Manchester United plc). But, most of all, I’d like them to
You don’t win things by selling your best players, merchandising shirts
and investing in linoleum. The fans who spend pounds 18 a fortnight to
watch QPR were rewarded with relegation last season. Thompson won’t be
there in August, but they, the real owners of the club, will - in the
Perhaps every creative source can be turned into a media property, but a
football club is not manufactured in the way that a pop star can be.
They are about intangibles like community, roots and dreams. They will
never be primarily a media property. That’s why ‘we want Thompson out’.